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Summary of State Lost Property Statutes

Rebecca F. Wisch

Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law
Printable Version

Summary of State Lost Property Statutes

The statutes listed below represent the approximately 20 states that have enacted laws governing the disposition of lost  property.  These statutes typically require a finder to report and/or relinquish the found property to local authorities, publish the find in a local publication, and wait a statutorily proscribed time period prior to asserting ownership.  In essence, these enactments override or supplement the common law rule that a finder's interests are always subordinate to the true owner's.  In fact, it is said the goal under common law is to reunite the lost property with its true owner.  Not all states have enacted such laws; in those states without a statutory scheme, the common law rule applies.

It is unclear whether any of these codes would apply when the "lost property" is a companion animal.  In fact, two states specifically exclude animals from their provisions (in part perhaps because the legislature considered the term "animal" to be a commercial animal rather than a cat or dog).  In any event, no state has enacted provisions that specifically cover the issue of a lost dog.  Thus, it may be argued that the traditional common law rule of original ownership applies.  One Vermont court has suggested instead that public policy interests govern  this unique area of property law.  Where a finder has made reasonable efforts to locate the owner by posting notices, contacting law enforcement officials, and employing other means, he or she may claim ownership to a lost pet after a reasonable period of time.  However, until more state courts are faced with this issue, or until state legislatures undertake the opportunity to delineate a clear legislative procedure, the issue of lost dog is unclear. 

For a further legal discussion of this issue, click here.

States with Lost Property Codes:

1. California - CA CIVIL § 2080 2082. Lost and Unclaimed Property. Article 1. Lost Money and Goods.

2. Connecticut - CT ST § 50-1 14. Lost and Unclaimed Property.

3.  Florida - FL ST § 705.101 19. Lost or Abandoned Property.

4.  Illinois - IL ST CH 765 § 1020/0.01 36. Estrays and Lost Property Act.

5.  Iowa - I. C. A. § 556F.1, IA ST § 556F.1. Lost Property.

6.  Maine - ME ST T. 33 § 1051 1060. Lost Goods and Stray Beasts.

7.  Massachusetts - M.G.L.A. 134 § 1, MA ST 134 § 1 7. Lost Goods and Stray Beasts.

8.  Michigan - M. C. L. A. 434.21 - 29, MI ST 434.21 - 29. Lost Property.

9.  Missouri - V. A. M. S. 447.010 - 721, MO ST 447.010 721. Lost and Unclaimed Property.

10.  Montana MCA 70-5-101 - 107, MT ST 70-5-101 107. Rights and Duties of Finders Generally.

11. New York McKinney's Personal Property Law § 251 - 258, NY PERS PROP § 251 258. Lost and Found Property.

12.  North Dakota - ND ST 60-01-34 42. CHAPTER 60-01. DEPOSITS - GENERAL PROVISIONS.

13. Oklahoma - 15 Okl. St. Ann. § 511 518. OK ST T. 15 § 511 518. Finders of Lost Goods. 

14.  Oregon - O.R.S. § 98.005 040. OR ST § 98.005 040. Lost, Unordered and Unclaimed Property.

15.  South Dakota - SDCL § 43-41-1 10.  SD ST 43-41-1 10. Lost and Found Property.

16. Vermont - 27 V.S.A. § 1101 1110. VT ST T. 27 § 1101 1110. Lost Property.

17.  Washington - West's RCWA 63.21.010 900.  WA ST 63.21.010 900. Lost and Found Property.

18.  WisconsinW. S. A. 170.07 12. WI ST 170.07 12. Strays and Lost Chattels.

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