What to do if you find a friendly stray animal

You find an animal outside who appears lost, hungry, or injured – what can you do to help?

Safety first

The animal may be scared when you approach, and could run into traffic or attack you if you if you try to catch her. Use common sense in capture and back off if she becomes a danger to you or yourself. If you cannot get close, call your local animal control agency and let someone with proper training and equipment handle the situation.

Look for an owner

If you are able to capture the animal safely,  start looking for an owner as soon as possible. The animal you find may be a beloved pet whose owner is searching frantically for their lost companion. There are many ways to look for an owner – try to use as many as you can. If it was your pet that was lost, you’d want whoever found her to try and reach you as many ways as they could. Don’t automatically assume that a found animal is the vicitm of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. These scenarios are certainly possible, but accidents and escapes can happen to anyone.

Check for ID

Many animals will have contact information on a collar that you can read and call immediately.

If no collar is found or you are unable to reach anyone with that contact information, take her to your local veterinarian or shelter to scan for a microchip. If a microchip is found and the registration info is current, the microship company should be able to contact the owners for you so they can be reunited with their pet.

Use Lost & Found postings

Call your local shelter and let them know you found an animal in case someone else is looking for her

In Yolo County, you can check the Yolo SPCA “Lost Pet” list and place her on their “Found Pet” list

Search “Lost Pet” listings on Craigslist, Petfinder, and local newspapers and contact anyone with a matching description

Make your own “Found Pet” postings on Craigslist, Petfinder, and local newspapers with a detailed description of the animal, where you found her, and pictures if possible

Knock on doors in the area and ask if neighbors recognize the animal you found

Put up “Found” posters, with pictures, in the neighborhood

If the animal is injured, or very young, take her to a veterinarian

Some clinics have an “emergency fund” if you cannot afford for the found animal’s health care. Otherwise, be prepared to accept financial responsibility for her treaments – good care is rarely cheap.

If you cannot house the animal yourself, take her to your local shelter

A shelter will know how to provide proper health care for the animal, and is the only place most people will know to look for a lost animal. They will do their best for her, but know that space and resources at shelters are limited. Depending on the shelter, they may not take her in, or will only be able to hold her for a certain number of days before she is either released back to you or euthanized.

If you decide to “adopt” the animal yourself or re-home her to someone else, make sure you do it legally

Check your local animal law by contacting local animal control, humane society, or SPCA. The Shelter Pet Project also has useful resources regarding this matter.  Often the law will require a mandatory holding period of several days during which you must actively search for a previous owner before the animal legally belongs to you.