You may have had a dog wander up to your doorstep, or see one running on a busy roadway. You want to help, but you are not sure what to do. Caution dictates that you handle the animal with care, as you would any other wild creature.
If you have found a stray dog, the first step is to make sure you keep yourself and the animal safe by not creating a worse situation.
Never chase after a stray dog, as you could panic the animal causing them to become aggressive or run into a dangerous situation. Instead, approach the animal slowly using a calm voice. If the animal appears frightened or skittish, use food as a lure to gain the dog’s trust. Once you have safely established trust, put a leash on the animal.
Never put yourself in harm’s way. If a dog seems aggressive or is in a dangerous location and you can’t help, then call the authorities. The best of intentions can lead to catastrophe if you do not handle assisting a stray appropriately.
Now that you have the animal safely under control, it is time to determine if the dog is someone’s lost pet.
- Assess the dog’s condition. Are there any apparent injuries that need medical attention? Does the animal appear malnourished or covered in parasites? If so, seek medical attention for the dog. It could be someone’s beloved pet who has been missing for some time.
- Check for a collar with identification tags. If the dog has tags with an owner’s phone number, call right away.
- If the animal does not have identification, take it to the closest veterinarian or shelter to have them scan for a microchip. Many owners have their dog microchipped, and the chip should contain contact information for the owner.
- If none of the steps above help locate the owner of the dog, utilize the power of social media. Look for lost and found pages on Facebook and post a picture of the pet and the location where they were found. In displaying an image, make sure that you take off the collar, or crop out one identifying feature about the dog. You want to make sure that the owners can identify something about the dog to guarantee that you are returning the animal to its rightful owner.
- Download a lost and found app like PawBoost, FindingRover or Shadow. Post an alert about the found animal, and search for the missing alerts to see if you can find a match.
- If you cannot keep the dog safely until the owner is found, take the time to find a no-kill shelter in your area. Shelters are the most obvious place where pet owners will be searching for their lost or missing pets.
- If you decide to keep the dog until the owners are located, make sure the shelter has the software capability to enter a picture of the dog in their “found” database. Talk to the staff at the shelter to ask how they reunite reported found animals with those looking for a missing pet.
- Even if you surrender the pet to a shelter, you can continue to help try to reunite them with their family. Use the pictures you took to create a Found flyer and post it all over the area where you located the dog. Make sure that you post them in veterinarian’s offices, dog parks, and with all local groomers and boarding facilities.
If you are willing to take responsibility for the dog until the owners can be located, take your responsibility seriously for finding the owners. Pets are loved and well-cared for missing for a wide variety of reasons, and that does not mean they are not cared for or wanted.
Keep working the app you are using to track any updates and make sure that your found notice stays active. Update the social media pages by posting the found pet as often as the group rules allow. If you are keeping the dog in your care, please get a medical check-up to make sure the dog is healthy and not missing any vital medication.
Remember, the owners may reimburse you for these expenses, but they are not obligated to do so. It can be hard to give up a dog you have formed a bond with when the owner is located. It is okay to feel sad, but take solace in the gift you have given the owner who has been searching for their lost pet.