Written by: Jordynn Hadik
Many of us have been there – you’re minding your own business and you suddenly see a dog or cat without an owner in sight. Our natural response is to help this lost pet but sometimes we don’t know what to do. Our mission at Metro East Humane Society is to make sure all cats and dogs have a safe and loving home, so we are here to make sure you know exactly how to handle this situation.
1. Assess your surroundings – are you in a situation where you would feel safe leaving your home or vehicle? If not, stay inside and call the appropriate authorities.
2. Evaluate the dog or cat’s body language - read the animal for cues as to whether approaching it may place you in harm's way. Never risk your safety to approach it. If you are unsure, contact the authorities and, from a safe distance, keep an eye on the animal until help arrives.
3. Is the animal a missing pet or a stray? If you decide the animal is safe to approach, look for indications if it is a lost family pet or a stray animal. Does the animal have a collar? A dog on its own is usually a lost or abandoned pet – but a collar may help with a cat. A lost cat may have a collar, look malnourished, and should be familiar with humans. An outdoor cat probably has a collar, is healthy, and possibly quite confident. A feral cat is a wild animal – it will not have a collar, will probably be healthy, and will run away from humans. Also if the very tip its ear is cut off, it is a feral cat that has been a part of a TNR program. Do not approach a feral cat – contact your local humane society or animal control, they will handle the situation from there.
4. How do I approach this dog or cat? Once you’ve decided it is a missing pet, you need to safely approach it. Try to gently coax the animal towards you – do not approach quickly or aggressively. If you are near a busy road DO NOT run towards the animal, you may scare it into oncoming traffic. If you have tried to gain the animal’s trust but it won’t come – call in professional help.
5. Secure the animal – if you manage to get hold of the dog, try to secure it with some sort of temporary leash. Unless a cat seems very willing to be held, it is best to secure the cat using a box of some sort (just make sure the cat can breathe).
So now this animal is in your possession – what next? It’s time to find this animal’s home or look for a place that can be.
6. Call the number on the collar – if the lost animal does have a collar with a tag, try calling the number(s) and leaving messages about the missing pet.
7. Scan for a microchip – hopefully, even if the dog or cat does not have a collar, it will be microchipped and you can contact the owner via that information. You can contact a local vet’s office, humane society, or animal control to see where to bring it for scanning.
8. Call local animal control, vets, humane societies, or police stations – ask if there have been any reports of a lost pet fitting the animal’s description and be sure to file a report with animal control locations as well.
9. Hang flyers and post to social media – get this animals picture and description out there, along with where and when you found it. Be careful though – not everyone is as honest as they seem. If someone claims the pet belongs to them, demand proof. Unfortunately, pet theft is a real thing.
If you’ve exhausted all options and have not found the animal’s home, you need to find it placement. You may have already decided to keep him or her but, sometimes a person’s situation does not allow that. See if you have a trustworthy friend that wants to add to their furry family or you can contact your local no-kill shelter and arrange a pet surrender.
It is in our human nature to want to help those in need, however, you should address each circumstance with caution and do things as safely as possible. Don’t do anything to risk your safety or else you and the lost pet may both end up hurt or in danger.