Here's What To Do If You Find A Stray Dog

Help a stray dog find his forever home 💖

stray dog

If you’ve ever seen a dog wandering around outside with no one around, you’ve probably wondered how you can help.

There are actually plenty of things you can do if you come across a homeless pup that can really change his life.

We spoke with Laura Labelle, founder of The Labelle Foundation rescue in Los Angeles, to find out what to do if you see a stray dog and how you can help him find his forever family.

What is a stray dog?

A stray dog is a pup who doesn’t have a home, and unfortunately stray dogs are incredibly common. According to a 2011 report, the World Health Organizations estimated there are over 200 million stray dogs worldwide.

What to do if you find a stray dog and want to help

If you see a stray dog, there are a bunch of things you can do to help him find a home.

Check to see if he's friendly

Before you do anything with a stray dog, it’s important to make sure he’s safe to approach. Living out in the wild all alone can be scary for a pup, so you want to check for any signs of fear-based aggression before you approach him.

“Abandoned dogs can be very frightened and in extremely dangerous situations,” Labelle told The Dodo.

If a stray dog is aggressive, you might notice signs like:

  • Still and stiff body language
  • Lunging
  • Growling
  • Showing teeth
  • Snarling
  • Threatening barking
  • Biting or attempted biting

Make sure he's out of harm’s way

If the stray dog you found doesn’t appear aggressive, you should try to get him somewhere safe by approaching him slowly and calmly. If he is acting aggressively, call a local rescue for help. (More on that below.)

“Be sure you and the pet are safe from traffic and other imminent dangers,” Labelle said.

If the pup’s too scared to go with you, you might need to bribe him with some food or treats.

“Very carefully try to coax [him] into a safe place and try to put a slip (a leash with a loop at the end to serve as a collar and leash combined) over [his] head, and/or get into your car,” Labelle said.

Have him scanned for a microchip

If you manage to get the stray dog to come with you in your car, your first stop should be the nearest vet. They can scan the pup for a microchip to determine whether he’s actually a stray at all.

If he’s chipped, the vet will be able to provide you with his family’s contact information so you can reconnect them with their lost dog.

“There is a good chance someone is looking for this pet,” Labelle said.

Where to take a stray dog

There are a couple places to take a stray dog in the event that he’s not microchipped or you can’t get in touch with the people associated with his chip.

An animal rescue

See if there are any rescues in your area that have the resources to take in the stray pup. If they do, you can bring him there. Rescues tend to have pretty in-depth adoption protocols to ensure that the animals they help end up in the best homes possible.

If you can’t find a rescue that can take in the stray dog you found, and you have the space and the means to care for him, you could bring him home temporarily and try to find someone to adopt him on your own.

A shelter (as a last resort)

If there are no rescues in your area that have room for a stray dog and you can’t take him in yourself, you can bring him to a shelter. But this should be once you’ve exhausted all other options.

That’s because a lot of shelters don’t have a veterinary staff on hand, so there’s potential the stray pup could be euthanized there if he gets sick — even at ones advertised as no-kill shelters.

“When leaving the pet at the shelter, you can ask for ‘first right of refusal’ in case no one shows up to claim the dog, you can adopt it,” Labelle said. “This also ensures you could get it to a rescue who will re-home or see [that] the dog does not get overlooked at the shelter.”

Who to call for a stray dog

If you find a stray dog but can’t seem to get him to come with you — or simply don’t know how — call local rescues. Sometimes, rescues have the right tools and experienced helpers to effectively and safely collect the pup, even if he’s frightened.

Only call animal control if you can’t get a hold of a rescue that can help, and you can’t safely get the dog to go with you on your own.

“If a dog is aggressive or too scared to approach, call animal control,” Labelle said. Animal control really should only be called in emergency situations or as a last resort, because they work with shelters and will take the stray dog there.

So, finding a stray dog can seem scary, sad and stressful, but there are plenty of ways for you to help. And even if you aren’t quite sure what to do, calling local rescues can make all the difference.

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