If you’re anything like us, then at some point in your life, you have probably run across a stray animal. Unfortunately, they’re everywhere – dogs and cats that are either feral, abandoned, or lost. As we described in our recent post, How to Build a Zoo, Part 2, our youngest dog entered our life after we rescued him from the side of the road. Since we went through weeks of looking for an owner before officially claiming him as ours, we have plenty of experience to share with y’all in case you ever find yourself with a stray dog or cat of your own!
Go to the Vet
The very first thing that you should do if you ever pick up a stray animal is go straight to the vet. This is absolutely vital for a variety of reasons. First, a vet can check a cat or dog for a microchip, which can lead to an owner (if they have one). Second, you’ll definitely want to get the stray checked for fleas and intestinal worms, especially if you have other pets at home. If you are planning to keep the stray, whether temporarily or permanently (depending on if it has an owner), you are going to want to know that it has a clean bill of health!
Put Up Posters
Posters are extremely helpful, since most people who are looking for a lost pet will keep an eye out for “found animal” posters. If you want your poster to be effective, you’ll want to make it large (think 11” x 17” or bigger) and colorful, with a clear picture of the stray and your contact information in a bold, easy-to-read font. Be sure to put these around the area where you found the stray animal. Intersections are the best locations for posters, since people will be stopping at a red light or a stop sign.
Chances are, there is a “missing pets” Facebook group in your area. I’ve seen people have a lot of success finding a lost pet using this method. Take several clear pictures of the stray. Add a description to your post that includes the animal’s gender and approximate age. Do not include any unique markings in your description, and try not to make them super obvious in pictures. The reason for this is that we recommend a multi-step owner verification process, which I’ll describe below.
If someone does claim the stray animal, I recommend a multi-step owner verification process. Unfortunately, there are some people in the world who will attempt to take a stray to use in dog fighting or for other unsavory reasons. Because of this, I would first ask anyone who makes a claim to describe any unique markings or physical attributes, such as a heart-shaped spot or a crooked tail. I would then ask them for at least three or four pictures of the animal, preferably over a time frame from puppy or kitten age to current. If they are really the owner, they should have no problem providing these things. And if they do provide them, then congratulations – you’ve reunited someone with their beloved furbaby!
Sometimes it may take time to find an owner. Keep an eye on your posters and repost them as needed, or expand your search radius. Continue to update your Facebook groups. It also never hurts to ask your friends, family, or neighbors if they can spread the word.
If you’ve decided that the animal is truly a stray (we recommend continuing your owner search for at least 3-4 weeks), then you have several options. One is to adopt the animal for yourself, in which case we must stress that it is important to spay or neuter the stray animal and make sure you get its annual shots. Another is to give the animal to a shelter. If you decide to do this, we highly recommend doing your research and making sure you choose a no-kill shelter. We do not recommend taking the animal to the pound, as most of these are overflowing with unwanted animals as it is, and they may be euthanized if a home cannot be found.
You can also try to find a new owner for the animal on your own. We recommend charging a small rehoming fee ($30-50) and requiring vet and/or personal references to ensure that the animal goes to a good home.
Have you ever found a stray animal before? Did you find an owner? Let us know in the comments!