Maybe you have been in a situation in which you encountered a stray dog or cat that needed your help and you helped them. Maybe you couldn’t do it and you wondered what happened to them. Should you have interfered? Should you have left them alone? The truth is, it’s a tough call.
Not all dogs or cats we see in the streets need our help, and they all don’t need it in the same way. Some animals may need a home, some may need help returning to their home and some already have a home –even if doesn’t seem obvious to us. So what should we do? First of all, we should use our judgment and understand the specific situation. One formula that works in some cases, may not work in others.
Still, here are 8 useful tips in case you find a stray dog or cat wandering the streets.
1. ASSESS THE SITUATION
This is a very important point so you can actually spend your energy in an animal that really needs your help.
If you are in a country in which you don’t see dogs or cats wandering the streets at all, then when you see one, must likely it is lost and may need help getting back home. But if you are in a country in which strays are normal, make sure the dog or cat you want to help, really needs it. Check if they seem fed, hungry, healthy, sick, lost or if they seem to be in their neighborhood and happy about it.
2. ARE YOU WILLING TO STEP UP FOR THE ANIMAL?
There are several things to consider. If you take the dog or cat to a shelter, you may face the fact that they are overcrowded and there’s a chance the animal will be put down. Maybe you will need to foster it until a forever home is found. If you decide to adopt him/her that means you will need to cover all veterinary expenses.
If these are too many things to consider, you can always call animal control so they deal with the stray that needs help. In many places this also means that the animals end up in high kill overcrowded shelters.
Though it’s a sad reality, these are things to think about. But there are also great rescue stories of people or groups that went beyond their way to save an animal’s life. They were willing to step up for an animal in need.
3. CONSIDER SAFETY
In any situation you have to consider the safety of the dog or cat, your own safety and the safety of others. In a traffic situation, trying to help we may end up making things worse.
If you are driving and see the animal in the road, don’t panic –taking things slowly but efficiently will avoid anyone from getting hurt. Pull over off the road and put on the hazards lights. A scared animal can react unpredictably, so be careful not to make any sudden moves or sounds. You don’t want them running at the highway.
4. CONTAIN THE DOG OR CAT
This is a tricky one because not every animal is easy to contain, some may run away scared and if you try to catch them, you can make it worse. It’ always better to corner them subtly using a piece of clothing, a leash or a rope. If animals feel cornered too abruptly they may attack, so try to do it in a way in which they don’t notice they are being cornered.
Speaking to them with a calm voice may help, and avoid eye contact if they seem too nervous, but make sure they can see you at all times. If you have some strong-smelling food, that may attract them.
If it’s not a traffic situation but you see the dog or cat often in your neighborhood, try winning his/her trust with food and returning every day more or less at the same time, to lure them to you.
5. IF YOU ARE TAKING THE DOG OR CAT TO A SHELTER…
Consider that if the animals that are brought to overcrowded shelters need an expensive surgery, must likely they will put down because of lack of resources, so make an informed decision regarding where you are taking the dog or cat.
READ MORE: PROGRAM FOLLOWS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ABUSED STRAY DOGS AND PRISON INMATES WORKING TOWARDS A SECOND CHANCE
If you must leave them in a shelter, make sure you find a no-kill shelter that will do their best to ensure their safety.
6. GET THEM CHECKED UP BY A VET
If you decided to adopt the dog or cat, first you must be sure they don’t have a previous owner that may be looking for them. Any vet should be able to read their microchip -if they have one- and contact the owner. Keep in mind that even if they are not microchipped, they can still have a home and the owner may appear looking for them later.
Taking them to the vet also ensures they are healthy or that they will be treated if needed. Just remember you are likely to be financially responsible for them, although you can always ask if the veterinarian has a discount for unowned animals.
7. HELP THEM RETURN HOME
If someone lost them, they must be desperate looking for them. If you have ever lost a pet, you know how devastating it is not knowing where they are, so you can help their owners.
READ MORE: THIS PREGNANT STRAY CAT WANDERED INTO THE RIGHT HOUSE TO FIND A FOREVER HOME FOR HER AND HER BABIES
You can make “found” posters with the picture of the dog or cat and paste them in local shelters, veterinary clinics, in the street and even online. Hopefully the owner will see them.
8. IF NOBODY CLAIMED THEM, DECIDE WHETHER TO KEEP THEM OR GIVE THEM UP FOR ADOPTION
If time passed and nobody claimed the dog or cat, you must decide if you are willing to give them a permanent home. Some countries require a waiting period before formally adopting a stray animal. Your local shelter can assess you with that.
Keep in mind that at some point the owner may still show up. This won’t mean that they were not looking for their dog or cat, there are some amazing reunion stories so keep your mind open and be willing to listen.
So, next time you encounter a stray dog or cat wandering in the streets ask yourself: Are you willing to add him/her to your home? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to help them? If you do take him/her home and the owner appears after some time, are you willing to give them up even if you’re already attached to them?
If you answered no, it’s better for you to contact the local shelter or animal control and let them help the animal (if he/she really needs help).
But if you do help them, tell us your story. We love great rescue stories!