If you find a stray, either on the roadside or on your property, you aren’t obligated to keep it. But you ARE obligated to report it, especially if you restrain it in any way. This is a legal matter that involves fines, so we advise you to comply. The contact number in Tazewell County for reporting strays is 276 988 5795. If no one answers, leave a message. In addition, we strongly encourage you to send a picture to the pound via their Facebook page.
If you plan to take the dog into your home or confine it, we commend you. That is what we endorse in every situation except when an animal shows signs of aggression. Legal protocols exist for the benefit of the animals as well as people. There are always certain possibilities you must consider. Never assume an animal has been dumped, although that is often the case in our region. Instead, pause to wonder if the animal is lost, or if it has been stolen and has escaped, and is now trying to find its way back home. If an owner ten or twenty or a hundred miles away is looking for their pet, and you simply take it inside and don’t follow the legal procedures, you are breaking someone’s heart as well as sentencing the animal to a lifetime of being apart from loved ones. Plus you could be subjecting yourself to fines as per Virginia state law, and possibly charges of theft under certain circumstances.
If you’re not able to provide care for the dog, and you’re comfortable with the idea of it going into a very high kill shelter where another dog will likely be destroyed to make space for the one you send, that is certainly an option in Tazewell County. Animal Control can be reached at 276 988 1160. They are not the “bad guys” and have profound concern for all animals. However, the facts won’t change just because none of us like them–our municipal shelter has one of the highest kill rates on the East Coast and unclaimed animals do not have very good odds of survival there.
Ultimately what you do about the stray you found is your decision. None of us can “keep them all.” Just understand that laws exist to regulate the process and it’s our responsibility to abide by them to the best of our ability.
For more information, read the blog post written by Heidi Meinzer, Attorney At Law. She explains it well.
State Code Of Virginia Regarding Strays:
§ 3.2-6551. Notification by individuals finding companion animals; penalty.
A. Any individual who finds a companion animal and (i) provides care or safekeeping or (ii) retains the companion animal in such a manner as to control its activities shall within 48 hours:
1. Make a reasonable attempt to notify the owner of the companion animal if the owner can be ascertained from any tag, license, collar, tattoo, or other form of identification or markings or if the owner of the animal is otherwise known to the individual; and
2. Notify the public animal shelter that serves the locality where the companion animal was found and provide to the shelter contact information, including at least a name and a contact telephone number, a description of the animal, including information from any tag, license, collar, tattoo, or other identification or markings, and the location where the companion animal was found.
B. If an individual finds a companion animal and (i) provides care or safekeeping or (ii) retains the companion animal in such a manner as to control its activities, the individual shall comply with the provisions of § 3.2-6503.
C. Any individual who violates this section may be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $50 per companion animal.