Dog Penny at Tiverton rehoming centre

Missing and stray dogs

What to do if you’ve lost your dog 

By law, your dog should always wear a collar and tag with your name and address on when out in public. It will also be compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped by 2016. 

If your dog is wearing a tag and is microchipped, this will hugely increase your chances of being reunited with them if they go missing.

If your dog has gone missing, here are some things you can do: 

  • Call the microchip database they are registered with and report them as lost or stolen. Make sure your contact details are always up to date.
  • Contact your local authority dog warden, via your local council – they are legally responsible for stray dogs and may well have picked up your pet. They will hold on to stray dogs for seven days but, after this time, dogs will be rehomed or put to sleep if no home can be found for them. 
  • Contact neighbouring local authorities too as dogs may move across local council borders 
  • Call local kennels/charities – it’s possible someone has found the dog and taken them to a local rehoming centre or kennels
  • Contact local vet surgeries or animal hospitals – if your dog has been injured, they may have been taken there for treatment
  • Check online lost and found websites and notice boards in your local area. Register your dog on DogLost, a free national database which is run by volunteers who will help you to search for your dog.  
  • If you think your dog has been stolen, call the police 
  • Put up notices in your local area with an up to date photo of your dog 
  • Visit places where other dog walkers go and ask them to keep an eye out for your dog


Be vigilant. We have been told about scammers calling to say they've found your pet, asking for a processing fee or costs towards vet bills and then pocketing the money.

What to do if you’ve found a dog 

If you’ve found a stray dog, check to see if they’re wearing a tag with the owner’s details on. If they are, and you’re happy to do this, contact the owner and arrange to give them back the dog. 

Otherwise contact your local authority dog warden via your local council. They are legally responsible for stray dogs and will come and collect the dog from you and take them to a holding kennels while they wait to see if their owner will claim them. 

Register the dog as “found” on DogLost, which is a national online lost and found website. 

Although it might be tempting to keep the dog, you’re legally required to let the local authority know about any stray dogs and, if you don’t, you could be accused of theft. 

There may be a loving owner out there who is desperately searching for their missing dog and, if the dog is microchipped, it could be really easy to reunite them. 

It’s very easy to get attached to a dog the longer you keep them, so please do let someone know as soon as possible. 

If you do want to keep the dog, let the local authority know and they may be able to arrange for you to rehome them if no one claims them. 

What happens when dogs are found as strays? 

More than 100,000 dogs are picked up as strays by local authorities every year. They are usually taken to the local pound or, if the council doesn’t have one, private holding kennels where they stay for seven days while the authorities wait to see if their owner will come and reclaim them. 

Dog or animal wardens are legally responsible for stray dogs and must, by law, hold on to them for seven days before they can rehome them. 

If the dog is poorly, they will get veterinary help for the dog, but they are still legally responsible during this time. 

If a dog isn’t claimed after seven days, the authorities have to decide whether to put them to sleep. 

During the waiting period, council dog wardens may send a list of unclaimed stray dogs to charities across the UK and we take as many as we possibly can. 

But charities have a limited number of spaces and don’t have room for the thousands of dogs that are found stray and abandoned by their owners. Sadly, if no home can be found for these dogs, they are put to sleep.

Preventing dog theft 

There are lots of things you can do to help prevent your dog from being stolen. Read our leaflet on protecting your dog from theft to find out more.

— Page last updated 30/05/2023