Images of cats and dogs with the text The Humane Society of New York Since 1904

Frequently Asked Q&A

The information provided refers primarily to New York laws and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. Do not rely or act upon any information below without seeking the advice of an attorney in your state regarding the facts of your specific situation.

I lost my dog. Someone brought him to the city’s animal shelter. The shelter wants to charge me a fee and also won’t return him until he is neutered. Is that legal?

There are state and local laws in New York and elsewhere that require the payment of a fee to redeem an animal from a municipal shelter or city-funded shelter (commonly referred to as impoundment fees). Some localities (including NYC) have also enacted laws which prohibit shelters from releasing dogs or cats for adoption or to their “parents” unless the animals are spayed or neutered. There are some exceptions in the NYC law, including, for example, if the animal’s life would be jeopardized by spaying/neutering, if the animal has a timely breed show record or completed requirements for Champion or equivalent status, or if the dog is a police or service dog. See NYC Administrative Code, 17-804.

It is generally best to reclaim an animal quickly and pay the redemption fee even if the animal’s “parent” believes the fee is excessive. Fees can increase the longer an animal is impounded. If not redeemed in the time specified in the laws, it is also possible that under certain circumstances the animal will be adopted to another person or euthanized. See Agriculture and Markets Law, section 117; Laws of 1894, Chapter 115, as amended, an unconsolidated NY law applicable to NYC. If an individual believes that he/she was overcharged, there will still be time after the animal is home to attempt to get a refund.

» Back to Frequently Asked Q&A