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You just found a stray dog or cat 
what do you do next?

Unlike the larger animal facilities in PA such as York and Harrisburg, the Adams County SPCA does not employ an Animal Control Officer. In essence, we do not do runs to pick up stray animals. We do accept all strays from Adams County and we are the only authorized kennel in Adams County that can accept stray dogs. So what do you do if you have found a stray in Adams County?

If you have found a dog call the PA Dog Warden if it is normal weekly business hours. Please remember that the dog warden is often covering multiple counties. For Adams County the PA Dog Warden is - (717) 756-4350. You may report stray dog sightings to them as well.

Call your local police agency. Depending on which police agency it is, they may come and pick the dog up and hold it or bring to us. The police have access to an overnight pen that will keep the dog safe and secure until the shelter staff can get there.  The police will direct you on how to proceed.

If you feel safe with the animal bring it to the Adams County SPCA. The Adams County SPCA is the only authorized kennel In Adams County to hold stray dogs (dogs running at large). We will scan the dog or cat for a microchip, give it a distemper vaccination and worming medication immediately. Dogs also get vaccinated for kennel cough. Our stray hold is for 7 days to allow the owner ample time to locate their missing pet even though the law says we can adopt it out after 48 business hours that we are open to the public. If you have found a cat you may want to contact us prior to bringing it in for further instruction in the event we have no room.

If you are not able to bring a stray dog in and it has an Adams County license tag you can call the Treasurer’s office at the Adams County Court House (717) 334-6781 during business hours or 911 non-emergency (717) 334-8101 with the license number for the owner’s information.


If the animal is a cat with a tipped ear, it is most likely a free roaming cat that someone has taken the time to have spayed or neutered or it could be someone’s pet that wandered away from home. You can message us on Face Book with a picture and we will post it on our page and/or you can call and complete a found report. Remember, you do not know the medical status of the cat and should be cautious.

Never ever attempt to handle any stray that is in pain or acting in an abnormal manner and never put yourself at risk of harm on a road. Call the police or dog warden immediately!!!!

Why should you bring a stray dog to us?

We encourage finders to bring strays to us so that we can keep the animal secure while the owners are looking for them. If there is an immediate medical condition that needs attention we will make sure it is assessed by a veterinarian and treated if appropriate.  In addition, we document all strays so that if there is a pattern of the dog being loose, the owners are fined each time with the fine increasing with each incident and hopefully this provides incentive so that the owner finds a way to keep the dog home in a secure environment. The PA Dog Warden will also fine an owner if there is no current license. We make sure that the dog is licensed before it leaves the shelter. Since we are not only an authorized kennel to house stray dogs but an adoption organization as well, we would be able to conduct a structured binding adoption if no owner comes forward.

Please keep the following in mind should you choose to keep the animal :

-You should report the animal found to us and a police agency. The first place an owner will call is the local shelters and/or police agency.

-You will be responsible for searching for the owners. Call the local animal shelters in your area – nearest ones first to file a found report and to see if anyone has reported the pet missing. If you have a computer, you can also post the found pet on a lost and found animal site on Facebook or an online organization (see list below).

Do not allow anyone to talk you into keeping the dog or making you feel guilty about not holding it and here is why -

-  Pets in PA are considered property. If you have taken custody of the stray and anything happens to the dog or cat in your care you can be held liable by the owner or charged with theft. If the animal in your care gets loose and causes an accident, bites someone or attacks another pet while in your custody you are liable for damages because although this is not your dog, the dog was in your care and custody and you are responsible. For example, several years ago in Adams County a dog was found and taken home while the finder looked for the owner. The dog managed to get outside of the house and attacked a neighbor’s dog causing fatal injuries. The finder of that stray dog was responsible for all vet bills to the neighbor’s dog that reached in the thousands before the dog died.

- PA Dog Law requires the holding of a stray dog at least 48 hours in an approved kennel facility before a legal and binding transfer of ownership or adoption can occur. Example – you have found a stray and choose not to take it to an approved kennel (in Adams County it is the Adams County SPCA). You have looked online for an owner and called to let us know you have it and you aren’t bringing it in. You decide to keep the dog, find a home, or take to a rescue. Anytime the original owner finds that dog, regardless of time frame, charges can be filed against the finder (or rescue depending on circumstances) and the dog will be returned to the original owner by ruling of a judge. Why? Because the dog is considered personal property and the legal requirements of it being held at an approved kennel for 48 hours did not occur (see below)


    § 459-302. Seizure and detention of dogs; costs; destruction of dogs

(a) General rule.--It shall be the duty of every police officer, State dog warden, employee of the department or animal control officer to seize and detain any dog which is found running at large, either upon the public streets or highways of the Commonwealth, or upon the property of a person other than the owner of the dog, and unaccompanied by the owner or keeper. Every police officer, State dog warden, employee of the department or animal control officer may humanely kill any dog which is found running at large and is deemed after due consideration by the police officer, State dog warden, employee of the department or animal control officer to constitute a threat to the public health and welfare.

(b) Licensed dogs.--The State dog warden or employee of the department, the animal control officer, or the chief of police or his agents of any city, borough, town or township, the constable of any borough and the constable of any incorporated town or township shall cause any dog bearing a proper license tag or permanent identification and so seized and detained to be properly kept and fed at any licensed kennel approved by the secretary for those purposes and shall cause immediate notice, by personal service or registered or certified mail with return receipt requested, to the last known address, which shall be set forth in the license application record, of the person in whose name the license was procured, or his agent, to claim the dog within five days after receipt thereof. The owner or claimant of a dog so detained shall pay a penalty of $50 to the political subdivision whose police officers make the seizures and detention and all reasonable expenses incurred by reason of its detention to the detaining parties before the dog is returned. If five days after obtaining the postal return receipt, the dog has not been claimed, such chief of police, or his agent, or a constable, or State dog warden or employee of the department shall dispense the dog by sale or by giving it to a humane society or association for the prevention of cruelty to animals. No dog so caught and detained shall be sold for the purpose of vivisection, or research, or be conveyed in any manner for these purposes. All moneys derived from the sale of the dog, after deducting the expenses of its detention, shall be paid through the Department of Agriculture to the State Treasurer for credit to the Dog Law Restricted Account.

(c) Unlicensed dogs.--Except as otherwise provided by section 305, [FN1] any police officer, State dog warden, employee of the department or animal control officer shall cause any unlicensed dog to be seized, detained, kept and fed for a period of 48 hours at any licensed kennel approved by the secretary for those purposes, except any dog seriously ill or injured or forfeited with the owner's permission. The 48-hour period shall not include days the approved kennel is not open to the general public. Any person may view the detained dogs during normal business hours. Any unlicensed dog remaining unclaimed after 48 hours may be humanely killed or given to a humane society or association for the prevention of cruelty to animals. No dog so caught and detained shall be sold for the purpose of vivisection, or research, or be conveyed in any manner for these purposes.

- If you have taken custody of the animal and while it is in your care you sustain injures from handling the stray animal you are responsible for your own medical bills.  

-  You don’t know anything about the dog’s behavioral history. In addition, there are diseases and parasites that may not be apparent (parvo, distemper, sarcoptic mange, ringworm, rabies, to name a few) that could put your family or your own pets at risk.  If you choose to hold an animal in need of veterinary care, you are responsible for making sure that the pet is seen by a veterinarian for treatment.

Important Numbers

Adams County SPCA:     717 334-8876 Ext 0

Facebook – Adams County SPCA

Email –

Dog Warden for Adams County – (717) 756-4350

PA Dog Law

List of Approved Kennels to accept dogs Running at Large 

Police – Call the local police agency in the location of the stray.

Lost and Found Networking Organizations

Facebook:   Find Toby in PABring Home Athena

Lost and Found Animals in and around Hanover, PA

Fido Finder -

Lost my doggie -

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