What to Do if You've Found a Stray

1. Check for a tag or microchip.

If you’ve found a stray, do the obvious first – check for a tag! If there is a tag, and the owner’s name is on it, call and arrange for a pickup, and know you have done your good deed for the day. If the tag gives the name of a veterinarian’s clinic, call during business hours and get the name and phone number of the owner using the code number on the tag. Then follow up to return the dog or cat. If the animal has no tag, there may still be a way to identify the stray if he/she has been microchipped. A veterinarian can help you find out.

If there’s no tag or microchip, put a temporary tag on the animal with your name and phone number. You can use a luggage label or even tape the information around the collar with some duct tape.

2. Notify your local shelter that you have found a stray animal.

Even if you’re not legally required to notify the shelter, you’ll still want to let us know that you have a stray. If the owners of the animal are looking for their pet, they will most likely start by calling the shelter, so it’s very important that the shelter knows that you have found the pet. Also contact us at RCPets.info and we’ll post the pet on our lost and found bulletin board online. If possible, send us a photo.

If you have some hesitation about trying to find the owner, keep in mind that just because an animal is injured, scared, or without identification does not mean that he had a “bad” home. Your stray might have lost his identification; he might have been lost for a long time; he may even be a rescued animal who was scared when he was adopted.

3. Make every effort to find the owner.

Besides notifying the shelter, you’ll want to check lost—and—found ads in the local newspapers. Try placing an ad in the lost—and—found section yourself. Another good strategy is to post flyers in the vicinity where the animal was found.

A typical ad describes the type of animal, the location where he/she was found, and the coloring and other distinct characteristics of the animal.

You want to leave out some crucial characteristic, though, so that when someone calls claiming to be the owner, you can verify that the animal really belongs to him/her. This helps guard against turning strays over to bunchers (people who pose as adopters and then sell pets to dealers who supply research laboratories). For example, you could leave out the gender of the animal, or the fact that she has white socks on her front feet or a really bushy tail. Don’t forget to give your phone number and times you can be reached.

4. Be wary of dishonest callers.

When someone answers your ad, make sure the person gives you a detailed description of the animal. To ensure that you have found the animal’s real owner, here are a few additional tips:

  • Ask the caller to bring a photo of the animal to the meeting place.
  • Ask for their veterinarian’s phone number, and make a follow-up call.
  • Watch how the animal reacts to the caller in person. If you are not satisfied, ask for more proof of ownership.
  • Remember to get the owner’s phone number and address.
  • Ask them to bring their photo ID.