Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What to do if you've found a dog

I couldn't just leave him there

We get dozens of calls each week from people who have found dogs or cats.  There are rescue groups and government agencies who care for stray animals and they are admittedly overwhelmed.  Taking in a stray is a big undertaking.  It has financial and family obligations that need to be considered. As of this posting we do not know of any programs in our community that offer money to help people who take in found animals.  Do you have the money to care for another pet?  If the owner comes forward are you prepared emotionally to give him back?  If the animal turns out to have health or behavior issues are you able to handle them, emotionally and financially?  Is your family, human and animal, ready for an addition?  If you aren't prepared for this the best thing to do is leave the animal where you found it. 

I can do this

The first step is to try to find out if the animal has an owner.  Check for a collar and ID tags.  Bring him to a vet to have him scanned for a microchip.    Does he appear well taken care of?  Some street dogs that look rough have been lost for a while and actually have loving familes that are desperately looking for them.  Don't judge a book by its cover, or coat.
We recommend placing an ad in the local paper describing the pet.  7 days after the paper is published if no one claims the dog, you can consider the dog yours.  This will protect you if the owner comes back weeks or months later after you have spent hundreds of dollars.  That means you may have to keep the dog for almost 2 weeks depending on the newspaper's publishing schedule.  We generally recommend giving the dog a rabies vaccine if you plan on keeping the dog around your family during that time. 

But he's hurt

If you have found an injured animal, be careful.  The friendliest house pet can bite when in pain. Rabies is also a consideration.  With a stray, by definition, you don't know anything about it's history.  It may not have had any vaccines and the law will assume it has not.  If you get bit, rabies protocol will go into effect.
If you want to take on the financial obligation, and can safely do so, take the animal to your veterinarian or emergency clinic.  Do not ever attempt to handle a wild animal.  Most people do not have hundreds of dollars to spend on an animal they don't know, but still can't bear to leave an animal to suffer.  Please call Animal Control so they can tend to the animal. 

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