We’ve all seen it…
Your first inclination may be to take the stray dog inside your home and immediately address its food and shelter needs. But that’s not always the safest option.
Here’s what you should do if you find a stray dog…
Before you put yourself (or your family) at risk, follow these tips if you’ve found a lost dog:
#1 Stay safe.
A sick or frightened dog can be very unpredictable, and maybe even dangerous. So just be aware of the fact that the dog’s reaction to your helpful gestures may not be exactly as you expected. For example, even though the dog may seem very docile at first, if he senses that you’re about the pick him up or he starts to feel cornered, then he may turn on you and cause serious injury.
Try to create a barrier or use an object (like a pet carrier, a leash, a piece of cloth, or rope) to keep the dog from leaving the area. I once used a bowl of food to entice a feral cat and her litter of kittens to enter a large cardboard box that I had placed on its side. After they were all inside, I quickly tipped the box up and closed the top. That way, I had the whole family contained until Animal Control could arrive.
The more you know about the dog before you try to find its owner, the better. Look for an ID tag on the dog’s collar, or even a Rabies tag or a Microchip tag (those numbers can be traced back to the dog’s owner). If there is a phone number on the dog tags, call that number in an attempt to reach the owner. It may be the number of a 3rd party (like a veterinarian’s office or microchip company), but they can usually help to put you in touch with the dog’s owner.
If the dog looks vicious or severely injured, you may want to call Animal Control first. Otherwise, your best bet is to call the local animal shelters in your area. Those are the first places that the owner of a lost pet will contact. Let them know that you’ve found a stray dog and you’re caring for it until the owner can be found. Or, if you’re not comfortable being around the dog, let them know where the animal is so they can come and pick it up. In some cases, you may need to take the animal to the shelter yourself.
If someone claims that the dog is theirs, ask them to describe some of the dog’s unique features first. Try not to provide any identifying information about the dog yourself (in case this isn’t the dog’s true owner). Instead, leave it to the owner to tell you all about the dog. In addition, ask them to bring a picture of the dog when they come to pick him up. The reason for this is the fact that some dog breeds are very expensive to buy, therefore, there is an incentive for someone to scam you into believing that this dog is theirs.
#7 What if you want to keep your found dog?
Every municipality has its own rules regarding who gets to keep a stray dog and after how long. For the most part, if you make an honest effort to find the dog’s owner and you have notified all local agencies, then after a couple weeks have passed you’re probably okay to keep the dog. Most Animal Control agencies hold the stray dogs they’ve picked up for about that length of time before they offer them for adoption.
Best Resources If You Found A Stray Dog
In addition to the links found above, these are the best resources if you want more information about helping a lost dog: