Background: Law on dogs seized and impounded in New York State
New York State law regarding impoundment of unidentified strayed and lost dogs (Ag & Mkts Article 7, section 118) allows dog owners five days from the date the dog is impounded (seized) to reclaim the dog.
If the dog's owner can be identified, state law requires the impounding agency to immediately notify the owner of record, either personally or by certified mail, of the impoundment and procedures for reclaiming the dog. In such cases, dog owners have seven days under state law to reclaim their dogs.
Under state law, the owner forfeits title to the dog once the relevant time period has elapsed. The dog may then be euthanized or sold by the impounding agency.
Municipal laws (other than New York City)
Under state law, municipalities may establish different redemption periods by local law or ordinance, as long as they give dog owners a minimum of three days to reclaim their dog, or seven days if notification is made by mail.
Municipalities may also establish local laws requiring the surgical sterilization of "adopted" dogs:
Any municipality may by local law or ordinance establish additional conditions for adoption including the requirement that adopted dogs shall be spayed or neutered before or after release from custody upon such terms and conditions as the municipality may establish.
New York City requirement for surgical sterilization of all impounded dogs
Under ADC Title 17, Chapter 8, 17-804, New York City requires that any dog (or cat) released by a shelter be neutered. The law covers not only dogs (and cats) that are being "adopted" out to new owners, it also covers dogs and cats being claimed by their lawful owners.
Exemptions under city ordinance for dogs:
(a) health of the animal, if a licensed veterinarian examines the dog and certifies that surgery endangers its life, or that the animal appears to be under 8 weeks of age
(b) owner establishes status as a show dog "to the satisfaction of the shelter." Note that owners of "show dogs" must be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the shelter, that the dog either has a breed ring show record dating from no more than 12 months prior to impoundment, or has attained the title of "champion." Acceptable registries are the AKC and UKC or similar "to the satisfaction of the shelter."
(c) status as a service dog, proven by the owner "to the satisfaction of the shelter."
Challenges to NYC mandatory sterilization ordinance
There are several serious problems with the New York City ordinance.
The confiscation and destruction of personal property (by surgical removal of a dog's reproductive system) without due process of the law is controversial and highly objectionable to dog owners and civil rights advocates everywhere.
We'll hold [Spartacus] hostage and then we'll kill him," said [Supreme
Court Judge] Schack. "That's what it sounds like."
The furor over Spartacus and the issues associated with mandatory sterilization requirements continue. Spartacus returned, intact, to his home in New Jersey a year ago. As of this writing, the City of New York is appealing Judge Schack's decision.