We get many posts on our facebook page from concerned pet lovers who have found a dog and now do not know what to do with it.
- DO NOT REHOME A DOG YOU RECENTLY FOUND! Legally, dogs are property. You do not have the legal right to turn around and rehome a dog that you have only recently found without giving the owner a chance to reclaim him or her. Not only is it not legal, but it’s immoral and unethical as well. While we champion the virtues of responsible pet ownership, stuff happens. Mistakes are made. I’m sure you’ll agree that if your dog managed to get away from you and was picked up by someone and then adopted out that same night, you wouldn’t be very happy. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say. In Sacramento, CA the time period is 30 days but that time might be different in your area. Your local Animal Control agency should be able to advise you on how long you must keep a found dog before you can rehome it yourself.
- Have the dog scanned for a chip as soon as possible. I haven’t found a vet yet that didn’t have a microchip scanner. I also haven’t found a vet that charges to scan. Even 24 hour emergency vets have been more than happy to scan a found dog. So, as soon as you are able, even immediately after picking a loose dog up, get it to your nearest veterinarian or animal control agency and let them know you’ve found a dog and would like to have it scanned for a microchip. In most cases, the vet staff or animal control will deal with contacting the owner for you, as well.
- Do not make any sweeping generalizations about how the dog was kept. This is a big peeve of ours. You find a dog that is scared, maybe scarred up, maybe has filed down teeth, maybe cropped ears and then it’s blasted all over facebook that you found a dog that narrowly escaped a dog fighting ring and must have been used as bait. Chances are, you didn’t. You know who else has dogs that are all scarred up with filed down teeth and cropped ears? One of our board members, Stacey. I promise you she didn’t do any of that to her precious Emily. Emily was found that way and rescued by Stacey and her family. They love her a lot. If by some freak accident, you found Emily running down the street and assumed her current owners mistreated her and therefore didn’t deserve to have her back, you’d be ripping a family apart and that’s just wrong.
- Do NOT plop a found dog in your livingroom and expect a doggie slumber party. Found Dog needs love too, but your first priority has got to be the safety of your existing pets. You don’t know what kind of parasites Found Dog might have, you don’t know if Found Dog likes other dogs, you don’t know if your dogs will like Found Dog. Our suggestion is to put your dogs in another room or outside (assuming you have a securely fenced yard and someone else who can stand aside and hold leashes) and bring Found Dog in then safely secure him in an extra bedroom, bathroom, backyard, dog run, garage – whatever you have available that your dogs do not have access to. Next time you drive by a yard sale, take a peek and see if they have any dog crates. I keep a few around because I seem to always find loose dogs. Sometimes I hold them for a few hours, sometimes a few months, it all depends on how they can get along here. You can find cheap used crates on Craigslist and in yard sales for less than $20 if you keep your eyes peeled. Bear in mind, you’ve just saved Found Dog from getting hit by a car. So long as you can provide a relatively clean and secure place to sleep and go potty, some food and water, Found Dog is much better off than he was running the highway. Don’t beat yourself up if he can’t sleep in bed with you.
- Don’t fear your local shelter. We hear it all the time, people want to rehome a found dog simply because they don’t want to take it to the shelter. Are there horrific animal control facilities? Yep. Are they all as bad as social media posts would lead you to believe? Nope. Believe it or not, but sometimes the ONLY place an owner thinks to look for their lost pet is their local shelter. That doesn’t make them a bad owner, it just means they are not aware of the many possible places their pet could be. Most shelters keep a Lost & Found binder in the lobby where you can put a flyer of the pet you’ve found if you don’t want to leave the animal there. Owners can then flip through the binder and contact you if they go to the shelter looking for their pet. If you must surrender the pet to the shelter, READ the paperwork CAREFULLY. ASK what the “stray hold” period is. Every area has a different “stray hold” time. The “stray hold” is the time period from when a pet enters the shelter to when the pet can be put up for adoption by the shelter or euthanised. Most shelters will tell you if it’s likely the pet will be put to sleep at their facility or not.
- Walk the neighborhood. For safety’s sake, bring along a friend but leash the dog you’ve found and canvas the area on foot where he or she was found. The dog might just show you exactly where he lives!
- Make fliers and post them. Make a “Found Dog” flyer, omitting any sensitive information that only the rightful owner would know. For example, note any unique markings the dog may have and don’t include that in the photo you post or remove the collar the dog was wearing when you take the picture for the flyer so the owner has to describe it. Post within a good 5 mile radius of where you found the dog, along with posting at local coffee shops, laundromats, grocery store community bulletin boards, dog parks, libraries, local pet stores & vet clinics and anywhere else you can do so. Side note: DO NOT post flyers on telephone poles – it creates a safety hazard for linemen and women that may need to work on the poles. Yes, this is a lot of work, but wouldn’t you hope someone would do the same if they found your dog loose?
- Use the internet. Check www.craigslist.org, www.petharbor.com, www.fidofinder.com and post your own “found” ad as well. Facebook has a lot of groups and pages for lost pets as well, and Pit Bulls Lost/Found/Missing/Stolen is one devoted to bulldog breeds. Instagram can also be used to reunite lost pets, use those hashtags!
- Use the newspaper and your local PennySaver to place print ads. Perhaps the person who’s dog you’ve found doesn’t even use the internet! Shocking, but it does happen.
- If you must surrender the dog to your local shelter, know that you have STILL helped that dog, regardless of the outcome. You have ensured that the dog will not die a slow and agonizing death from being hit by a car and left to suffer in the street, possibly tortured and tormented by an abuser, starved to death, or any number of heinous things that can happen to dogs running loose. Be sure to ask for the animal’s intake ID# and post on your local craigslist and in your local papers that the dog is at the shelter. You can also still include this information in any flyers that you make as well. You don’t have to have the dog in your possession to work towards helping it be reunited with its owner. If your local shelter is not open, call your local vet office, some have contracts with Animal Control and can keep the dog for safe holding until an Animal Control Officer can be dispatched to retrieve it and take it to the shelter.
Founder/Director, Pit Bulls Against Misinformation