I Found a Stray Dog...Now What?

We are all animal lovers here. It can be so frustrating to come across a stray dog because many of us don't have the heart to call animal control, thinking that the dog you just rescued from certain death on the streets will only be put to sleep in a kill shelter. You reach out to all of the local rescues you can find, only to be turned away because of space limitations or policies to not take in strays. So what exactly are you supposed to do now and what are the proper steps you should take?

The Rescue Mission

Use caution in your rescue mission. You have no idea how the dog may react to your presence. A scared, injured, or sick dog may lash out to protect himself. If you feel threatened, call animal control immediately. Be calm when approaching, and using treats may entice him to approach you. Pay attention to the dog’s body language.

Before bringing the dog into your home, take steps to protect your pets. Keep the dog separated from your animals, especially if your pets are not up-to-date on their vaccinations. Flea-treat him so that your pets do not become infested and wash your hands after handling him, before handling your pets. Use caution when interacting with him until you are sure that there are no aggression or food/toy resource-guarding issues.

In Your Care

Don't assume the dog is a stray. Assume the dog has a family somewhere, and begin your search:

  • Call animal control. This is always the first place an owner should turn to when looking for a lost pet. Leave a detailed description of the dog in case the owner contacts them to see if their dog has been turned in. If you are unable to keep the dog safe in your care until his family can be found, then you need to take the dog to animal control. Most rescues do not take in stray animals because people may not know to search for their dog there. There are so many rescue groups, most people do not know all of them, where they are located – if they even have a location. 

Delaware Animal Control (Office of Animal Welfare) 302-255-4646

  • Scan for a microchip: Take the dog to a vet or local shelter to have him scanned for a microchip. This is a quick way to identify the owners and their information should be registered to the microchip if there is one implanted in the dog. 
  • Spread the word: Post flyers in the area where you found the dog, and at local veterinarians and pet stores. Pass out fliers in the area where you found him. Post the dog to Facebook and have your friends share your posts. Note the dog’s ability to be around other dogs/kids/cats. Look in the newspaper for a "Lost Dog" ad, or run an ad yourself for "Found Dog." Never post the dog "Free to Good Home" on Craig’s list. These dogs are often easy targets for abusers.

Congratulations, You Found the Owner!

  • Make sure the owner is able to describe any markings not shown in photos, or unique personality traits. Check out this link for information on screening potential owners.
  • Try not to judge. It might be hard not to assume that the owner is neglectful, but remember that accidents happen - a misclipped leash, an unsecured gate, etc. A skittish dog may not be abused, but scared at being lost and out of his comfort zone. Matted fur might not indicate neglect, but too long on his own in the outdoors. An intact dog might mean that the owner's couldn't afford neuter surgery (in which case, you can kindly educate the owner about low cost surgery and vaccinations in the area).

Need more info?

Visit Pit Bull Rescue Central's "Found Pit" page or their page "Placing Your Pit Bull for Adoption."