I've Found a Stray. Now What Do I Do?
There are some things you should try before you run right over to the local shelter. Anyone who has taken in a stray should understand that this really is a two-step process: Rescue and Rehome. The local animal shelter should be thought of as the place to go only if you have been unable to rehome the animal yourself. You'll be doing yourself, the animal, and your local shelter a big favor by empowering yourself to take care of this little lost friend.
First, remember that it is very possible that the animal's family has lost track of it, and would love to have it back! Here are some ideas for finding the animal's original family:
- Talk to neighbors and see if they have any idea where the animal might belong.
- Call vets in the area to let them know about the animal you've found - maybe it's a patient of theirs!
- Ask your local veterinarian to scan the animal for a possible microchip.
- Watch the newspaper and bulletin boards around town for "missing dog" or "missing cat" ads.
- Call local shelters / humane societies, in case someone goes looking there for the lost animal.
- Run "found" ads in the newspapers in your area.
- Poster, poster, poster! Make up colorful "found" flyers and post them wherever you can - grocery, library, vet clinics, etc.! Remember, it's best at this stage to be brief so that the person claiming to be the owner has to identify the animal to claim it.
NOT RECLAIMED? LET'S REHOME!
If you're not able to find the animal's family in about a week, then you'll want to switch to "rehoming" mode! It is much less stressful for the animal if you can get it right into another home without a stay at the shelter. Some thoughts on how to find a new loving family:
- Find a spay/neuter program in your area, and get the animal altered. This often makes it much easier to rehome!
- Run ads in the newspapers in your area - many are low- or no-cost for free animals.
- Again, poster, poster, poster! Make up a new batch of cute flyers, this time with a photo. Be as specific as you can in describing demeanor and behavior, and post them anywhere you can find a corkboard!
- Get the animal onto as many websites as possible. Some ideas: www.petfinder.com, www.craigslist.org, and many local TV and radio websites have Classifieds sections.
- Talk her up! Talk to friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, everybody - you never know who might be looking for a cat or dog just like her!
YOU CAN DO THIS!
Nervous that you won't know how to find a good home? Come up with a list of things to look for in a potential home. Decide what's important to you, and include what you've learned about the animal. Some things you might think about:
- Does everyone in the home agree to bringing in this animal?
- Does the potential adopter have a veterinarian lined up?
- If there are current pets, call the veterinarian to see if those pets are well cared for!
- Is the person or family familiar with the care and feeding of this type of animal?
- The animal's personality:
- Does the animal seem happiest inside or outside?
- Does she seem to get along with other dogs or cats?
- Have you seen her around children?
- Is the animal full of energy and zip or perfectly content to curl up and sleep most of the day?
- If the animal isn't spayed or neutered, you might think about charging a deposit that they'll get back once this critical piece has been taken care of.