What to Do When Finding a Stray Animal


If you’ve ever had your pet go missing, you know what a relief it is to get the phone call telling you they’ve been found. Many times, lost pets turn up thanks to the help of do-gooders who stop and help when finding a stray animal.

If you wish to intervene the next time you see a pet wandering the street, it’s a good idea to know the best way to go about it. Be safe, follow the laws, and think about what you’d want someone to do if they found your missing pet. Check out our tips on what to do if you find a stray animal.

Safety First

Consider your safety, the animal’s safety, and the safety of those around you.

  • If you are finding a stray animal in the middle of the street, don’t slam on your breaks or run out into traffic! You can’t help the animal if you get hurt, and you could cause an accident.
  • Remember that a confused, scared, and possibly sick or injured animal may behave unpredictably. If the animal looks threatening, you feel nervous, or you’re at all unsure of the animal’s temperament, stay in your car or at a distance if you’re on foot.
  • If you choose to approach the animal, do so slowly. Sudden movements and loud voices may cause an animal to bolt. Use a calm, reassuring voice and try to get the animal to come to you first by offering treats or animal-friendly food.

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What to Do With the Found Animal

  • The Humane Society suggests restraining the animal if possible by creating a barrier or using a crate, carrier, or leash. If you cannot confine the animal and they are out near traffic or injured, divert cars around them if you can do so safely.
  • When finding a stray animal, if you cannot restrain them, call your local animal control agency or the police. Ask them how long it will be before someone can come and help. If you can, stay with or near the animal until help arrives.
  • In some cases you may be able to lure the animal into your car to wait for help to arrive. However it is usually not a good idea to transport an unrestrained stray animal in your car as they may become anxious or aggressive.
  • If you are able to safely restrain the animal, you may be able to transport them. Take them to the nearest animal shelter or veterinarian so that they can be scanned for a microchip. If the animal does not have a microchip or ID tag, you can choose to leave the animal at the shelter or take them home (if you wish to keep the animal in the event that the original owner is not found).
  • Keep in mind, however, that laws vary from state to state. Just because you find an animal, it does not necessarily mean that you automatically own it. In most states, the animal is not owned by the person who found it until the state’s holding period for strays has passed, the finder has made attempts to find the original owner (such as making flyers), and the finder has taken certain steps to prove that they wish to care for the animal, including getting vaccinations, a license, and an ID tag.

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Things to Consider When Rescuing a Stray

  • Animal shelters and control agencies are not always able to provide care for injured or sick found animals. In addition, many shelters have budget and space limitations. If you take a found animal to a shelter, understand that they may consider euthanizing the animal if it is sick or if the shelter is overcrowded.
  • If you decide to take a found animal to the vet because it appears sick or has injuries, be prepared to pay for any treatment out of pocket.
  • Think about what you would want someone to do if they found your missing pet when you’re finding a stray animal. Even if the animal isn’t very friendly or especially cute, you should make every effort to return them to their original owner. Put up flyers, post to the internet, and make sure that the shelters around you have a description of the animal and your phone number.

Rescuing an animal can be a wonderful thing — and even more so when the animal is reunited with a worried owner — but always remember that not every stray animal is safe to approach, and you should use your best judgement to keep the animal, yourself, and those around you safe.

When in doubt, contact your local ASPCA or animal control agency.

Have you ever found a lost animal? Leave a comment and let us know. And to keep your pet safe and healthy, consider signing up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more.


7 Easy Ways To Prepare Your Pet For Spring

It’s officially spring, and soon we’ll see higher temperatures and plenty of chances to take our pets outside for some fun in the sun. As nice as that sounds, warm weather and outdoor activities also present certain dangers to our pets, like increased risk of heartworm disease and seasonal allergies. The good news is that we can protect our pals. Read on to learn how.

1. Get Your Pet On A Heartworm Preventative

Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms that are transmitted via mosquito bites. If you’re thinking: “I don’t see many mosquitos where I live, so I don’t need to worry,” think again. The American Heartworm Society suggests that all pets — regardless of where they live — should be protected. Get your pet on a heartworm preventative, such as a tablet or topical treatment, before letting them loose in the yard.

RELATED STORY: How Do Dogs and Cats Get Heartworm Disease?

2. Prepare Your Pet From Fleas and Ticks

Mosquitos aren’t the only pests you need to watch out for in the spring; fleas and ticks also come back in full force. While fleas and ticks can be picked up any time of year, your pet is more likely to come into contact with them if they are out romping in the grass, hiking with you, or playing at the dog park. Fleas and ticks not only irritate your pet, they can also carry disease and cause serious health problems. Protect your pet with an oral or topical treatment and/or collar.

3. Stay Cool

When temperatures climb, so too does the risk of your pet overheating. On warmer days, you may want to walk your pet in the morning or evening to avoid high midday temperatures, and if you have the option, choose a grass or dirt path over hot asphalt; your pet’s paws will thank you. Be sure to bring water for your pal on long walks or hikes, and look out for signs of heatstroke, like excessive panting, staggering, and high body temperature. Heatstroke can be deadly, so take your pet to the veterinarian right away if you see symptoms.

4. Prepare your Pet For Seasonal Allergies

Pets can suffer from seasonal allergies in much the same way that people do, having particular sensitives to grass, pollens, flowers, or plants. If you notice your pet itching, scratching, or sneezing after playing outside, they might be having an allergic reaction. Contact your veterinarian; after testing your pet they may prescribe an antihistamine and/or suggest more frequent baths.

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5. Beware of Poisons

Certain foods, plants, and rodenticides/insecticides are poisonous to pets, and you should be aware so that you can keep your pet safe when BBQing or hanging out in the yard. The most poisonous foods for pets are garlic, onions, grapes, raisins, apricots, caffeine, chocolate, gum, alcohol, and salt. There are many toxic plants, so check this list and then check your yard.

6. Steer Clear of Foxtails

Foxtails are grass-like weeds that show up between May and December in most of the US, but especially in the West. If your pet comes into contact with a foxtail, it can become easily embedded in their feet, ears, eyes, nose, or skin due to its sharp point and tiny barbs. Foxtails are not only uncomfortable for your pet and tricky to remove, they can also cause swelling, pain, abscesses, and even death if they are absorbed into your pet’s body and make their way to the lungs, brain, or spine. Protect your pet by learning the species of foxtail native to your region and avoiding overgrown areas. You should also brush your pet out and inspect them for foxtails every time they come in from outside.

7. Time To Microchip

More time spent outside means more chances for your pet to sneak off or get lost. You should always keep an eye on your friend, but if they do happen to escape your sight, a microchip is a great way to get them back. A microchip is a small device about the size of a grain of rice that contains a unique ID number. After the microchip is injected into your pet, you will register online using the ID number, and if the pet is ever returned to a shelter or vet’s office, a quick scan will reveal their information. Used in combination, a collar ID tag and microchip offer the best chance for getting your pet home safely. If you plan to purchase any medications for your pet this spring — including heartworm preventatives, flea and tick treatments, or allergy medications — consider signing up for PetPlus. You could save up to 75%, and ordering is a breeze.