FlickrCC/Jim Sorbie Image by: FlickrCC/Jim Sorbie
If you find a lost dog or cat in your neighbourhood, follow these expert tips to help reunite the animal with its family. Plus, what to do if you lose your pet.When you find a lost pet, it can be hard to resist the sweet face of a cat or dog. You'll probably want to take the animal back to your home, where it will be warm and well fed until you find the owners. But Dr. Allison Bridge, veterinarian at Burnhamthorpe Animal Hospital in Mississauga, Ont., and Brad Dewar, Ontario SPCA inspector, don't advise you do that. They share how you can help lost pets get home safely.
1. Be careful approaching the pet
You need to be cautious when approaching a lost pet that you don't know, explains Dewar. "Certain breeds are known to generally be very friendly," he says. "But in a strange place and without their owner around, animals can guard themselves." Pay attention to the animal's body language and look for signs that it's agitated, such as lowering its head or growling. "It's basically them telling you to back off," says Dewar. If the animal looks scared, you're best to call the local animal control to pick it up. Dewar says it's helpful if you stick around until animal control arrives; that way, you can provide updates on the animal's location.
2. Check for tags
If you feel comfortable approaching the pet, go slowly and try to firmly grab the animal's collar. You can keep the dog or cat calm by petting it—cats and dogs especially like little neck rubs. Then, check to see if the animal is wearing a collar with an ID tag.
3. Don't feed the pet
If the lost pet doesn't have any ID, you're probably going to want to take it home while you figure out your next steps. The animal will likely be dehydrated, so feel free to give it water, but both Dr. Bridge and Dewar advise against feed it. Many pets have food allergies, and you don't want to be held responsible in the case of a medical emergency.
4. Take the pet to the Humane Society
It's in our nature to want to keep the cat or dog while searching for the owners, but it's best to turn the animal over to a local shelter. Lost pets may have serious medical issues, such as frostbite or even internal bleeding if hit by a car. "You're now responsible for that animal," explains Dewar. "If it gets sick or if it's injured, you will be covering the cost of that care." But if you take the pet to a local Humane Society, the shelter will cover any medical costs.
The Humane Society or your vet will also be able to scan the animal for a microchip, which is the easiest way to find a pet's owners. If there is no microchip, the shelter or clinic will keep the pet and post signs around the neighbourhood, as well as put postings up on its websites. "The shelters are really good because, if you're missing a pet, it's one of the first places you call with a description," says Dr. Bridge.
5. Leave your phone number
Animal shelters only hold lost pets for a predetermined number of days--how long exactly varies depending on your city's bylaws. Once the hold is over, the pet is put up for adoption, explains Dewar. If you want to adopt the cat or dog, leave your number so you can be contacted.
What to do if you lose your pet
The best guarantee for finding your lost pet is through its microchip, explains Dr. Bridge. So keep your dog or cat safe by getting it microchipped. There are two types of microchips: A tattoo on the ear or belly, or a actual micro-chip inserted in their back. Dr. Bridge says most vets offer the service when you spay or neuter your pet because the needle is quite big and can be traumatizing for your pet if its awake. You also want to keep your dog or cat's ID tags up-to-date. Always put your cellphone number on ID tags; that way, you can be reached anywhere. If you travel with your pet, also have a second ID tag that includes your cellphone number and the address of your vacation home.
If you do lose your pet, don't stop at putting up signs around the neighbourhood. Post a picture and a description of your pet on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, asking friends and family to share, retweet and regram the post. You'll also want to post on Helping Lost Pets, a North American organization that helps reunite lost pets with their owners.
Are you thinking of getting a new pet for your family? Check out the 5 benefits of having a family pet!