Update: An Important Update for Cat Owners

We know a lot of you have questions about the changes to the local laws regarding the hold period for cats and the information originally posted in this blog.  The blog’s intent was to outline the changes to the ordinances recently discussed publicly and passed by the City of Las Vegas and Clark County.

We appreciate the feedback we’ve gotten from the community.  The Animal Foundation is committed to Mission: Possible 2020, saving the lives of all healthy and treatable animals in the Las Vegas valley.  Below are answers to many of the frequently asked questions surrounding the issue of stray cats without identification:

Why would the city and county shorten the legal hold period for cats without identification?  Doesn’t it make more sense to hold cats in the shelter so they have a chance of reunification with their owners?

Cats with any form of identification will continue to be held for 72 hours so that their owners may reclaim them before being placed for adoption or transferred to one of our rescue partners.  The return-to-owner rate for cats at The Animal Foundation has never been more than 2%.  That means very few people come to the shelter to reclaim their cats.  In fact, most cats who come to the shelter don’t have owners.  They are feral or “community” cats, and care for themselves, or are cared for by multiple people.  The national average of cats being reclaimed at shelters is even also less than 2%.

Current research suggests that, unlike dogs, cats are far more likely to find their way back home, or find a new home, if the cat is placed back in the very area from which it came.  The Community Cats program allows us to do that.  Current best practices in the animal sheltering profession suggest that moving animals as quickly as possible through the shelter system provides for the greatest likelihood of a positive outcome for the animal.

According to the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, cats, in particular, are very sensitive, and the stressful shelter environment makes them more susceptible to illness.  It is in the best interest of our feline friends to not prolong their stay at the shelter. 

If my cat ends up at the shelter and they can’t find its microchip, does that mean my cat will be evaluated before I get the chance to reclaim it?  Or worse, euthanized?

It’s highly unlikely our scanners will not recognize your cat’s microchip. Our staff scans for microchips multiple times. Because of the ordinance change, it is even more important to microchip your cat.

Not only are cats with identification 21.4 times more likely to be reunited with their owners, but Clark County law states that all owned dogs and cats have to be microchipped. Remember, if your cat has a microchip, or any other form of identification, the 72 hour hold period remains in effect.

The only time a cat without ID would be evaluated for euthanasia upon intake is if it was suffering and medical intervention could not relieve the suffering. This has always been the case, and the ordinance amendment has not impacted this process.

What if my microchip registration information is out of date?

If your registration information is out of date, the 72 hour hold period will still apply because a microchip will identify the cat is owned and not a stray. However, it is important to update your microchip registration so we can contact you if your pet is found.

Registering your pet’s microchip is now easier than ever. We recently partnered with Found Animals as our microchip vendor, and anyone, regardless of what company issued their pet’s microchip, can register their pet’s microchip in the Found Animals national database for free.

What if my cat doesn’t have a microchip and loses its collar?


County Code requires microchipping or tagging for owned cats and dogs. Upon intake, cats are evaluated and scanned. Those without a microchip or collar with ID will be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped and returned to their community OR moved to adoptions. 

Will the same change be made for dogs?

No.  Current research suggests that, unlike dogs, cats are far more likely to find their way back home if the cat is placed back in the very area from which it came. That’s why under this new ordinance, we are returning cats to their communities as soon as possible.  Dogs currently have the best chance at returning home through our current shelter system and other community notification methods such as social media and posting neighborhood signs.  It is also important to provide your dog with proper identification to ensure his greatest chance of returning home.

The Animal Foundation gets government funding for the 72 hour legal hold period to provide sheltering services to animals that come in from Animal Control.  Since stray cats no longer require this hold, what will be done with the funding?

While our local government contracts cover most of the cost of an animal’s legal hold period, they don’t fully cover it.  In 2015, The Animal Foundation subsidized the cost of those contracts by approximately $400,000.

While holding cats for less time will certainly help reduce resource needs for care, the actual cost to carry out the Community Cats program and save lives will require additional, not fewer, resources.  Those resources include vaccination, spay/neuter surgery, and transport back to their communities.

Do you have any more information about length of stay best practices?

Reputable animal welfare organizations like Maddies Fund and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians recognize that reducing a cat’s length of stay is a best practice. Below are documents from both organizations that outline the benefits reducing a cat’s length of stay.

Maddies Fund: Decreasing shelter length of stay means animals live, not die

The Association of Shelter Veterinarians: Guidelines of Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, p. 12

Still have questions about the ordinance change? Contact feedback@animalfoundation


An Important Update for Cat Owners

If you’re a cat owner, some recent changes to our local laws could affect you.  We want to make sure you’re aware of these changes and remind you to double check your cat’s microchip to make sure it’s up to date.  

Clark County and the city of Las Vegas recently amended their ordinances for the legal hold period for stray cats.  The change means that all stray cats without identification (i.e. microchip or tag) that come into The Animal Foundation from those jurisdictions are now exempt from the 72 hour legal hold.  So instead of waiting in kennels for 72 hours, those cats will now be evaluated for adoption upon intake or for return to their community as part of the Community Cats Program.  (This does not apply to cats that are part of a legal case).  

The shelter is a stressful place for all animals, but for cats in particular as they easily get sick from stress and other commonly spread illnesses.  This change will allow cats to move through the shelter faster on their way to a forever home or into our Community Cats Program.

If your cat does not have a microchip or some form of identification and goes missing, it’s extremely important that you come down to The Animal Foundation immediately to reclaim him or her since the 72 hour legal stray hold no longer applies.  

While many cats that come into the shelter are someone’s pet, most that come in without an ID are not reclaimed. To increase the chances of being reunited with your cat in the event that it is lost and picked up by animal control in the jurisdictions of Clark County and Las Vegas, it is important to:

  • Microchip your cat and make sure their registration is up to date*
  • Have a collar with an ID tag on your cat
  • Contact your microchip company as soon as you are aware your pet is missing
  • File a lost pet report

Questions about the new ordinance? Contact your local animal control agency, or email us here (feedback@animalfoundation.com)
*Registering your cat is easier than ever. The Animal Foundation has partnered with Found Animals, a microchip registry that is 100% free.