Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

LA Animal Services Now Has “Shelter-at-Home” Program for Found Animals

Photo from LA Department of Animal Services

If you’ve ever come across a lost pet wandering the streets, you may or may not be aware that the city has rules for what you should do with the animal.  In fact, the official policy, according to the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services, has been that if someone finds an animal, they must bring it to one of the six city animal shelters, where it will be scanned for a microchip and, if none is found, held for the owners to find, or then be put up for adoption.

But many people are reluctant to turn a scared, lost pet over to a city shelter, and shelters are often full to overflowing with such animals.  And many people would simply prefer to care for the animal themselves, in a loving home, and in the neighborhood where the animal was found, while they try to find its owners or a new home. So the city has now formalized what many residents have either been doing informally for a long time, or which many have hoped the city would someday allow – fostering found pets at home while trying to find the pet’s owner.

Earlier this month, the LA City Council passed a new ordinance allowing residents to foster the animals they find, and LA’s Department of Animal services formalized a new “Shelter-at-Home” program, under which “caring community members may now provide temporary home care for lost or stay companion animals  they find and report to us.”  In other words, it is now legal for community members “to provide home care for found dogs and cats instead of bringing them into one of our Animal Services Centers.”

According to Brenda Barnette, general manager of LA Animal Services,”Statistically, lost pets are often easier found the closer they are to home.” And “With Shelter-at Home, communities can come together to help bring four-legged family members back home by utilizing social media, and posting flyers nearby.”

So now, if you find an animal and want to care for it at home, you can legally do so by following these procedures:

  1. Notify the nearest City animal shelter that the animal is in your possession, and provide a description of the animal, the location where the animal was found, the location where the animal will be maintained, and your name, address, and contact information.
  2. Note and maintain the animal ID number from the Department, which you can use in all future communications.
  3. Provide two or more photographs (of different poses and at least one head shot) of the animal to the Department, suitable for posting on the Department’s website.
  4. Transport the animal to a veterinarian or to the nearest animal shelter, if the animal requires timely medical care.

Within the first 24 hours of finding the animal, youmust also:

  1. Transport the animal to one of the City animal shelters for a microchip scan and veterinary care, or bring the animal to a licensed California veterinarian (at the your own expense) for a microchip scan and veterinary
  2. Provide the Department with a record of the microchip scan and the veterinarian’s diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.
  3. Make and distribute posters with the animal’s photo in a two-block radius of the location where the animal was found and include your contact information.
  4. Complete the Department’s foster care agreement and submit it to the Department in person, by fax, or electronically. The form includes an agreement to accept all legal and financial liability for the animal.

In addition, you must:

  1. Agree to maintain the animal at the identified location and notify the Department within 12 hours of any change to the location where the animal is kept.
  2. Immediately notify the Department if the animal is lost, stolen, or has attacked, bitten, or injured any person or other animal.
  3. If the animal is returned to its lawful owner, immediately notify the Department with the name, address, and contact information of the person to whom the animal was released.
  4. If the lawful owner is not found after 30 days, bring the dog or cat into the nearest city animal shelter and either surrender it to the Department or complete the process to adopt the animal, including having the animal vaccinated and sterilized. If the found animal is a dog, adoption also will require the adopter to license the dog. (But city adoption fees will be waived.)

According to Animal Services, the goals of the new Shelter at Home program are to:

  • Give lost animals home care, and medical care if appropriate.
  • Keep animals out of the shelter system, and provide much needed life-saving space.
  • Work with residents who are concerned or refuse to turn in animals to the shelter for fear the animal will not be claimed or placed.
  • Expand LA Animal Services’ foster program and increase community involvement in helping find animals’ owners, and meanwhile, allowing animals to be held in less stressful environments.

For more details on the program, see the ordinance link above, or see


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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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