Picture this, you’re driving down the road on your way home from brunch with friends and you see a scraggly looking thing running along the sidewalk with no owner in sight.
You pull your car over (safely) to approach the apprehensive little pup and entice it with your leftover turkey sandwich. It comes closer for a snack! Eventually, you are able to observe that the dog has dirty and overgrown fur, mud on its paws and face, and no collar or tags.

Now what? Keep reading for tips on what to do when you find a stray dog!

Sometimes reuniting a lost pup with his or her owner is as simple as a quick scan and a phone call by a local animal hospital or shelter. Shelters are more equipped to hold onto the animal should it not have a chip so keep this in mind when deciding where to take it to be scanned. Most animal hospitals (including CAH) cannot house animals with unknown vaccination/health status. If you bring it to a hospital to be scanned and the pet does not have a microchip, be prepared to hang onto that pet while you take the next course of action.

Even if you suspect the dog is a stray or homeless, it doesn’t hurt to have it checked for a chip – there could be a family missing him or her very much! Some dogs are just notorious for getting dirty and looking like a hot mess no matter what the owners do. Now is not the time to cast judgement! However, if the dog appears to be ill, we ask kindly that you call us from outside so we don’t introduce illness to our patients in the lobby.

If you have a leash handy (it’s not a bad idea to carry one in your car for this very reason), let Fido lead the way – he may lead you straight to his house! A dog that escapes from the yard for a naughty little adventure may eventually realize they miss their humans and seek them out. If you see other people in the neighborhood and you feel safe reaching out the them, ask if they recognize the pup or know where they live.

Even if you decide to care for the dog at your home until the owner is located, we always recommend informing the animal to the shelter as this is where a heartbroken owner will typically look first. (See your local shelter about regulations and holding periods should you want to eventually adopt the animal). It is CRUCIAL that you inform surrounding animal shelters so they know a pet in the area has been found. If the owner contacts the shelter looking for their pet, the shelter can then contact you and reunite the pet with their family.

Whether you choose to house the dog at your own home or bring it to a shelter, do your best to find the owner! There are also apps (i.e. Nexdoor Pet Directory), Facebook groups, and websites dedicated to lost and found pets that may help reunite a family. It may be tempting to keep a found dog without trying to find its true owner but imagine being on the losing side of the equation and not knowing where your furry best friend went.

Pro Tip: If you do not find its owner after making a sufficient attempt, be sure to take him or her to Covina Animal Hospital for a wellness exam and vaccinations! *wink*