Frequently Asked Questions about Animal Services


Who runs Animal Services and what do they do?

Animal Services is a division of the City of Rochester currently operated within the Rochester Police Department. The City assumed operational control of the agency in July 2000 when the Humane Society of Rochester and Monroe County at Lollypop Farm opted to discontinue their contract with the City.

RAS provides the following services:   

  • intake of homeless, injured, unwanted, and menacing companion animals
  • temporary housing, care and enrichment for sheltered animals
  • reunites owners with missing pets
  • adopts out animals into new homes (traditional and alternative homes)
  • transfers unclaimed animals to other animal welfare organizations
  • pro-active community outreach
  • offers support services to citizens with their pets to address systemic barriers in access to resources
  • enforces local and state ordinances pertaining to animal control
  • administers public spay and neuter program
  • responds to public safety and public health concerns related to animals
  • dog bite prevention programs

What are the animal shelter’s hours of operation?

In conjunction with our COVID-19 response plan, the Animal Services Center is currently closed but offering lost pet reunification and adoption services by appointment Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Regular hours are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Open late on Wednesday’s until 7:30 p.m.)
Closed Sundays and select holidays (New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day)

Where is the animal shelter located?

The Animal Services Center is located at 184 Verona Street, one block north of Frontier Field, across from Brown Square Park.

How many animals do you deal with annually?

Historically, intakes at Animal Services were approximately 6,000 cats and dogs annually.  However, through a series of purposeful changes to operational focus, pre-surrender counseling, and heightened community outreach and pro-active pet-owner support, annual intakes are now around 3,600. 

I just saw a dog running loose, what should I do?

Do you recognize the dog?  If it is your neighbor's dog, try notifying your neighbor so that the owner can secure the dog and avoid an unnecessary intake. For friendly, healthy animals, refer to the Found Pet Resource Packet to assist with pet reunification. If the dog is unfamiliar, acting aggressively, or running in traffic, call 911 to report the dog so that an animal control officer can be dispatched. Whenever possible, we will attempt to reunite the dog with its owner without intake at the shelter.

My pet is missing, what should I do?

We always recommend immediately searching your neighborhood, posting flyers, and speaking with neighbors to attempt to locate missing pets. If you are unable to find the pet and you reside in the city of Rochester or a neighboring town, you should visit Lost and Found Pets page and refer to the Lost Pet Resource Packet. The minimum required holding period is three (3) days for unidentified companion animals and seven days for licensed dogs so please do not wait. We extend the same seven-day holding periods to identified cats. It is possible that animals brought in as found pets may be adopted or transferred as soon as the holding period has expired. When emailing or visiting the shelter, you may be asked to provide any documentation of ownership such as a dog license, rabies certificate, veterinary records, and photographs. Visit our Lost and Found page to obtain additional information and search some of the animals brought in as found pets. Other recommendations include visiting the Humane Society of Rochester at Lollypop Farm and posting a missing pet ad in the newspaper, on Craigslist, and in social media.

I want to surrender my pet(s), what should I do?

Visit Before Surrendering a Pet to review suggestions, recommendations, and process. First, is there some support we can provide that would enable you to keep your pet? If so, please email us or call 585-428-7274. If keeping your pet is not possible, always attempt to find a suitable permanent home for your pets. Review our tips for encouraging pet retention or re-homing before surrendering to a shelter. If no such home is available, there are on-line rehoming services that we can help you with to ensure that your pet finds a new home. As a last resort, Rochester residents may schedule an appointment to bring your pet(s) to Animal Services. Call 428-7274 to speak with a representative regarding alternative options or to schedule a pet surrender appointment. 

My pet is sick or injured and I don’t know what to do?

Contact your regular veterinarian during regular office hours or call the 24-hour Animal Emergency Services (424-1277) for directions and information. 

I want to have my sick, injured, or elderly pet euthanized but cannot afford the veterinarian, what can I do?

If your pet is suffering from medical or age-related issues warranting euthanasia, please contact your veterinarian. If you cannot afford the office visit and euthanasia fees, contact Rochester Hope For Pets to inquire about financial assistance. If no such assistance is available, certified Animal Services personnel may perform this end of life service, as staffing and operational needs allow. Please call (585) 428-7274 to schedule an appointment. 

Are there any programs to assist pet owners?

Yes. Please visit our Pet Assistance page to review some of the programs available in our community.

I suspect that an animal is being abused, what should I do?

At Animal Services, we believe that people are inherently good, not malicious, and are doing their best with limited resources. If you are concerned that a pet owner may be in need of support and access to pet wellness services, contact our Outreach Coordinator at 428-6738. If you have evidence of intentional physical abuse such as dog fighting, cock fighting, or other physical abuse of an animal, call 911 or the Humane Society of Greater Rochester's anonymous hotline (223-6500). 

Where does funding come from for Animal Services operation?

Animal Services has a distinct Special Fund separate from the City's General Fund. The Animal Services Fund is comprised of revenue collected from Animal Services Center fees, animal control fines, and dog license fees. Such revenue covers only a fraction of the operating expenses involved in running and staffing the animal shelter, field services, and veterinary activities. Therefore, the City's General Fund contributes a significant portion of the annual operating budget for Animal Services. 

Animal Services has a trust fund for accepting donations. Such contributions are used to provide enhancements to services and programs otherwise not supported by the annual operating budget. Specific areas supported by the trust fund include contracts for veterinary services to staff the public spay/neuter program and purchase of implantable microchips to prevent pet loss by ensuring that all animals adopted are permanently identified.

Similarly, the Friends of the Verona Street Animal Shelter (also known as Verona Street Animal Society) raises funds to help augment Animal Services programs including adoption promotions, subsidizing low and no-cost spay/neuter, shelter enrichment, pet owner assistance, and purchase of veterinary supplies and tests to enhance care and treatment of shelter animals.

Are donations to Animal Services tax-deductible?

They may be. You should consult your tax adviser. According to Internal Revenue Service Code, Section 170 any charitable contribution is allowable as a deduction if the gift is made to a political subdivision of a State or the United States and exclusively for public purposes. Animal Services is operated by the City of Rochester and thereby a "political subdivision" of the State of New York. Donations can be made to the Animal Services trust fund to purchase supplies and enhance care beyond what can be provided by the City's operating budget.

All donations to Verona Street Animal Society are tax deductible.

Why do I need to license my dog?

Licensing your dog is required by New York State Agriculture and Markets Law and the Municipal Code of the City of Rochester and there are fines for citizens with unlicensed dogs. A dog license identifies and protects your dog in case it becomes lost.  Even indoors, pets can get out and become lost.  A dog license is not only a requirement, it also provides the following benefits:

  • It helps reunite lost dogs with their owners.
  • It lets people know that your dog is not a homeless stray.
  • Animal Services will call you or send a letter if your dog comes to the shelter wearing a license tag.
  • A license is proof that your pet has been vaccinated against rabies.
  • When found wearing its license tag, your dog will be cared for at the Animal Services Center for a longer holding period.
  • If your dog is found and in need of medical attention, the license may enable contact with you to approve emergency care.
  • Licenses are required for use of dog parks
  • License fees support Animal Services programs and operations including return of lost pets to their homes, animal care at the shelter, pet adoption, spay and neuter, and pro-active community outreach initiatives.

I want to adopt an animal from Rochester Animal Services. What do I do?

Visit our pet adoption pages or come down to the shelter, visit with the animals, talk with staff and volunteers, ask questions, discuss with your family or housemates. Do not make an impulsive decision. Before adopting an animal into your home, we will ask for your contact information and have a conversation about the particular animal. You will be asked for proof of identity. After visiting with the animal that you are interested in, you will have a counseling session with a staff member who will inform you of the history, any special needs, food and exercise requirements, wellness, and legal responsibilities for pet owners. Feel free to ask questions about spaying or neutering, house training, obedience training, controlling fleas and ticks, and anything else of interest. You will be asked to sign an adoption agreement and to pay the appropriate fees. This process helps us to ensure the well-being of the animal you wish to adopt and to ensure the same for any pets that you may already have at home. 

What is the Live Release Rate at Rochester Animal Services?

Our Live Release Rate hovers right around 90% meaning that we are saving the vast majority of cats and dogs that enter our care. The animals not saved are limited to those with irremediable medical conditions and severe aggression.

Live Release Rate is one metric that animal shelters use to gauge their impact in lifesaving areas. It is calculated by combining all of the live outcomes (i.e., adoptions, returns to owners, and transfers) relative to the total number of all outcomes. Owner requested euthanasia and animals that die in shelter care are not included in the calculation.  The former is an important end of life service provided to pet owners unable to afford euthanasia at a private veterinary clinic and the latter are animals that succumb to ailments or injuries sustained prior to entering our care.  

However, our focus is not on any one particular number or metric.  As a Socially Conscious Animal Shelter we are committed to placing every healthy and safe animal without compromising humane care or jeopardizing public safety. 


What is the waiting list for adoptions and how does that work?

If an animal is impounded as a stray, it must be held for five full days (or longer for identified animals) before it can be adopted out. This holding period allows a reasonable period of time for a potential owner to come forward and reclaim the animal. During those 5- 10 days, the animal may be placed in an adoption room at the shelter, have its photo posted on the website, and be available for viewing and visitations by the public. Up to five (5) interested parties may be added to a waiting list after completing a successful visitation with the animal. We use the waiting list to determine the order in which we will review applications for adoption. All individuals on the waiting list must be present to be considered for the adoption at the designated time. If the first person on the list is not present, we proceed to the second person on the list and so on.

Why are there animals in adoption rooms and on adoption web pages if not available for adoption?

Strays are placed in adoption areas during holding periods to give them earlier exposure to potential adopters in the event that an owner does not come forward to reclaim. That helps reduce the length of stay (LOS) for the animals, which reduces disease and stress that can preclude adoption. Also, reducing LOS helps keep shelter below its physical holding capacity so that cage space is available for the continuing influx of stray and unwanted animals. Reducing LOS is critical to saving more animals.

Does Animal Services spay/neuter the animals at the shelter?

Yes, we have an on-site surgical unit and veterinary team at the shelter to enhance our services, address the issues of unwanted litters, and improve the quality of care provided to the animals. All dogs and cats are spayed or neutered prior to adoption. 

Why do the animals have to be spayed/neutered?

Stray and unwanted animals face a variety of hazards and each year thousands of animals suffer and die on the streets or are needlessly euthanized at shelters. New York State law (Agriculture and Markets Law 387 Section 377) mandates that shelters either sterilize all animals prior to adoption or impose a refundable altering deposit to encourage adopting clients to have their new pets sterilized after the adoption. The altering deposits have not proven successful in stimulating compliance for animals adopted from the shelter so RAS sterilizes them before they are released to their new homes.  Accordingly, the City of Rochester established sterilization ordinances that require all dogs and cats adopted from the Animal Services Center be sterilized before being released from the shelter.

In addition to addressing population control by rendering the animals sterile, spaying and neutering increases longevity by reducing the risk of uterine infections, breast cancer, and testicular cancer; eliminates the “heat” cycle; may eliminate or reduce behavior problems such as spraying and some forms of aggression; reduces the likelihood that male pets will roam in search of mates; is more cost-effective than raising litters or treatment after your male cat gets into a fight with another tom cat; improves your community by reducing collisions with motor vehicles, encounters with wildlife, damage to native and ornamental plants, and children frightened or bitten by stray animals; and will not make your pet overweight.

Do you offer discounted vaccinations or other medical care to pet owners?

Per NYS Law we are limited to providing rabies vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries for owned pets of City residents. We do vaccinate animals in our care, but we do not routinely offer such services to the public at our shelter for pets that are not in our custody. However, in conjunction with our community outreach program, we do facilitate vaccination, flea and tick prevention, and general veterinary care through partnerships with local veterinary clinics. Pets require annual vaccinations and wellness check-ups, so we always encourage clients to establish a relationship with a local veterinary hospital to keep your pets happy and healthy.

Why adopt from a shelter?

These are animals that need to be saved.  They may have come from a life on the streets, from owners who can no longer care for them, or from unfortunate accidents and escapes. Most of these animals will make great companions if just given the chance. Their time at an open admission municipal shelter is limited due to a constant influx of animals, shelter capacity, and availability of resources.  

Also, although the shelter does see a fair number of animals that appear to be purebred, there are lots of mixes too. Often mixed breeds have fewer health problems than their purebred counterparts.

What kinds of animals are available for adoption?

The selection of animals available varies daily depending on what sorts of animals are picked up, surrendered, and brought into the shelter. Most of the animals are dogs and cats. There are a lot of mixed breeds at the shelter and we are unable to verify specific pedigree without breeding records or DNA results. However, we do see animals that appear to be purebred German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Cocker Spaniels, Mastiffs, German Short-Haired Pointers, Blue Tick Hounds, Siberian Huskies, Akitas, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Shih tzus, Labradors Retrievers, Golden Retrievers. We’ve also had what appear to be purebred cats like Persians, Himalayans, Abyssinian, Russian Blues, Siamese, and Maine Coons. In addition to dogs and cats, we also get gerbils, hamsters, ferrets, Guinea Pigs, rabbits, and various exotic birds.

Why do you offer pets for free and aren't you concerned about the care that those pets will receive?

Reducing and waiving fees are marketing tools used worldwide across a wide variety of industries to stimulate consumer interest and motivate people to participate, take action, and make purchases. Numerous studies have shown that the presence or absence of fees has no bearing on the level of attachment or quality of care provided by adopters. The reality is that shelters need to run promotional events periodically to catalyze interest in adopting shelter pets. Without these marketing tools, shelters would continuously operate at or above their physical and staffing capacities and animals would be euthanized due to lacking space. We encourage you to review the studies and animal welfare industry support for fee-waived events. The following are just a few links with relevant information but there is an abundance of support for fee-waived events on the internet.


Where do the animals come from?

Most of the animals come in as stray, at-large, and unidentified animals. Many are also surrendered by owners who can no longer care for them or who no longer want them. Some are seized as a result of warrants or arrests.

How can one get involved with Animal Services?

We have a volunteer program that is always open to new members. Volunteers walk, train, and socialize dogs; play with animals; bathe and groom animals; assist with adoptions; provide administrative support and data entry; assist in the spay/neuter clinic; promote the organization at events; assist with community outreach efforts; serve as greeters at the facility; and assist the shelter staff with a variety of other duties. The volunteers truly enhance the lives of the animals in our care.

You can also Verona Street Animal Society and serve on one of the committees (Resource Development - Fundraising Events, Grants, Corporate Relations, Donor Relations, Database Management, Direct Appeals, Planned Giving; Communications and Marketing - Website, Social Media, Newsletter, Mailing List, Media Relations, Public Relations; Finance - Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable) or as a caregiver in conjunction with the Dog Foster Program.

I want to volunteer for Rochester Animal Services. What do I do?

Requirements for volunteering are: 

  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Completion of a Volunteer Application and phone interview 
  • Completion of a criminal record check
  • Completion of an orientation and an on the job training session
  • Visit Volunteer For Animal Services for more information and online application

I want to foster animals for Rochester Animal Services. What do I do?

Animal Services transfers animals to its non-profit partner organization the Verona Street Animal Society (VSAS) to extend the shelter walls into foster care. The purpose of the foster program is to give a second chance to animals that might not otherwise have one. It may be a litter of un-weaned kittens that need round-the-clock attention, an adult cat with an upper respiratory infection, a dog with an injury, or an animal that simply does not do well in a shelter environment. In some cases, animals may need to be fostered short-term until a sterilization surgery can be performed or for a 14-day quarantine before transfer to another animal welfare organization. Foster homes accept the responsibility for the care and nutrition of their animals with support and guidance from Verona Street Animal Society and Animal Services. Fostering can extend holding periods, increase likelihood of adoption, aid in healing and recovery from injury or illness, reduce shelter crowding and improve socialization between animals and people. Additionally, fostering a special needs animal is a wonderfully rewarding way to assist Animal Services with the many challenges the organization faces on a daily basis. If you are interested in learning more about our foster program or becoming a foster home, email VSAS with your information and a representative will be in touch.

What is the Verona Street Animal Society (VSAS)?

VSAS is a d/b/a for Friends of the Verona Street Animal Shelter, Inc. a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that supports the City’s animal shelter and animal control operations with fundraising and promotions much as the Seneca Park Zoo Society supports the County’s zoo. Learn more about VSAS at


Do you need anything? How can people help? 

We do accept donations. Visit Donate to Animal Services to view our wish list for in-kind support or consider making a monetary contribution. Monetary donations can be made to the Animal Services trust fund to support additional veterinary services, enhance care, and promote programs beyond what can be provided by the City's operating budget. Verona Street Animal Society also has a website, where you can learn more about the friends group, events, and how to get involved in fundraising, marketing, and promotions.

What can I do about free-roaming cats in my neighborhood?

There are no leash laws or identification regulations for pet cats.  Therefore, it is often difficult to determine if an outdoor cat is owned or not. Visit Alley Cat Allies for information about community cats and tips on how to help the cats, minimize nuisances, and deter cats from taking up residence in your yard. Also visit our Community Cats page to learn about the recommended strategy for managing free-roaming cat populations.

What do I do about nuisance wildlife?

If there is a wild animal in the living quarters of your home, call 311 to request an animal control officer. If there is a wild animal in your attic, basement, or inside the walls of your home, contact a private nuisance wildlife control operator or pest control company. For wild animals creating a nuisance or destroying property outside of your home, review our Wildlife Information Sheet with tips and guidelines for dealing with nuisance wildlife. You may use humane live traps to capture nuisance animals but do not transport the animal yourself. Citizens are not authorized to transport wildlife for release. Such relocation of wildlife is regulated by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and restricted to licensed Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators. Such trapping practices should be limited to those individual animals that are causing some significant nuisance or property damage. If you rent, contact your landlord to make arrangements to address the problem. Traps may be rented or purchased from hardware stores, home and garden centers, equipment rental companies, or from a variety of websites.

In most cases, the “problem” will not be corrected without addressing the property with some form of habitat modification. Wild animals are drawn to areas for the basic habitat requirements: food, water, shelter, and places to breed and raise young. Removing one individual animal or even a series of animals does not eliminate the presence of the same species in the future. Often such removal simply results in migration of new animals into your area and may even result in population increases as the new residents take advantage of the abundant resources from your home or garden. We recommend that residents consider habitat modifications and exclusionary tactics as outlined on the nuisance wildlife information bulletin. Visit our Wildlife page at or contact 311 or 428-7274 to request .a copy of the wildlife information bulletin.

Contact the NYS DEC Region 8 Office at 585-226-5380 or Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources at 518-402-8924, or visit for additional information regarding nuisance wildlife regulations.

There is a wild animal (deer, coyote, raccoon, or opossum) in my yard, what should I do?

Leave it alone. In most cases the animal is searching for food and will move on. Securing garbage can lids can help discourage some animals from coming around.

There is a sick or injured animal in my yard, what should I do?

Call 311 or 911 to request an animal control officer.

What types of events does VSAS organize?

The largest fundraising event is The Fast & The Furriest® which includes 10K and 5K road races, a dog walk, pet contests, food trucks, refreshments, live music, and a variety of exhibitors in a dog-friendly festival.

There are also periodic, small-scale events organized by VSAS or by third parties. If you are interested in getting involved with the major fundraisers or in organizing a third-party event, please contact VSAS.

Contact Information:

Rochester Animal Services
Phone: 585-428-7274
Fax: 585-428-6130

Verona Street Animal Society