I Found a Lost Dog. Now What?
There's a good chance you will eventually come across a dog that appears to be lost or homeless. As a dog lover, your first instinct will probably be to help the pooch. Before you take action, there are important safety precautions you should remember.
Get expert help
Since you don’t know how the lost dog will react to your advances, it is often best to call the experts—your local police or animal control department. They are experienced at dealing with homeless and lost dogs. Thanks to their training, they can quickly and safely take control of the situation.
Things to do:
- Program the phone number of your local animal control department into your phone's contact list.
- Tell the animal control or police department the dog's current location
- Keep an eye on the dog (from a safe distance), so you can update the police or animal control officers.
If you act on your own…
Be safe and cautious.
A lost-looking dog strolling the streets of your town may be ill, confused, scared, or hurt. It may also be a dog that has been abused. All of which can make the dog unpredictable in its behavior. And if you are walking your own dog when you come across the lost dog, this can complicate matters: Your dog may start barking, which could make the other dog aggressive or frightened.
Approach slowly and calmly.
If you make sudden or fast movements, you may frighten the dog and provoke him into an attack, or cause him to run away, perhaps into traffic. Try to act in a reassuring and soothing way. Never startle the poor dog.
Offer food or a treat.
If the dog is hesitant or suspicious about your good intentions, offering food may help earn his trust. But don’t insist that the dog eat from your hand. Put the food/treat on the ground and let him approach at his own speed.
Does the dog have tags?
If so, there's a good chance he's simply lost and not a dog that's been raised on the streets. If he’s a “family” dog that has lost his way, it’s likely that he’s trained and accustomed to being around people. If you have a nylon lead with you, gently slip it over the dog's head to keep him from running away. This should also make it easier for you to check his tags. They may have contact information about his owners, or other useful info to help you identify where he lives.
If the dog is willing to go with you to your home, place him in a secure area where he feels safe and comfortable, away from your pets. Then, if you have not already done so, take these actions:
- Check his tags for contact information.
- Call your police and animal control departments, as well as local animal shelters.
- Take the dog to an animal shelter or local veterinarian to see if he has an identification microchip.
If the dog’s owner cannot be reached via the police, animal control department, or via microchip information, you can…
- Place FOUND DOG posters and flyers in popular areas around town. Make sure your posters and flyers have the dog's photo and your contact information.
- Tell your friends via phone calls, email, Facebook posts, and Tweets. Include a photo of the dog, wherever possible.
- Post FOUND DOG messages in local newspapers.
What to do if someone claims the dog
Before you give the dog to someone who claims to be the owner, make sure they’re telling the truth. If they’re really the dog’s family, they will undoubtedly have photos to prove it. Also ask to see “official” proof, like veterinary records, registration/license papers, etc. And here’s an obvious way to determine if the dog knows the people at your door: How does he react? Is he jumping for joy…or confused, oblivious, or uninterested? If you’re suspicious, notify the police—and don’t let them take the dog.