What Should I Do If I Find a Lost Dog?

dog sniffing the air

The scenario is more common than you can imagine: You are driving or walking somewhere and you suddenly cross paths with a lost dog. What do you do? You usually only have a few seconds to make a decision and to act on it. If you are an animal lover, the choice is pretty simple: you stop and help the animal. Things are not as simple as they sound, however, so here are some tips on how to deal with a lost dog from Pettable.

running dog with muzzle

Being prepared to take in a lost dog requires some preparation on your part. A few simple things kept in your car can mean a world of difference when it comes to dealing with a scared or injured animal. At a minimum, make sure you carry a leash and a heavy blanket, so you can restrain a lost dog without the risk of injury. Keep a bottle of water and a can of food in your trunk, so you can use it as an enticement to approach the animal. A basic first-aid kit is also a great idea, but only if you do research first and understand what should and shouldn’t be done when dealing with an injured animal. Always think about your own safety first. Even the kindest dog can attack when scared or in pain, so proceed with caution.

If you don’t feel confident about your own safety or the safety of the dog, call the police or the ASPCA and wait for them to arrive to help you. If you can restrain the lost dog, take him to a safer area, away from traffic and loud noises; or drive to the nearest shelter or animal hospital, where professionals can check for identification tags or microchips. Keep in mind, though, that a veterinarian may not be able to provide extensive care for an injured lost dog unless you are ready to assume financial responsibility for the medical bills.

golden retriever in the forest

If you are nowhere near an official organization, you can choose to take the lost dog home with you temporarily. If that’s the case, keep him away from your own pets to protect each other from potential contagious diseases and fights.

You can up the chances for a lost dog to find her way back home by posting signs in the area where the animal was found and by reporting the lost dog to local shelters, even if you decide to keep him at home with you. Some newspapers have a “Lost and Found” section where you can check for ads of people who have lost their pets; if there is nothing there, consider publishing your own “Found” ad. Most newspapers will do this for free for lost dogs and other pets.

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