Squirrel! For me, it’s more like, dog! This past Sunday, I was putting in the time to prep a donation pick up for Disabled Veterans of America (DAV) and pulling some weeds in my front yard when a small dog wearing a blue t-shirt and dragging a very long leash/ tether stopped to visit. Do you see a lost dog and immediately think about rescuing it? I do. Do you have numerous dogs showing up in your yard and front door? I do!
Here are 10 tips for rescuing animals.
- Animals may run when approached. Try to gently call the dog. If you have a treat, say, “good boy, would you like a treat?” Do not follow behind a dog, flank the animal instead. Go across a street and walk at a pace that gets you ahead of the animal, and when ahead of the animal, cross the street to be on the same side and ahead of the dog to try calling again.
- Be safe. Avoid cars. Avoid directing the animal into harm’s way. Have an exit plan if the animal is not friendly. If there is any doubt, don’t approach the animal.
- Vet clinics will scan the animal for free. Call a local vet to see if it is OK to bring the animal by for a scan. They may keep the animal if a microchip is readable. Animal Control may be willing to visit you to scan the animal. Shelters and animal control need the animal’s information. Give them a call with a good description. A dog brought to a shelter may be in limited time. The “hold” for a lost animal may be short, 3-5 days, and then the animal will go up for adoption or be euthanized sooner or later. Once the animal goes to Animal Control or a Shelter, the pet parents may face fees to pick up the animal, and the animal may have undergone procedures to get fixed.
- Get the word out. Sites like PawBoost.com allow you to add a lost or found pet, their picture, information and gives you an easy way to print out a flier currently for free. The site allows you to boost a post for an additional cost which is optional. I always check the PetRescuers App for lost dogs in my area.
- A quick Google search for “lost dog (sex) (color) (and city)” may help you get closer to finding the pet parents. On a recent search in Google, a hit came up for NextDoor, a social network for neighborhoods, which I had long forgotten about since joining. I logged in and found a comment referring to my doggie guest and brought him back to the person who found him three weeks ago. That was a bittersweet reunion. He was brought back to a caring person who was also looking for his family while helping him, and they were compassionate and kind to the dog, but I also love it when the original families are reunited. And, later, I uploaded an image of my own dog, his name, and details to a NextDoor Pet Directory.
- The virtual checklist. It may help to say what you have done for the lost dog when posting to a social media site like a local Facebook group for lost and found dogs. Long-time rescuers will ask what feels like a million questions if you don’t! Check off some of these boxes when posting: Checked for Microchip. Sent picture and details to Animal Control and Shelters. The dog does not look like “John” or “Jane” or any of the currently posted lost animals on this Facebook group. It would be great if the admins of the multiple local pages for one area could come together and combine – creating a one-stop-shop for the lost and found dogs, but for now, there are still multiple groups dedicated to this purpose and therefore to check. The people in those groups often belong to more than one and will sometimes cross-post among the groups on your behalf and on behalf of the animal.
- Hold back on some of the details and don’t ask leading questions. Provide enough details for a parent searching to get a hit. Then, allow the person who calls you to tell you about their dog, and see if they are a match. What do they know that only someone who owned the dog would know?
- Do not try to immediately re-home an animal that was not yours. You must either try to find the owners, a foster who will search for the owners, or give the dog to animal control/ the shelter. This animal had a family, a family that misses him/her and likely wants a reunion. If you fall in love, ask your local Animal Control what steps need to be taken to advertise the dog and for how many days before legally you may claim ownership. Follow local laws about possession and ownership if you want to keep the dog, it is very important to give the family of the animal adequate and appropriate opportunities and time to find and retrieve the dog.
- If you can’t harbor the dog, post a “sighting” on a local Facebook Groups for lost and found dogs.
- Go to the classified section of your local newspaper. Look at lost and found ads. You may be able to place a small ad for free for a limited number of days with your local paper.
Prevent your own dog from getting loose.
- If your dog digs, try chicken wire attached to the bottom of fencing and buried a couple feet into the ground. This resolution lasted us several years before needing maintenance. My dog was able to move cement blocks!
- Avoid tethering a dog for too long. Local and State Laws may also prohibit how long you may tether a dog, but also consider that leashes and ties are vulnerable to the elements and can wear down over time like anything else. If you need a sitter for overnight, home check-ins, walking, or daycare, try Rover.com*.
- If your dog can jump, climb, or dig then an adequately large enough cage, that your animal can stand and turn fully around in at a minimum, may be the answer. Ask your vet how often you should be letting your animal out to go to the bathroom. And, again, the cage shouldn’t be a way of life – especially if your animal gets anxiety when alone – try services on Rover.com* for additional help.
- Ask your sitter to call right away if anything happens or if the dog gets loose. Set the expectation up-front that it is an immediately necessary conversation to have and one that is OK to have. This can decrease the chance that someone will be afraid to tell you and that precious recovery time will be lost.
- Microchip your pet. Then, at each vet visit, ask for the dog to be scanned. Chips, unfortunately, can migrate and your dog would not be as protected as thought. In that event, you would re-chip the animal. HomeAgain has yellow tags with the microchip number that can be added to the dog’s collar. Over time these tags will become worn. Gross but true, my son would persistently try to chew on the yellow tag as a toddler and I was shocked our silky terrier would even let him do that. A tag with the dog’s name on one side and your name and number on the back added to the collar is also a good idea.
It’s important to get your dog professionally groomed as often as needed and as you can afford. A lost animal has no shot records, and as much as a rescuer may want to get the matted fur off your baby and pampering from a pro, the only way to get an animal without a shot record groomed commercially is to give the animal a new set of vaccinations creating that needed record.