All animal lovers have probably at one time or another noticed an animal that appears to be someone's pet by the side of the road, injured or roaming around alone. The immediate response for many people is to attempt to do something to help, but the steps that you take shouldn't put yourself or the animal in danger. Las Vegas veterinarian Dr. Mark Beerenstrauch of Pet Health Hospital on Desert Inn Road provides the following tips on what to do if you find a lost or injured pet.
1. Do not cause a traffic accident. Noticing a stray pet on the side of the road while driving will generally cause a driver to look away from the road in front of them, or significantly distract them. Always signal that you are pulling over to the side of the road and do not immediately brake in traffic if you see an injured or stray animal. Getting injured yourself is not going to help the animal, so take your own safety as a priority when helping the animal. Pull over safely, use your flashers and even cones or flares if you have them.
2. Attempt to catch the animal, but use extreme caution. An animal that is lost or injured is probably very afraid, and scared animals tend to act very erratically. Opening your car door or attempting to grab the animal may cause them to run from you, and this potentially places them in even more danger of being struck by cars if they run away from you and into traffic. Additionally, an animal that is afraid may attempt to bite you, even if they typically would not do so. Attempting to lure them to to with a soothing voice or potentially some strong-smelling food is far better than trying to grab them. Always attempt to keep the animal as calm as possible during the process, potentially creating a barrier between them and harm with your car, a blanket or material. Luring them into your car in order to get them into a confined space like a crate (if you have one) or some other animal enclosure will keep them safe until help arrives, however attempting to drive anywhere with an unrestrained animal in your car is not a good idea. Even if they entered the car without incident, you have no way of predicting how they will react while you are driving, so it is best to remain stationary and call animal control or the police in order to assist with the process. Ask them how long it will take for them to get there, and remain there until they arrive. If the animal is wearing a tag, attempt to contact the owner immediately. In Las Vegas, the phone number for Animal Control is (702) 229-6444, option 2. There are attendants available 24 hours a day to assist you.
3. Transport the animal. If you are able to safely transport the animal in your car, then you can either take them to your home or to the Animal Foundation at 655 N. Mojave Road. All animals picked up by animal control are taken to the Animal Foundation location. If you decide to take the animal to your home, contact the Animal Foundation or animal control if there are no tags or indications of ownership on the animal. The animal may possibly have a microchip that can be scanned to find the owner. If you decide to attempt to find the owner yourself, make sure that the animal is kept separate from your own pets in your house. The animal is unfamiliar with these new surroundings and may fight with other animals in the house. Putting up fliers around the area that you found the animal may notify the owner that their pet has been found. Additionally you can contact local veterinarians like Pet Health Hospital who will put up information on the animal in their locations or on their website, or lost pet websites like www.petfinder.com. At Pet Health Hospital we make it easy for people who have found lost pets to put their picture and description on our website, along with contact information, in an attempt to locate a pet's owner. You can just visit our "Found Pet" section on our website and upload the information there.
4. Attempt to re-home the animal. In the pet world, the rule is not "finders keepers." State laws are specific in the steps you must take in order to satisfy requirements of "reasonable attempts" before keeping the animal, or giving it to friends or relatives. Even if you want to keep the animal, you do not have a legal right to do so until you have made a reasonable attempt to find the owner and return their pet. Contact the Animal Foundation to find out specific requirements.
5. Medical care. Injured animals can be taken to the Animal Foundation or a local veterinarian. Please remember that if you bring an animal to the veterinarian yourself, you will be responsible for the bills to treat that animal. Although there may be help available from rescue organizations, a private veterinarian will need to be compensated for their work if they treat the animal. Severely injured animals brought to the Animal Foundation may be euthanized to prevent suffering.
The most important thing to keep in mind when attempting to help a stray or injured animal is your own personal safety. Do not let your emotions cloud your judgement when dealing with this type of situation. By keeping calm and rational when you have found a lost or injured pet, you will prevent further injury or fear in the animal, as well as avoiding injury yourself.
Pet Health Hospital is a Las Vegas veterinary clinic and animal hospital located at 8520 West Desert Inn Road Suite 1 in Las Vegas. They can be reached at 702-910-4500 or through their website for appointments and questions.