Recently while walking my dog, I came across a small dog wondering the streets on his own. Not wanting anything bad to happen to him, I decided to bring him home and attempt to find his home. Luckily, it wasn't long at all before we found his owners and they came to pick him up. You can read more about our adventure in my blog.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve found a lost dog, although it was the first time I ended up bringing one home with me. All the other times, either the dogs had a collar on so I could just call the owners, or it was early enough in the day that I could take the dogs to the vet to get scanned for a microchip.
What I’m getting at, is that I wasn’t really all that sure what I was suppose to do to try to help the little dog find his home. His story had a happy ending, and I didn't have to do too much to help him get back to his owners. I decided to look more into what to do with found pets, just in case I ever find myself in this situation again in the future.
- Capture lost pets with care. If you come across a stray or lost pet, use caution when trying to capture him/her. Lost pets may be, understandably, stressed out – especially if they are hurt. Stressed animals are more likely to lash out and possibly cause injury. If you have pets of your own, and you are unsure of the health of the lost pet, it would probably be best to contain the animal away from your own pets.
- Check the pet for ID. If the animal you find has a collar or harness with an ID tag attached, you’re in luck! If not, bring the pet to a vet ASAP to get him/her scanned for a microchip. Most veterinarians will scan a found pet free of charge, and since it can be done by a tech right in the waiting room, you shouldn’t need to make an appointment. However, it’s always a good idea to call the vet clinic in advance. Most animal shelters will also scan a found pet as well.
- Call your local police station. Call the non-emergency number of your local police station. The pet’s owners may have reported the pet as missing. Even if they haven’t, ask if you can leave your contact information and a description of the found pet with the police, in case the owners call looking for him/her later on.
- Contact local shelters/vets/animal control. Even if you intend to keep the pet with you while you search for it’s owners, it’s important to notify all local shelters, veterinarians, and animal control offices with a description of the animal and your contact information. These are often times some of the first places a pet owner will go to look for their missing pet.
- What to do if you cannot keep the pet with you, or it is hurt. If, for some reason, you cannot keep the found pet, or if he/she is hurt and you cannot afford to have it treated, your can bring the animal to your local shelter. If you want to, you can ask the shelter staff to keep you updated on the status of the pet. Keep in mind that, due to the nature of most animal shelters, most of them will only be able to keep the pet for a few days while waiting for the owner. After a short hold period, found pets may be put up for adoption or euthanized. Independent animal rescues will usually keep found pets for longer, and be more willing to treat any medical issues, however it can be harder, and take longer, to find one that has the space to accept new animals.
- Advertise the found pet. Post fliers around where you found the pet, inside animal shelters, pet stores, and vet offices. You can also place adds online on local classifieds websites such as the NJ Craigslist pet section, and in your local newspaper. There is also a Facebook page where you can post about lost and found pets in NJ.
- If an owner is not found. If you cannot find the pet’s owner, you’ll have to decide if you want to keep it yourself, find it a new home, or bring it to the shelter. If you decide to keep the pet yourself, or find it a new home, talk to your local animal control or shelter manager to ask how to do this legally. Usually you will be required to actively search for the pets owner for a certain amount of time before you can claim the animal as your own.
Your local animal shelter, veterinarian, or animal control officer should be able to help and offer advice if you require any assistance. Reuniting lost pets with their owners or helping strays can be a very rewarding experience if you are willing to put in the time required to find an animal’s home. Even just bringing a stray or lost animal to the shelter is usually better for the animal than leaving it outside to fend for itself. I’m glad that I was able to help keep the dog I found safe until he was reunited with his family. And now, because of him, I’ll be even more prepared for dealing with the next lost pet I come across.