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.
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.