What To Do If You’ve Lost Or Found A Pet

What To Do If You’ve Lost A Pet

If you have lost a pet you should immediately file a lost dog, cat or other pet report with the Animal Welfare League of Arlington by calling 703-931-9241 x 200 or email mail@awla.org. You may also review pets that have either been found and brought to the League or been reported by the public as found.

Shelter Procedures for Lost Pets

  • Pets without identification are held as stray for at least five days according to the Arlington County Code.
  • Pets with collars, microchips, tattoos, or other identification are held for at least 10 days (as per Virginia State code) while we make every effort to contact their owners.
  • Pets not claimed by owners may become candidates for our adoption program. Animals may not be adopted until after their stray holding period (five or 10 days depending on identification) has expired.

Reclaiming Your Lost Pet

In order to identify and reclaim your lost pet, you must do the following, according to the Arlington County code and animal shelter requirements:

  • Owners should bring proof of ownership such as photographs or veterinary records when coming to reclaim their pets.
  • *Dog owners must bring written proof of current dog license for the area in which they live.
  • **Dog and cat owners must bring written proof of current rabies vaccination. A rabies tag does not include the expiration date or the animal description, so it cannot serve as proof of current vaccination.
  • A board fee of $40 per calendar day your pet is in the shelter must be paid to the shelter.
  • If this is a second impoundment within a one year period, owners are required to pay an additional $10 to Arlington County.
  • If this is a third impoundment within a one year period, owners are required to pay an additional $20 to Arlington County.
  • If this is a fourth impoundment within a one year period, owners are required to pay an additional $30 to Arlington County.

*If the owner does not have a current dog license then they must bring a copy of their rabies vaccination certificate and apply for a license at the animal shelter before taking the dog home. The fee for a license is $10 for a one year license.

**If the owner does not have proof of a current rabies vaccination, a $25 deposit is required that will be refunded if the owner supplies proof of current rabies vaccination to the animal shelter within 14 days of reclaiming the animal.

Please note that according to Arlington County code, the animal shelter is not required to return a dog to its owner until the rabies vaccination is current or paid for and a County license is paid for.

Shelter Procedures for Locating Owners

  • Animal shelter staff call all phone numbers listed on any available identification.
  • Animal shelter staff scan all stray pets for a microchip. If we find a microchip, we call the registration company for any available contact information and call all phone numbers available.

If a stray pet is found in another jurisdiction, shelter staff contact the animal shelter for that jurisdiction for potential lost reports and to file a found report.

Reclaiming a Lost Pet

If you have lost a pet you should immediately file a lost dog, cat or other pet report with the Animal Welfare League of Arlington by calling 703-931-9241 x 200 or email mail@awla.org. You may also review pets that have either been found and brought to the League or been reported by the public as found.

What To Do If You’ve Found a Pet

Found a lost pet or stray animal? Here’s how to help them find their way home.

Check for Identification

If there’s an ID tag, contact the owner immediately.
If there is no ID tag, consider taking the animal to a local veterinary office or here to AWLA to be scanned for a microchip.

Spread the Word

Call AWLA at 703-931-9241 if you found the animal in Arlington, otherwise, call the shelter in the jurisdiction in which you found the animal to see if a lost report filed matches the description of the animal in your care. Even if you live in Arlington, you must contact the jurisdiction in which the animal was found.

Notify your friends and neighbors. Post fliers around your neighborhood.

If you found the animal in Arlington and cannot keep it, call AWLA to discuss bringing it in. When you arrive, we’ll scan the animal for a microchip.  By Virginia law, stray animals are held for five days (without identification) or 10 days (with identification) to provide owners time to locate lost pets. If an owner doesn’t come forward and the animal has no severe medical or behavior issues, the animal will become available for adoption or transfer. If you are interested in adopting the animal after the stray hold, you will need to follow all of the League’s usual adoption procedures.

Stray Cats

If an outdoor cat is unapproachable and especially if it is ear-tipped, it is most likely a feral (wild) cat. These cats live outdoors and usually have one or more feeders in the neighborhood. They are not happy or appropriate as house pets. The League can help feral cats with our free trap-neuter-return program for Arlington residents.

A cat found outdoors that is friendly and appears healthy likely belongs to someone in your neighborhood.

  • Cats have a far better chance of reuniting with their owners when they’re left in the area in which they’re found.
  • Less than five percent of stray cats that are brought into shelters are reclaimed by their owners.
  • Whenever a cat comes into a shelter it is at risk of contracting an illness.
  • Healthy strays can contribute to overcrowding and cause shelters to exceed their capacity for care.

For these reasons, the League does not accept healthy and friendly stray cats and will encourage you to leave them where you discovered them. If you see a cat that appears sick or injured (lethargic, limping badly, emaciated or has obvious wounds), please call the League at 703-931-9241.

AWLA