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Helpful Tips if You Find a Stray Dog

Petmate Academy

June 8, 2018


You’re driving down the road, look out to the sidewalk and see a pup all by his self.  What are you supposed to do in this situation? Do you leave the dog by themselves or do you stop and help? 

The first thing you should do when saving an animal is make sure you pull over safely.  You can’t help the lost dog if you hurt yourself in the process.  

Secondly, you should decide if you can safely capture the dog.  If you think that it is unlikely that you can gather the animal safely, you should call your local animal control to help. 

If the dog comes towards you on its own and shows no sign of fear it may be easier just to put them into your car.

More often than not, lost or stray pets are scared and very skittish around people.  You should never call out to a nervous animal because it may panic and run away from you.1

If the dog doesn’t run away, move slowly towards them and try to attract them towards you nonverbally with your body language or food.

Catch them Safely

Once the dog is safe and secured it is officially a found dog.  Firstly, you should check the animal for a collar with dog tags.  If they have ID tags you should contact the owner and hope that there is a happy reunion.

If there isn’t an ID tag you should take him to the nearest vet’s office to scan for a microchip. Most vets have a microchip scanner and will scan a found animal for free.

If there is not a microchip in the animal, you have two options: take it to your local animal shelter or take it home and care for it until you find the owners.  It can seem scary bringing an unknown dog into your house, but it is the best option of it being reunited with its family.2

If you decide to keep the animal with you, you need to call and report the lost dog to the local animal shelter with a description in case the family calls them.  You should post a listing in the local newspaper and check online sites such as Craigslist or Petfinder.

While searching for the owners you should keep the animal comfortable in your home.  Current pet residents should be kept away from the lost dog in case there is diseases until they have been cleared by a vet.  Some animals don’t always get along so watch their interactions to keep everyone safe.

Adopting the lost dog

While it seems like fate that you found an animal that nobody is looking for, most dogs do have someone looking for them. Before you claim the dog as your own, make sure that you have exhausted every step to locate its family. 

The Humane Society explains that there are specific laws on adopting found animals depending on each state. The easiest way to find out your state’s requirements is by contacting your local animal shelter.  Most states have a holding period before they can be claimed with a new owner.1 

If you take all the correct steps and no previous owner comes forward, you can officially call them yours.

Taking care of a stray dog can take a lot of your time, money, emotions, and energy.  If you do not think you can personally help take care of it, it’s okay, there is a reason there are animal agencies but be honest with yourself. 

The most important thing to remember when taking care of a stray is to do what you would want done to your own pet if they were to become lost.  You are helping them find their home, whether it is the one they came from or the one you give to them.




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