What to Do When You Find a Dog and the Shelter is Closed

By Kasey Spain

Kasey Spain | April 15th, 2020

The city shelter should actually be your last place to take a found animal, not your first option. City shelters are designed to be a safety net for sick or injured stray animals with no other option. If you found a healthy dog, a friendly cat or a litter of kittens, what should you do?

What to Do When You Find a Lost Dog

1. Knock on doors.

The city of Austin collected data prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and found out most dogs are found within 1,000 feet of their home. The following process could be skipped if you find the owner is one of your neighbors. Walk the dog around your neighborhood and see if anyone recognizes it. Most dogs travel less than a mile when loose.

2. Snap some photos of the dog in good lighting and cross street signs or area background of where you found the dog.

Do NOT alter the appearance of the dog by removing the collar, giving a haircut, adding clothing, or removing clothing it had on when you found it.

3. Call your city hotline and make a found animal report.

This is the first place many city residents look for their lost pet. (Include cross streets and any other details from when you found the dog.) If the dog is dangerous or injured, local animal control officers may come get it, but if you are able to take a sick or injured dog to the vet yourself, that’s even better. Be sure to create the found report regardless and send them the photos you took.

4. Take the pet to your nearest vet clinic or pet supply store to check for a microchip. Be sure to call ahead.

If the pet is microchipped, talk with the vet about getting the information of the individual associated with the microchip.

5. Post the animal on your area Lost and Found Pets social media pages.

Facebook, your neighborhood Nextdoor, and the Craigslist "Lost and Found" section AND the "Pets" section in your city are great social media pages to start with. Provide as much detail as possible, any special quirks about the dog, collar color, etc. Post a picture showing exactly how the animal looked when you found it.

6. Create bright, colorful found pet posters and post in a 1 mile radius around the area you found the dog.

The posters should be big enough that people could see them passing by quickly in a car, with large text indicating “found dog,” a basic description and a large, clear photo. Don’t try to guess the breed, age, etc. in case you’re incorrect. Stick to colors and unique identifying features so many people will respond.

7. Can you foster the dog?

If yes, great! Go ahead and do that. If after 14 days the dog has not been claimed by the owner, you can rehome the dog. There are organizations that will allow you to foster through them to help with the rehoming. We are encouraging anyone in the community who finds a lost pet to help with fostering the animal first.

Guide for Lost and Found Dogs

For easy reference, download this infographic on what to do when you find a dog!
Animal Shelters: Steal this and add your own logo.


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