Stray Animals: Wait Period

Lost animals: only 24–72 hours to reclaim your companion

In Quebec, cities and boroughs oversee the management of strays. The shelters and animal rescue services that take in lost animals of behalf of the municipality have a limited period to reunite them with their families. After, the animal is considered abandoned or homeless and they are put up for adoption.

As an animal services provider for several Montréal boroughs, the Montreal SPCA must comply with these city regulations.

Wait period before a stray is put up for adoption:


  • 24 hours if the animal gives no clear indication* they have a family.
  • 72 hours if animal indicates they have a family.

Dogs, rabbits, and other animals

  • 72 hours for all species.
*Clear indications a cat has a family:
  • They have a microchip
  • They’re wearing a collar
  • They’re sterilized (but without an ear notch, which would indicate their participation in the Trap-Neuter-Return-Maintain (TNRM) program for feral colonies).
It is crucial you react as soon as you realize your animal is lost.
  • Fill out our online form as soon as possible. We will open a file and see if animals taken in to the shelter or reported as found on our website match your animal’s profile.
  • Follow the instructions in our article to start your search quickly.

If your animal is lost, it is your responsibility to quickly take the steps to find them.

Unfortunately, some people take too long before reporting the disappearance of their animal and starting their search. Once the 24- or 72-hour legal wait period has expired, you must go through the adoption process (including paying the fees) to claim your animal. If your animal has already been adopted by a new family, you have lost them forever.

These city regulations give strays a chance to be reunited with their families first, but then quickly ensure their well-being. At the end of the wait period, the animal is cared for, sterilized and given a chance to be adopted by a new loving family.

Microchips are crucial

Inserted under the skin, a microchip is one of the best ways to quickly locate your little lost companion. Microchipping is mandatory in Montréal for all cats and dogs. This hypoallergenic electronic device is the size of a grain of rice and does not deteriorate over time. It stays in place, going through life with your animal!

After taking in stray animals, we scan them with a microchip reader. Using the identification number contained in the chips, we can automatically access animal owners’ contact information.

Microchip is essential. They facilitate identifying animals and ensuring families’ peace of mind.

Thank you for taking care of animals and keeping them safe! ❤️