Pet homelessness is a BIG problem. According to the ASPCA, every year, approximately 3.3 million dogs are brought to pet shelters in the U.S. The two main reasons animals end up in shelters is because they’ve either been pick up off the street by animal control officers and surrendered by their owners.
Have you come across a stray or lost dog? If you saw a dog running loose, do you know what to do?
The Risks of Helping a Stray Dog
Trying to help a stray or lost dog can come with several risks. Dogs may bite if they’re scared, hurt, sick or hungry…even the friendliest. Stray dogs can potentially carry diseases dangerous to other pets or humans.
If you find a lost dog who appears to be trusting and healthy, you can try to see if they will accept a leash willingly. You can take the dog to a veterinarian or police station to have the dog scanned for a microchip to help locate the owner(s). Alternatively, you can take the dog to your nearest shelter. If the dog doesn’t have an ID tag, but has a local license or rabies tag, the shelter will be able to help. Whether it’s the police station, veterinarian or local shelter, they will be given daily care with food and water.
However, if the dog appears to be afraid and is difficult to capture, it’s best to call DuPage County Animal Services at (630) 407-2800.
How to Get a Stray Dog to Trust You
If you can’t reach Dupage County Animal Services, they may be experiencing a large volume of calls. In those circumstances, you may decide you want to try to get a stray dog off the street yourself. Please, be very careful!
Be aware it can take some time to get a dog to trust you. You can be prepared with a slip lead and lots of treats. A slip lead will allow you to slip the opening of the leash over the dog’s head, similar to a lasso, without having to put your hands too close to the dog’s head.
Once you’re ready, get low to the ground somewhere close to where the dog is. If the dog approaches you, allow them to sniff you and gather your scent. You can try tossing a few treats to the dog to see if he or she will take them. If so, and you feel comfortable, you can try putting treats in the palm of your open hand. Just keep working on this until the dog allows you to loop him or her. Then, in a calm and gentle way, guide the dog to where you want him or her to go.
Chasing a stray dog can be very dangerous. A dog can suddenly get scared, bite or lash out. Canine trust is fragile and since you don’t know the dog or how he or she will react, capturing the dog may be best left to professionals if at all possible.
Is the Dog Stray, Feral or Lost?
It’s hard to know if a found dog is a stray, feral, or lost until a search is done for the dogs possible owner. Any dog can show fear towards strangers or have a positive association with strangers who offer treats. There are feral dogs who are social and there are lost dogs who a fearful of people they don’t know.
Most animal shelters operate on the assumption that every found dog has an owner looking for them and they do their best to try to reunite them with their family and home.
Is It Safe to Take a Stray Dog Home With You?
A well-intentioned dog lover may decide to bring the dog home with them to try and locate the owner on their own before turning it over to the authorities. However, please be cautious that doing so may put the rescuer, rescuer’s family and other pets at risk.
Since you don’t know the dog you found, you don’t know what diseases he or she may be carrying. Some may be able to be passed to your pets or even to human family members.
Another type of risk to consider when bringing a dog home with you is a behavioral risk. A frightened dog may act out aggressively with the introduction of other pets, food or toys.
It’s always best to take a found dog to local authorities, animal shelter, or veterinarian. They will check to see if the dog has a microchip and will try to contact the owner. Also, a frantic pet parent who has lost their dog will most likely contact the Human Society first, increasing the chances the dog will be reunited as quickly as possible.
While taking a dog home with you might seem like a kinder option, local shelters are better prepared to assess the needs of a found dog and potentially reunite them with their worried family.