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The other day I posted about what to do when your pet is missing.  Well, today I want to give you some tips on what to do when you find a stray.

Ever since I was a child I have been helping stray animals.  I can remember as a kid waking up with a strange dog in my bed because my dad had caught a stray or lost dog and brought it into the house until he could find it’s owner.  This may seem irresponsible to some parents out there.  After all what kind of parent exposes their kid to an animal that they are unfamiliar with, but this was just the way my dad was and I believe that I am a better person as a result. 

As an adult, many a lost dog or cat has crossed my path and I’ve learned over the years how to handle the situation as it arises.  Here are some tips in case you happen upon a lost pet.

The first thing you have to do when you come across a stray is catch them if you can.  A few weeks ago my neighbors dog got away from her.  He was running away as she chased after him.  I’m sure he thought this was a fun game as most dogs do.  Luckily for him (and his panicked “mom”) he ran straight to me and I was able to hold onto him until she caught up to us.  Unfortunately it’s not always that easy.  Cats are especially hard to catch.  You can try to coax them with a treat or some wet food but if all else fails try to get a picture and post it on social media or a neighborhood app like Next Door. 

I once saw a lost cat flyer posted by a local lake where I used to walk.  I recognized the cat as one that was hanging around my neighborhood a few miles away so I took down the information and called when I got home.  Luckily the gentleman was able to locate his cat not too far from my house.  He was puzzled that she had traveled so far but keep in mind that cats can travel several miles in a matter of hours.


Catching dogs is sometimes a bit easier.  You never want to chase a loose dog, it’s better if you can get them to come to you.  Most dogs see someone chasing them as a game so the likelihood of being able to catch them is slim to none.  Even worse you could chase them into a dangerous situation like oncoming traffic.  It’s better to be the one being chased in this case.  Sometimes you will encounter a really friendly dog that will just come right up to you when you call them.  Other times it may be a bit more challenging.  I have had both.  A few years ago I was in my front yard and saw a black lab mix of some sort coming down the street.  I didn’t see an owner behind them so I called to the pup.  He came right to me and while he didn’t like it too much when I grabbed his collar, I eventually was able to get a hold of it and look at his tag.  The tag was a bit faded so it was a little challenging but I was able to get a phone number and get in touch with the owner’s roommate who immediately came to pick up the dog.

Another time I had a little dog come into my yard.  Every time I tried to approach her she started to run.  She never went far so I could tell she was curious.  It took some time but I was able to coax her into my garage and close the door.  This little dog was a fear biter so I had to be careful but within a few minutes I was able to get her to trust me enough that I was able to get her owner’s number off of her tag.  I left her owner a message and within a few hours they were reunited.

But what do you do when there isn’t a tag with a phone number?  If you come across a dog or cat that does not have a collar with tags then you can get them checked for a microchip.  You can take the animal to any veterinarian or animal shelter and they can scan for a chip.  If the owners have kept their contact information up to date it should be pretty easy to get them reunited with their lost pet.

If they do not have a microchip and you are able to, hold onto them for a day or two and post flyers around the neighborhood, share their photo on social media and any neighborhood apps like Next Door.  You can also take them for frequent walks around your neighborhood and see if anyone recognizes them.

If you are unable to keep them sometimes someone in your neighborhood will volunteer to do so and if that is not an option you can check with your local rescue organizations or take them to the humane society.  If you are concerned that they will be euthanized if they are not claimed within a certain amount of time (this is always a concern of mine) then call first and find out the policies of the rescue or shelter.  Most shelters that I know of do everything in their power to either reunite lost pets with their owners or get them adopted.

I once picked up a little dog that didn’t have a microchip and was in heat so I dropped her off at a local shelter.  They posted her on their lost and found page.  I was able to keep tabs on her through their website and found out that after only a day at the shelter she had a hold put on her by a potential adopter.  What that meant was that if her family didn’t claim her in the time allowed (I think in her case it was 7 days) she would be adopted!

Be sure to always be careful and protect yourself when you are attempting to catch a stray.  Some dogs will bite out of fear and others are just aggressive.  Most of the time this comes from a history of abuse resulting in not trusting humans.  The best thing is to not assume you know the reason the dog is aggressive and by all means do not act on it by hurting the dog or cat.  You never know when you have just encountered a dog that is a puppy mill survivor and a dog that has lived with a history of abuse.  There is usually a very good reason that a dog is aggressive so if you come across a dog that you suspect might be aggressive get as close as you can, take a photo and post it along with where the animal was seen.  This will at least give the owners a place to start looking.