So you’ve found a lost dog. Step one – don’t panic! Finding a lost dog may be stressful because you want to help without putting the dog or yourself in any danger. There are a multitude of worries and questions that arise when finding a lost dog, and we are going to answer some of the most common ones we have seen.
I see what looks like a lost dog, how should I approach it?
First things first, if you see a lost/stray dog, report it to the police or animal control ASAP, especially because police, animal control, as well as veterinary hospitals and shelters, can scan microchips. If you approach the dog, your first instinct may be to run over to attempt to get the dog into safety, but remember, not all dogs are friendly! Especially a lost dog, who may be frightened, could pose a threat to your own safety. Stay calm when approaching, and always be on the lookout for signs of aggression from the dog. If you can approach it safely, a lost dog/stray should be secured using a slip lead or leash. If you find you cannot approach the dog, the American Kennel Club recommends getting a photo or video to share on social media and/or on flyers.
Should I bring the dog to a shelter?
A lost/stray dog should go to a shelter unless otherwise instructed by the police after they are reported. Bringing a lost dog to a shelter can be scary when you are worried about getting the dog reunited with its owner, but shelters can scan the pet for microchips, which would be the quickest way to reunite the pet with its owner. Shelter staff and volunteers are also trained in animal care and typically has the essential items to care for the lost dog while helping in the process to locate their family. Lastly, if there is no microchip, shelters are usually the first place owners will look if they are missing their beloved pet!
I’m keeping the dog at my home, what are next steps to finding its owner?
If the pet ends up not having a microchip, and for some reason you decide to keep the pet at your home, first be sure that you are not taking the dog out of the town/city that it was found in, which could make it even more difficult for potential owners to find them. Also be sure that other factors in your own home (other pets, family members, environment) will not cause a bad situation for everyone involved. If you do bring the pet home, word of mouth can be your best friend. Use social media and flyers outside or in local businesses to post photos of the pet, and be sure to call local shelters to find out if anyone has been asking around for a similar dog. As a reminder, a shelter is always your best bet, and should be the first choice when finding a lost pet.
The dog seems injured, should I bring it to a veterinarian?
Ethos sees many good Samaritans bringing in lost pets to our locations, however if you are to do so, be aware that the financial responsibility then falls to you. Even though this may not be ideal, it is ultimately the best way to make sure that this dog stays healthy, and offers another level of exposure so that its owners may find it faster. Another tip: veterinary clinics have scanners to check for microchips!
Seems like their owner didn’t care for them that much…can’t I just keep the dog?
There are definitely those who find lost pets who rush to judgment about the pet’s real owner, thinking that it must not have been taken care of for it to run away. Please try and reserve judgement. There are a million different reasons and scenarios why dogs have become separated from their owners. Don’t immediately decide that you will keep the dog without going through extensive research to try and find the owners. However, if an owner is found, be sure to never hand over an animal without getting proof of ownership. Animal Control can help in mediating these instances and if you did have concerns about the pet’s wellbeing, you can address them with the town’s officer.
Ultimately, the best advice that we can give is to stay calm and trust in your local community to locate the dog’s family. Always report the pet to the police or animal control before anything. Shelters, veterinary clinics, police departments, and animal control all have the ability to check for a microchip, but also have the ability to get the word out about a lost pet in the area. If there is not a microchip, there are tons of other ways to get the word out, whether that be on social media, around local businesses, or using flyers. If you have come across a lost pet in the past, or will in the future, we thank you for being a good Samaritan!