Laws help residents sniff way through handling stray dogs

During the height of the foreclosure crisis, family pets were being turned loose or left behind as people lost their homes.

These days, stray dogs can still be happened upon but are more apt to be lost. One woman who takes it upon herself to help them is Kris, a Summerlin resident who asked that her real name not be used.

Over the past 15 years, Kris has found more than a dozen animals wandering around, lost or homeless. She picks them up and tries to locate their owners by seeing if they have a microchip. So far, none has. Occasionally, she is able to find new homes for the dogs.

“Sometimes, I have to call animal control because I don’t have that option (to adopt them) — I don’t have a house … and the bank account is only so big,” she said.

If the animal is injured, Kris takes it to the Las Vegas Animal Emergency Hospital and fills out a Good Samaritan form to surrender the animal. She did the right thing, according to Clark County.

“If you find a dog, you’re supposed to call animal control or bring it to the shelter,” county spokesman David Riggleman said.

Kris said the animals she finds are generally shy and scared.

“You can’t always catch them because sometimes they just run away,” Kris said. “… I have been fortunate. I have not come across one that has a tendency to be aggressive.”

Still, the temperament of a found dog may not be readily apparent.

Heather Harris, an attorney with Harris & Harris Lawyers, 501 S. Rancho Drive, Suite D22, deals with personal injury cases.

“If you find a dog, and the dog is clearly a vicious animal, and you intentionally decide to harbor the dog and you’re not taking steps to … call animal control or call somebody who can assist you with it, if you intentionally decide to harbor the animal and you’re keeping the animal, then you could potentially be held liable if you are personally aware that the animal appears to be vicious,” she said.

“If the animal tries to bite or seems to be aggressive, it’s potentially possible (to be held accountable). Now, generally speaking, when you deal with dog bite issues, you’re dealing with the owner. Obviously, Good Samaritans and people who love animals, as I do, would want to help an animal that was lost and scared and trying to find its way home, but steps you should take would generally be calling for assistance. The animal is more likely to be found if it’s brought to the proper authorities so it can be scanned for a chip. They have a better chance of being found that way than if you’re just keeping them in your home, anyway.”

From a legal standpoint, biting an inanimate object is different than biting a person, Harris said.

“If it’s not your animal but you decided to harbor them … I suppose you could potentially be held responsible,” Harris said. “I honestly have never encountered a case like that. So, I don’t know what the exact outcome would be. That’s like a law school exam question.”

According to the city of Las Vegas, animals with a history of biting may be declared dangerous, resulting in restrictions on how they are maintained by the owner. Animals that bite after being declared dangerous or those that have caused serious injury may be declared vicious. Vicious animals are unlawful to keep in Nevada, and euthanasia is the only option, officials said. Depending on the circumstances, there could be criminal charges against the owner.

Residents who lose their dogs or find one wandering the streets can contact a number of agencies and groups for help.

— The Animal Foundation, 655 N. Mojave Road, 702-384-3333,

— The city of Henderson animal shelter, 300 E. Galleria Drive, 702-267-4970,

— The Nevada SPCA, 4800 W. Dewey Drive, 702-873-7722,

— The Las Vegas Valley Humane Society, 702-434-2009,

— Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, 702-227-5555,

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 702-387-2949.

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