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 Department of Recreation and Human Services (DRHS). 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. Originally positioned within the Rochester Police Department, Animal Services was transferred to DRHS because of the better alignment of work related to keeping families together, removing barriers to resources, and supporting the human-animal bond.

RAS provides the following services:   

  • intake of lost, injured, abandoned, and menacing companion animals
  • temporary housing, care, and enrichment for sheltered and fostered animals
  • getting lost pets home (pet reunification)
  • helping owners find new homes for their pets (supported self-rehoming)
  • companion animal adoption 
  • transfers unclaimed animals to other animal welfare organizations
  • door-to-door community outreach and engagement
  • support services to address systemic barriers in access to resources
    • public spay and neuter program
    • vaccinations
    • ID tags and microchip identification
    • pet food and supplies
  • temporary emergency boarding and safety net foster care
  • discretionary enforcement of local and state ordinances pertaining to companion animals
  • response to public safety and public health concerns related to animals
  • dog bite prevention programs

What are the animal center’s hours of operation?

In conjunction with our COVID-19 response plan and in the interest of minimizing stress for sheltered animals, the Animal Services Center doors are locked but we are providing lost pet reunification and adoption services, by appointment, Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Walk-up clients may be served on a case-by-case basis, as operationally feasible, and with attention to the health and safety of our team and our community members.

Regular hours are Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  
Closed Sundays and select holidays (New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day)

Where is the facility located?

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

Why are the doors locked during business hours?

As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we began locking the doors to limit the number of people entering the facility at any one time. Along with locking the doors, we implemented appointment-based services for lost-pet reunification and adoption services. There are signs at the front entrance that provide phone numbers and guidance for community members seeking service. The purpose is to try to keep everyone as safe as possible, including employees, volunteers, and community members who visit. Additionally, we have implemented a foster-centric model for housing animals, which means that most of the animals in our care are actually in private homes. These foster homes serve as an extension of the shelter walls but in a much healthier and less stressful environment that enables our charges to be their best selves while awaiting reunification or rehoming. The animals that are at the Center tend to be ones that have not been cleared for placement due to medical or behavioral concerns or animals that have just arrived. The new arrivals are placed in foster homes as soon as possible. With the majority of animals in foster homes, access to the shelter is not essential for services that can be supported via phone or internet.

Additionally, organizations throughout the country have realized that the animals are far less stressed without a constant stream of unfamiliar people walking by and poking fingers into their spaces. In recognition of the health and wellness benefits of reducing such stress, many shelters like ours have decided to continue providing by-appointment services.

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 below 3,000. 

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

Visit Found A Pet. 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. Most found pets are within a few blocks of their homes. If the dog is unfamiliar, injured, acting aggressively, or running in traffic, call 911 to report the dog so that an Animal Services Officer can be dispatched. Whenever possible, we will attempt to reunite the dog with its owner without intake at the shelter.

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.    

Should people bring found cats to the shelter?   

Many people are under the belief that any outdoor cat they see is lost and in need of rescue, when in fact most outdoor cats are fine. These are owned pets that are allowed outside or they are community cats who often have several caretakers. For many years we have trained the public that if you see it outside, rush it to the shelter and now we know this isn’t actually the answer. 

When we bring cats into the shelter, we are stressing them out, exposing them to infectious disease, sometimes making them sick. For the ones who get adopted or transferred to rescue groups, we are taking them away from a family who already cared for them and taking up a resource that could be used by a cat who truly needed a home (i.e., one whose owner died, cats abandoned in a home or at a vet clinic, those from a hoarding case, etc.). Ironically, when we adopt out a cat who was basically taken from its outdoor home and was doing fine, the cat is most likely going into a new household, which will often also let the cat outside and the cycle continues (about half of American cat guardians let their cats outside).

 Just because cats are outside does not mean that they need to be rescued. Animal Services continues to be available for indoor cats that are abandoned in houses or found sick or injured but intake of all healthy cats found outdoors is not is not what is recommended nor is it best for all animals and people involved. We believe that found kittens should be on a path to adoption - but event that does not mean taking them into the shelter. A kitten diversion program where we support the finder with medical care and an adoption outlet is a much healthier and better route for kittens. Over the years, we have learned that we should do things differently that actually help people and animals in a better way. It is not about turning them away or ignoring them, it is about providing the actual help they need and solving the problem outside of the shelter.

To help understand the big picture, we encourage community members and partner organizations to dig into the growing body of knowledge on community cats and animal services best practices.   

  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 our Lost A Pet page to search for animals brought into our care or found by community members and reported to us. Also refer to the Lost Pet Resource Packet for a variety of tips to aid in finding your missing companion. 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. 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.

Use  Petco Love Lost and PetFBI to expand your search through those online databases. Petco Love Lost uses facial recognition to match shelter animals with missing pets.

I want to get rid of my pet(s), what should I do?

Visit Before Getting Rid of Your Pet - Surrender Prevention Resources and Support to review suggestions, recommendations, and process. First, is there some intervention or 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. If you are having challenges finding a new home for your pet, use our Home-to-Home program so we can assist you in finding a new home for your pet without it ever having to set paws in a shelter. Animal shelters are inherently scary and stressful places for pets as they are exposed to so many unfamiliar spaces, sounds, animals, and people. It is better for your pet to remain in the comfort of your home until a new home can be secured. It also keeps owners like you directly involved in the process to ensure that your pet's needs will be met in its new home.  The Home-to-Home program also helps us focus our limited resources on the most at-risk animals, like ones that are lost, abandoned, or injured. Call 428-7274 to speak with a representative regarding alternative options for your pet and to learn more about the Home-to-Home program. 

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 or email us to inquire about our supportive services.

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 & Support 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 Services Center, 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?

We practice open, conversational adoptions, meaning the process is not cumbersome and intentionally streamlined, if not barrier-free. Visit our pet adoption pages, schedule an appointment to 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. 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.  


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?

Found pets 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?

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?

In conjunction with our Community Outreach and Support Program, we do provide or facilitate vaccination, flea and tick prevention, and general veterinary care for people facing barriers in access to such services. We also offer periodic vaccination and identification clinics. Contact 428-7274 to find out more information and the schedule for upcoming clinic events. 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 been found lost and scared; come from owners who have died, been hospitalized, or 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. Adopting from a shelter minimizes the amount of time a pet needs to be exposed to the stressful shelter environment with its constant influx of animals and helps keep the shelter within its capacity for care. These are animals truly in need of homes.  

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 our care. Most of the animals are dogs and cats. There are a lot of mixed breeds 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, and more. We have 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 found and unidentified animals. Many are also surrendered by owners who can no longer care for them. Some are left behind when owner die, are hospitalized, or move away.

How can one get involved with Animal Services?

Check out our Volunteer Program, which is constantly recruiting new members. Volunteers assist with lost pet reunification; self-rehoming support; walking, training, and socializing dogs; care and socialization for cats; foster care; bathing and grooming animals; assisting with adoptions; providing administrative support and data entry; data analysis and research; assisting in the spay/neuter clinic; transporting animals to clinics, adoption events, and partner organizations; promoting the organization at community events; assisting with outreach and support efforts; serving as greeters at the facility and provide triage teleservice; and assisting with a variety of other duties. The volunteers truly enhance the lives of the animals in our care and help us better serve people and animals.

You can also get involved with our non-profit partners at 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).

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 has a Foster Care Program for cats and dogs to extend the shelter walls into foster homes. The purpose of the program is to provide a temporary home that better supports the physical and mental wellness of the animals. Early in the pandemic, sheltering organizations needed to clear their facilities in preparation for the anticipated increased intakes resulting from hospitalization of pet guardians , employee absences due to illness, and the looming eviction crisis. A shift to foster-centric housing became the major focus and part of industry best practices. 

Shelters are inherently stressful and scary for animals. The foreign setting, sights, sounds, and volume of unfamiliar animals and people can wreak havoc on the friendliest and healthiest of animals. To avoid such stress and the associated illnesses and behavioral deterioration, we try to get animals into foster homes as soon as possible, even during the 3-day guardian redemption period. 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. We also provide temporary emergency fostering as a safety net for pet guardians facing crises such as eviction, hospitalization, domestic violence, etc. If you are interested in learning more about our foster program or becoming a foster caregiver, please complete the Foster Care Application 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, veterinary clinic, and field services 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 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 services 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 and the Humane Society wildlife management solutions 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 services 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


Pets and Animals