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What to Do When You Find a Lost Pet

You’ve been reading your Lost Pet Alerts, keeping a good lookout, and then, finally, you see a missing pet you know you can help! We don't want to leave you hanging out there, PetRescuer, so we've compiled a list of tips and instructions for the best ways to approach a lost pet and what to do when you have a found pet in your care.

Approaching a Lost Pet

First things first, it’s really important to remember that lost pets are out of their element, and their behavior is often unpredictable. Be mindful of your approach:

  • Walk slowly toward the pet.
  • If the pet starts growling, back away.
  • Don’t make any sudden movements, like a quick grab for a collar, or you may provoke the pet into aggressive behavior.
  • If you can approach the pet without scaring it, try talking to it to give it a little reassurance.
  • Never put yourself at risk when trying to rescue a lost pet. Back away slowly and call animal control for help.

Sick and injured pets are almost always on the defensive, so in those situations, you should call animal control services for help. Even though you want to help, only trained professionals know how to handle these situations in a way that protects the pet and people involved.

What to Do With a Lost Pet

You’re standing toe-to-paw with a lost pet, now what? The first thing you need to do is check for a collar and ID tags and immediately call the number on the tags. Often, a pet will have an owner tag and a vet’s tag. Try to call the owner first, and if she doesn’t answer, try the vet.

As you may know, many lost pets don’t have collars. Cats generally don’t wear collars and tags, and lost dogs also have a tendency to lose their collars, too. So it’s pretty common to come across a lost pet without a collar and ID tags.

You have a few options for what to do with a lost pet with no form of visible ID:

  • Take it to a vet clinic or animal shelter to be scanned for a microchip.
    • If you take the pet to a vet clinic, please be aware that they may not shelter the pet until the owner is located–except maybe in the strange circumstance that it’s one of their patients.
  • Call a local shelter with animal control services to come and pick up the pet.
    • Not all shelters have animal control services, so you may have to call more than one.

If a microchip scan positively identifies the pet, then you have to decide whether to keep the pet in your care until the owner arrives or leave it with a shelter. This, of course, is a decision only you can make, and it depends entirely on your circumstances. All PetRescuers need to remember to keep any lost pets separated from their children and other pets. This helps ensure that everyone is safe, so that your good deed doesn’t end badly.

Thanks for all your help and remember to play it safe around lost pets. Happy rescuing!

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