What to Do If You See a Stray or Injured Dog
With leash laws and invisible fencing, the likelihood of seeing a stray or lost dog is lower than it once was. But it does still happen. If you’re driving or walking and see a dog that clearly looks lost and/or injured, there are several steps you can take to help.
Human Safety First
Don’t cause an accident. Slamming on your brakes or running into traffic after the dog will only result in injuries. You can’t help the dog or anyone else if you get hurt. Instead, use all the same safety precautions you would if pulling over for any other reason.
Catching the Dog
Keep in mind that the dog is likely scared and possibly sick or suffering from injuries you can’t see. If you feel at all uneasy, don’t approach – call animal control instead. If you are comfortable approaching, find a safe way to restrain the dog such as a rope, leash or carrier if you happen to have one with you.
If you do choose to approach the dog and attempt to restrain it, move slowly and speak in calming tones. If you have canned food or meat you can offer, doing so will encourage the animal to come to you. If the dog appears at all uneasy, back off to avoid being scratched or bitten.
Unless you’ve got a safe way to restrain the animal or are planning to sit and wait for assistance, don’t put the dog in your car. When you call animal control professionals, leave your number and ask how long they will be. Provide them with as much information as possible about your location and be prepared to stay and observe the dog while waiting for their arrival.
Transporting the Dog
Although it is recommended that you leave transporting stray animals to professionals, if you do decide to remove the dog from the scene yourself do so in a safe way. Bring the dog to a vet or local animal shelter so that it can receive proper care and an attempt can be made to locate the owners. Veterinarians and shelters can scan for microchips and run ID numbers on collar tags.
If it’s after hours and you decide to take the dog to your home, take precautions to protect your own pets. Isolate the found dog in a separate space to keep your own pets safe from any potential illnesses or aggressive behavior. Bring the dog to a vet or shelter as soon as possible to have them scan for a microchip and check any lost animal reports.
If they’re unable to locate the owner, you’ll need to decide what to do. You can make lost animal posters to try to locate the owner yourself. You can opt to pay for any necessary veterinary care and keep the animal yourself. Or you can try to rehome the dog yourself. Whatever you decide, be sure to keep your own safety and that of all animals involved at the forefront.
Check Local Ordinances
If you do decide to keep the dog, be sure you do so in a way that complies with all local laws. Most places in the U.S. require that certain steps are taken to try to reunite the pet with its owner and that a certain amount of time has passed. Most locations will also require licenses and other proof of ownership documentation.
If you happen upon lost or stray animals frequently or simply like to be prepared for any situation, there are some things you can do to be ready.
- Keep important phone numbers stored in your cell phone, like animal control, emergency veterinarians and local animal shelters.
- Keep a carrier or cardboard box in your car. This can be a great way to contain cats or small dogs, protecting you and them from injury in the car.
- Keep collars and leashes in your car for restraining larger dogs.
- Keep a heavy blanket on hand to cover animals that may be cold, wet or in shock.
- Have water and water bowls at the ready.
- Keep cans of strong smelling food to help lure the animal.
- Have an animal first aide kit accessible.