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Wednesday, February 27, 2008
What To Do With A Stray Animal

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By Heather Andrews

Too often animals are left out to fend for themselves. Animals are abandoned or become lost and roam the streets for days or weeks. You can help save a cat or dog’s life if you don’t just keep on walking. Take the time to be a Good Samaritan and help a stray animal. That dog or cat could have been like a child to someone. Imagine if your pet was lost and people just ignored it.

Here are some tips to save an abandoned or lost animal if you should find one.

When you first find the animal:

  • Move carefully toward the animal to avoid startling the pet and causing them to run away. If the animal seems even slightly aggressive, move away and call animal control or the police.

  • Check the animal for any injuries. Use caution and don’t touch blood or wounds.

  • Supply the dog or cat with the basic necessities such as water, food, and a blanket. Strong smelling foods such as tuna or dried liver can help draw a scared stray in.

  • Attempt to restrain the animal until help is available. Use a leash, carrier or fenced area to keep the animal away from other pets and in a safe location.

Decide if a shelter or your home is the best place to take the pet:

  • If you decide to keep the animal, you may still need to contact animal control and make sure there is no owner looking for the pet. You may not automatically become the pet’s new owner in the event the original owner cannot be found. You will need to check with your local animal control agency or SPCA to find out the policies and procedures for “adopting” the animal.

  • You can take the animal to a shelter if you are able to transport the cat or dog. Most shelters have a waiting period while the owner is attempted to be located. After that, the animal may be euthanized if there is no home to be found.

  • You may take the animal to a veterinary hospital, but you should be prepared to be responsible for paying for the care provided. The veterinarian may be able to collect from a fund for stray injured animals, but make sure to clear this with the veterinarian first. Some veterinarians will offer discounted shelter for keeping a pet until the owner is located.

How to find a lost pet’s owner:

  • There are some online services that let you search for pets that have been reported as lost and post information about the animal you found. I would not consider any online source a “complete” list.

  • The newspaper and other media sources may allow free “found” ads for you to attempt to find the original owner. Do not post your full name or address in any public message concerning the found pet. A working phone number should be all the potential owner needs to contact you.

  • Post “found” flyers in the neighborhood.

  • Report the found pet to local shelters and animal hospitals.

If a potential owner contacts you, ask them questions about some identifying characteristics of the pet to ensure they are the actual original owners of the pet.

Just because an animal appears un-groomed and doesn’t have an ID tag, doesn’t mean there isn’t an owner out there who is desperately searching for their lost pet. Do the neighborly thing and at minimum report the animal sighting to local authorities. Remember that many pets these days have a tracking chip so they can easily be reunited with their owner; they just need a lift to the local shelter to be scanned.

If you decide to take the pet in and call him/her your own, please be responsible and make an effort to find the original owner. You don’t want to have your neighbor catch you walking their lost dog down the street!

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