So, here is the scenario: you are driving on a quiet road when you suddenly see a lost dog on the side of the road. Poor dog looks scared and hungry. What do you do? How can you help Fido find his way back to his people? There are a few things you can – and should- do when you find a lost dog. What you actually WILL do depends on you. Not everyone can keep a lost dog with them while looking for the owners, for example. So we’re giving you a few different options for helping reunite a lost dog with his family.
What do you do when you find a lost dog?
Secure the dog
Before you can do anything else, you have to capture and secure the dog, as long as it’s not a threat to your own safety. This may not be easy if they are scared or frightened. It is important that you do not make any sudden movements to scare the dog. Use whatever you have available in your car to catch the dog, like a blanket, rope, pet carrier or leash. Approach the dog quickly and calmly, since they don’t know who you are yet.
If, at any moment, you think you could be in danger from the dog, do not try to catch him on your own. I know, that contradicts the whole “secure the dog” point, but your safety must come first. If the dog comes up to you or doesn’t seem to freak out when you approach, you can proceed with caution on your own. If he’s growling and snapping, back away. You have no way of knowing whether he’s been bitten and contracted rabies if he’s a particularly aggressive dog, and so on. Get in your car and call an animal rescue center for help.
Check the dog for ID
Once you have the dog in the car, see if you can identify who the dog is or who they belong to. The easiest way to do this is to look to see if they are wearing a collar with ID tags. If they are, this is great news since all you need to do is contact the owners. If you cannot get a hold of the owners, leave them a message saying you found their dog. Be sure to leave your phone number so they can contact you to make arrangements to retrieve their dog.
Longer-term solutions for the lost dog
Take the dog to an animal shelter
If the dog does not have any identification, bring them to the local animal shelter. This is the best chance that you probably have of reuniting the dog with its owner. One of the first places that owners will look in the event they have lost their pet is the local animal shelter. The staff at the shelter can scan the dog to see if they have a microchip on them. If the dog is microchipped, the staff shelter can immediately contact the owners to have to dog picked up.
“Fostering” the dog
If the animal shelter is full or you don’t feel comfortable leaving him behind for whatever reason (not all shelters give us a warm feeling, it’s a sad fact, but it’s true), you can leave your contact info with the shelter and take the dog home. This is entirely up to you, as it can be really difficult to bring a strange animal into your home. I wouldn’t do this if you have other pets, especially since you have no idea if this lost dog is up on his vaccines. I would also use caution bringing a lost dog into a home with kids. Aside from the fact that you don’t know his temperament and if he likes kids, kids easily become attached to animals. Honestly, even you could easily become attached! But you’re older, and you understand that he’s just there temporarily (hopefully, we want his family to find him!).
While he’s with you, continue your efforts to find his family. Put up flyers in the area where you found him. Place an ad in your newspaper (a lot of papers let you do this for free when it pertains to a lost dog), and even on social media. Let sites like FidoFinder.com know that you found a lost dog. Just be careful with your personal info. You don’t want to plaster your phone number all over Twitter.
Keeping or rehoming the lost dog
What do you do if weeks go by, and you still haven’t found Fido’s family? You have a few options. You can either take him to a shelter and surrender him to them, find him a new forever home, or keep him. Lost dogs have been reunited with their families after months, so I would still hold onto the thought that his family could claim him. Again, this can make things really difficult if you get attached, but ultimately, he belongs with the people who love him. I can’t give you a timeline to stop thinking of him as a “lost dog” and start thinking of him as “your dog.”
It’s a tough call to make, keeping him, because, on the one hand, no one wants to think of a family out there looking for their lost dog and not finding him. On the other hand, no one wants to think of falling in love with a dog and possibly losing him. Finally, on the last hand (we have three hands here!), no one at all wants to think about that dog sitting alone in a shelter waiting for his family!
If you find a lost dog, I hope for everyone’s sake that you’re able to find his people super fast. If you don’t, you’ll have some decisions to make. Whatever you decide to do, just know that you did your best to help Fido find his family.