Approaching a Stray Animal
When you see a stray or loose pet, approach it calmly and cautiously so as not to scare it or endanger yourself. If the animal is injured, try to find someone to stay with it while you phone animal control for assistance. Do not attempt to move the animal unless absolutely necessary. Direct traffic around the animal only if it is safe for you to do so.
Contact animal shelters in surrounding areas to learn if anyone has reported a missing pet with a similar description. Visit the shelters in person to check the “lost pet” board. Contact any owners looking for pets that resemble the found animal. Ask any potential owner to provide proof of ownership, including a photo of the animal, or confirmation from a veterinarian. Don’t just release the animal to anyone claiming to be the owner, or you could be putting the pet into a bad situation.
Check with Neighbors
Check with people in the area where you found the animal to see if they recognize who it belongs to. Perhaps it is new to the neighborhood or became lost while visiting. Walk the animal around the local area and see if he or she reacts to any of the homes, or pulls you in a particular direction.
Call Lost & Found Services
In addition to animal shelters, some services and organizations take calls regarding lost and found pets, and can assist in finding a pet’s owner. Try these resources:
Take the Animal to a Shelter
Most people are reluctant to take a found animal to a shelter for fear that it will be euthanized. However, taking it to the shelter immediately is the best thing to do. The first place a pet owner will look for their lost pet is the animal shelter.
Most shelters have a period of four to five days to allow owners to claim their pets. If the pet is not claimed after this time, most shelters make the pet available for adoption for a period of time. When you turn the animal in, ask to be noted in the computer as a ‘Red Alert Adopter’ or a ‘First Hold’. This means that if the dog is not claimed by an owner by the end of the waiting period, you will be allowed the option to adopt the animal on it’s first available adoption date. Be sure to get the animal’s impound number, as that is the only way for the shelter to look up the pet’s information. Don’t wait for them to contact you — check with the shelter at the end of the holding period to learn if the pet you found was claimed. If it has not been claimed, you can either adopt it yourself, or find it a new home.
Place “Found” Ads and Posters
Take a photo of the animal that you found and create a poster to circulate in the area. Most local newspapers will place “Found Pet” ads free of charge for a few days. When placing a “Found Pet” ad, do not give too many details about the animal so that only the rightful owner can claim it by identifying distinguishing marks or traits.
Once you believe that you have located the pet’s owner through your ad, ask for some type of proof that this pet belongs to them (e.g. a photo, past veterinary bills, etc.) to be certain that you are turning the pet over to the correct person. The last thing you want to do is to put the animal into a bad situation by giving him or her to the wrong person.
Find the Pet a New Home
If all of your best efforts to find a pet’s owner have failed, and you have given it your best shot for over two weeks, then it may be time to help the animal to find a new home. Contact the local rescue organizations in your area for resources and suggestions.