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What should you do if you find a dog that is either lost or abandoned? Many people experience this situation when they are traveling along the highway or in a rural area.


Jan 22, 2013

Susan Bulanda


What to do if you find a lost dog.In some cases the dog will sit by the roadside waiting for his owners to return, or become frightened and cower under brush or in weeds. Some of these dogs have been abandoned, some are lost, and some are wanderers who do this frequently. Unfortunately you cannot tell which it is by looking at the dog, so it is wise to treat all roaming dogs as if they are lost.


If the dog is injured, call for help immediately. You can call the local animal shelter, police, fire department or 911 and ask to be connected to the proper authorities. If the dog is approachable, you can cover the dog with anything that you have available until help arrives. If the dog is too frightened to be approached, you may have to sit or stand at a distance so that the dog will not struggle to get away and further injure himself. Your job in this situation is to keep the dog in sight and protect the dog from traffic or other harmful situations until help arrives.


If the dog does not appear to be injured you can try to catch him but do not chase the dog! Rather, sit or stand quietly and do not look directly at the dog. Look away but keep the dog in your peripheral vision. If you have food you can put the food on the ground nearby. Let the dog approach you and do not try to grab him if he comes near. Once he has made friendly advances, try to hook a leash, rope or belt onto his collar or around his neck to keep him from wandering again.


If the dog is friendly and has tags, you can call the local authorities or any phone number on the tags to notify the owner that you have the dog.


If the dog shows any hostility, immediately release him and call the local authorities. Keep an eye on the dog until they arrive.


If you are able to approach the dog and he does not have a collar, you can try to use a rope, leash, or belt around his neck to hold the dog while you call the local authorities. Do not hug the dog around the neck to try to restrain him. Even friendly dogs may bite if you do this. If the situation allows, you can invite the dog to sit in your car to confine him.


If you manage to catch the dog but cannot reach the local authorities (no cell phone access) but you can get the dog into your vehicle, drive a little way to see if you can get cell phone connection or stop at the first business you come across and use their phone.


If you have your own dog in the car you must be very careful putting the stray dog in your car. The ideal situation in this case, would be to have someone there to help you. With both dogs on a leash, you can slowly let them approach to see if they will get along. Let them sit together next to your car before you attempt to put them both in the car.


While it may be tempting to keep the dog that you found, you must realize that the dog could be lost and someone is desperately searching for their pet. Therefore if you live in the area where you found the dog, whether you take the dog home or surrender him to the local shelter, check the newspaper every day for a lost dog advert. The ethical thing to do would be to run a “found dog” ad in the local newspaper.


If no one claims the dog or runs an ad, you can adopt the dog if the local shelter took the dog, and either keep him or try to find him a forever home.

  1. Reference note: in 2006 a top winning Champion Whippet competing at the Westminster Dog Show was lost at the airport on the way home. Ch. Bohem C'est La Vie, known as ViVi was never recovered from the marshy area where she was believed to be hiding. Her owners and breeders refused to give up but weeks of searching was to no avail.

  2. Finding a Lost Dog, by Bulanda

  3. Visit EST 2002 1301


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