Found a Stray Dog: “What Should I Do?”

I often find dogs running loose in our neighborhood. As the local Crazy Dog Lady, it usually falls to me to figure out where the pup belongs. I’m usually successful at reuniting the dogs with their owners, but not all the time, especially when they aren’t wearing collars.

When you have found a stray dog, you can’t assume he’s yours for the keeping. You still need to follow the proper procedures, even if the dog is in bad condition. It’s possible he was trapped somewhere or has been looking for his people for several days, weeks, even months.

So, if you’re thinking, I found a stray dog: What should I do? — then you need to read this article.


1. See if He’s Microchipped

Take him to a veterinarian’s office or animal shelter and have him scanned for a microchip. If the dog has one, the vet or shelter will attempt to contact the owner. Sadly, many people don’t register or update their pet’s microchip information, so you may not be successful in finding the owner even if the pet is chipped.

2. Take Him to the Animal Shelter

If you can’t find his owner through microchipping, you must immediately take the lost pet to the animal shelter closest to the area in which you found him. If someone has lost their dog and can’t find him, the first place they will look is the shelter. Linus, one of my former foster dogs, escaped from his yard, and his owner went to the shelter immediately, less than a half hour after Linus escaped. Someone had already turned him in!

If you’re worried about what will happen if he isn’t found or adopted, you have the option of adopting the pet after the shelter hold is up (shelters usually hold them for three or four days to give the owners the opportunity to find their pets). You’ll have to pay an adoption fee, but the price will include a spay/neuter, vaccinations and a microchip.

Found a stray dog: What should I do?

Lucky Linus was reunited with his owner.

3. Make a “Found Fog” Flier

Before you take the dog to the shelter, take a photo of him so you can make a “found dog” flier. Include the date, the area in which you found him and your phone number. Hold back a few facts, if possible, so you can make sure anyone who contacts you is the real owner. Post fliers throughout your neighborhood. Also post a flier on your front or garage door. If the owner is driving around the neighborhood, he’ll see the sign and inquire within.

4. Canvas the Neighborhood

If you’re anything like me, you know the name, breed, owner’s name and residence of almost all the dogs in the neighborhood. If you’re a normal person, try to find someone like me near you. Walk around and look for “Beware of Dog” signs, which usually indicates the resident is a dog person. Someone might know info about the dog. Take a flier with you when you canvas your neighborhood.

Make Sure Your Own Pet Is Wearing ID!

Prevent this scenario from happening to you and your pup by getting him microchipped and registering his information with the microchip company. If you move, update the information. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve found dogs with expired or unregistered microchip information.

Even if your pet is chipped, make sure it always wears a collar with a tag that includes the dog’s name, your phone number and your street address, so that if someone finds your dog, he can return him to you right away.

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