What to do with found stray dog

Finding a homeless dog requires thought and planning as to your first steps in providing care and finding the owner.


Sighting a stray dog is not unusual.

Many owners allow their pets to run free and roam neighborhoods despite civil injunctions. That is why so many dogs are impounded and some are destroyed.

If you find a homeless dog that hangs around your property, and if you are reluctant to call the dog warden, here are some guidelines to follow in deciding what to do with the animal.

1. Approach the dog with caution. Even though it has been coming around for several days, you don't know its condition or temperament. See if it will come when called. Even if you don't know its name, you can make summoning gestures and words that will beckon it to you. As the animal approaches, visually inspect it for evidence of injury, bruising, or disease (such as a crusted nose or dripping saliva).

2. If you do not spot any signs of physical impairments or illnesses, check for a collar or identification tag. Call the owner whose name appears on these items if apparent. Barring these, gently apply a leash and take the animal to a veterinarian for a checkup to be sure it doesn't have an acute illness like rabies or distemper. You also can have it checked for chronic conditions like worms or fleas. Ask the vet about any postings or inquiries for lost animals.

3. Use an instant or digital camera to take the dog's picture and put it on a poster with your contact information. If the photo is black and white, briefly describe the dog along with any distinguishing marks (or let callers do this to be sure they are the right owners). Hang the posters at local grocery stores, pharmacies, and other shops or office locations so that anyone looking for a lost pet can find it.

4. With the vet's authorization, give the dog a bath or take it to a groomer's for cleaning up if it is dirty or has matted fur. Provide a place to sleep and dog food if you decide to keep the animal at your home. Make sure the vet has cleared the animal of any serious diseases like rabies before letting the kids play with the animal. Remind your family members not to get fond of the dog, as its owner may come to claim it at any time.

5. Screen claimants carefully. Sometimes lab assistants who use animals for chemical testing will try to get custody of lost or abandoned dogs. See if the found pet will go with the professed owner, and whether the owner can tell you something specific about the animal. Be ready to let the dog go if and when the real owner shows up to claim it.

Do your best to return the pet to its rightful owner, if it has one, and have a backup plan if no one comes around within a week or two. For example, will you keep the dog, give it to the dog pound, or try to find a new owner for it?   Caring for a lost or abandoned animal offers little reward except the warm feeling of doing a good deed for a helpless dog.