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“I found a stray”

“I found a stray” is one of the most stressful lines shelter staff hear on a daily basis, mainly because it emphasizes the massive problem we have with the number of lost, unwanted and abandoned dogs wandering our streets.

However there are many instances when dogs brought to rescue shelters, by kind well-meaning people, are in fact not strays but dogs that have got out of their properties and are roaming around the neighbourhood. Although allowing this to happen is certainly unacceptable and extremely irresponsible of the owner, in many cases the dog will find its way home. Unfortunately when one of these dogs are ‘rescued’ they are often taken to a shelter many kilometers from where they actually live which makes it much harder for them to be reunited with their owners.

Another huge problem faced by rescue shelters is when they receive calls from people reporting a stray animal they have seen in or on the side of the road. In most cases by the time the call is received and shelter staff are able to respond and get to the reported location, the dog is most often long gone.

So what should you do if you come across a dog that you suspect may be lost, abandoned or injured ?

Always consider your own safety first. A strange dog that is injured or feels threatened by your approach may without any warning bite out of fear. If you are unable to secure the dog or are concerned about doing so, then call a shelter or the like for assistance. Most importantly, try to stay at the location and keep the dog in sight until help arrives.

If you do manage to secure the dog yourself, then before driving off, inquire locally if anyone may know the dog or its owner. If you are unsuccessful in tracing the owner or the dog’s home, then take it to the nearest veterinary practice. They may have treated the dog and have the owners details on record and can also scan the dog on the off chance it may have a microchip. In addition most vets will, if you ask them, keep the dog for a few days. This is important as most shelters have very limited quarantine facilities and are reluctant to take in a stray that has not been checked for possible contagious diseases, the risk of the entire shelter being infected is a real concern. The possibility of an infectious disease is also something to bear in mind if you decide to take the dog straight to your own home, especially if you already have other pets.

The veterinarian practice can obviously not keep the dog indefinitely. If you are concerned that the vets may send the dog to the SPCA after a couple of days you can request that they contact you before doing so. At least this will give you some time in which to contact some of the private shelters and to see if they can assist in taking the dog in.

Finally, a huge thank you to all the kind people who go out of their way to try and save the very many “discarded furries” that are so common in society today.

By Gordon, Trainer