How Long Do Animal Shelters Keep Pets Before Euthanizing Them?

How long do animal shelters wait before killing the pets? When do animal shelters put animals to sleep? How much time do pets have in the animal shelter before they are killed? What is the 72 hour rule? How long should I wait before reporting my pet m

You many not think you need to know how long animal shelters keep pets before euthanizing them but if your pet goes missing and ends up at an animal shelter you may find that this is the most pressing issue on your mind.

While every animal shelter is different most follow the basic 72 hour guideline. This means that if a stray pet is brought to the shelter they must hold it for a minimum of 72 hours before euthanizing it (putting it to sleep). This is why it is very important to report your missing pet to the shelter right away and why you should check in person every few days.

This does not mean that the animal shelter has a ticking clock on every cage and will necessarily euthanize a pet after 72 hours, but most must use that as a guideline for their minimum wait, after which they are usually considered the legal owner of the pet and can do with it as they please, either euthanizing it, putting it up for adoption, or waiting a few more days to determine what to do with it.

No shelter is eager to euthanize a healthy pet, however one that is aggressive, suffering, or would otherwise be not adoptable, could be euthanized fairly soon after this time period has passed.  When space allows animal shelters try to keep lost pets a little longer in hopes that their owner will claim them.

Many shelters also follow a 10 day wait in the case of purebred animals identified with a breeder tattoo or microchip.. They can try to trace the owner via this identification, and recognize that purebred pets are seldom turned loose, and that it probably has an owner looking for it. Of course the owner is still equally responsible for looking for the pet too and should try to contact the shelter when their pet goes missing, especially if their contact information has changed since they got the animal.

In any case, some shelters perform euthanasia on pets only one day in the week, others do it more regularly, with some large shelters euthanizing pets even on the weekends. Some shelters automatically euthanize all unclaimed stray pets (after the minimum 72 hours), only putting owner surrendered pets up for adoption. Other animal shelter sort through the animals selecting the most adoptable pets and euthanizing the others. Open admission shelters cannot keep them all as they do not have space, however no-kill shelters only accept animals when they have room so do not face this dilemma.

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Dani Dee
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Dani Dee
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