Last night, while sitting on our front porch, two dogs wandered excitedly and aimlessly down our street. It didn’t take us long to figure out they were friendly, family dogs who had escaped from a yard and were just out for a joy-walk. They spotted us outside and immediately ran up the steps to say hello. There names were Olive & DOC.
Olive & DOC were great dogs and we were happy to have them. They were ecstatic to meet and play with Peri and cuddled up to us for a good back scratch. But our little jaunt with the lost dogs got me thinking that we were pretty lucky. While most of us are used to sweet, tame dogs, you can never be too sure of the temperament of dogs on the run. If they were aggressive, we certainly didn’t have a lot of time to protect ourselves.
So how do you help a stray animal in need without putting yourself at risk? I did some research and found The Humane Society agrees. There are certain strategies that can ensure you successfully help a stray or lost animal and protect yourself from getting bitten or hurt. Here goes…
Determine the animal’s temperament. Of course a friendly dog or cat makes things easy. These pets will want attention and walk right up to you and ask to go home. If you’re an animal lover and a good neighbor, hopefully you’ll make the effort to return the dogs to the owner without involving animal control. But what about those three stray dogs that are slowly perusing your neighborhood skinny, tired, and looking for food & water? Your heart goes out to them, you want to help them, but they seem a little skittish and aggressive. If there is ever any doubt that a dog is friendly, call animal control. It is not safe to handle a dog when you’re unsure of his temperament. Let the pros who have the right tools do their job.
Capture a dog without force. Sometimes a dog has been living the lonely life of a stray for a while. This means it’s very possible that he’s already been through some pretty hairy situations and may be injured or traumatized from his time on the street. For friendly but timid cats or dogs, you can lure them with food, a soothing voice, and I have even seen another dog work as bait for some dogs (make sure it’s because they like your dog and not because they want to attack your dog). Bring a leash or a rope and as they approach you, slip it onto their neck. For more difficult or scared animals, try to follow near by but don’t get too close. A good idea is to corner and barricade him while you wait for animal control to arrive. Don’t bother with the leash if you aren’t comfortable. Do not make large, sudden movements, loud noises, or speak too excitedly or aggressively. This may worsen the animal’s anxiety.
Check the physical health of the animal. When you’ve leashed or have the animal under control, take a quick look at his physical condition. You should be aware of any limps or broken bones, cuts, bruises, or sensitive areas. This knowledge will help you handle him gently and enable you to immediately start giving him the best care possible. You’ll also be able to relay this information to the next person who comes into his control.
Transport the animal to an enclosed, safe space. If you’ve rescued the animal from the side of the road and haven’t requested the assistance of animal control, it is in your hands to transport him to a safe place. You could run into an animal that hasn’t traveled in a car before and it’s nice to make this next new experience a good one. In order to do so, keep him in the back seat. Find some type of barrier between the front and back or tie the leash to a part of the car that will prevent him from interrupting your driving. The unfamiliar motion of a car can easily spin a dog into a flailing frenzy. This could be dangerous for both of you. He could easily scratch or bite you under this high stress situation or could cause a car accident while trying to hide under your break pedal – sounds crazy, but my cat has done it. Open a window a little bit so they have fresh air (not enough so they can jump out)- some animals have terrible motion sickness. If you have a blanket in the car, lie it on one seat and encourage him to stay there. Make the ride as comfortable as possible.
Find the owner. Advertise of course! There are several places that are great for finding your new friend’s owner. Advertise in your neighborhood (if the dog strolled up to your home), post a flyer on the local humane society’s community board, and put an ad on Craig’s List. You can also tell people you know that you’ve found a lost dog – word of mouth travels a long way. Make sure your ad is a little vague and ask the people who reply for some identifying factor, for example, the color of the collar the dog was wearing when you found him. You want to make sure that he goes home to his true home!
Anyone have other suggestions? Post ’em, please! I’d love to hear.
Have a great night!