What to Do when You Find a Stray Dog

What to Do when You Find a Stray Dog

Today as I was returning home from an errand I noticed a stray dog on the side of a very busy thoroughfare. He was rail-thin and looked to be scrounging for food. My heart sank as I imagined him getting hit by a speeding car or even worse, starving to death.

It was 93 degrees in my Phoenix area neighborhood and soon to be much hotter. I quickly drove home, grabbed a bowl of dog food, a harness, and a leash. I knew my chances of saving him were slim, but I just had to try.

To my relief, I saw that he was still there. But as I pulled up next to him he spooked and began to trot away. I waited for traffic to clear so that I could merge back onto the highway and followed him a bit further.

Again I pulled over, this time rolling down my window and whistling. It did no good, but now I could see that even though he did not have a collar, he wasn’t emaciated as I had first thought. Maybe he wasn’t a stray. Maybe he had just gotten loose and was having a dangerous adventure.

As I drove home disappointed, I scolded myself about how stupid my actions were. Dodging in and out of traffic on a busy highway, planning to approach an unknown dog, and even worse, put him into my car without a crate and transport him home. What was I thinking?

Sometimes our hearts just overpower our brains and we make foolish decisions. So just in case, this should ever happen to you, here is how the Humane Society recommends you react when you see a stray dog.

  1. Don’t risk causing an accident. If you can pull over safely, make sure you are totally off the roadway and put on the parking brake. Turn off your ignition.
  2. Use extreme caution when approaching the dog. Remember that your actions may frighten him into running into traffic.
  3. If the animal looks threatening in any way, do not try to capture it. Instead, call animal control and wait there until help arrives.
  4. If you are able to lure the dog into your vehicle, lock it in and call animal control rather than attempting to drive with a strange, unrestrained animal in your car.
  5. If by chance you are able to transport the animal yourself, you should take it directly to an animal shelter or to a veterinarian. You should also call animal control immediately, in case the owner is looking for him.
  6. If you decide to keep the dog until the owner is found, be sure to keep him separated from your pets at home. The stray may be sick or aggressive, in either case making it unsafe for him to mingle with your pets.
  7. Be prepared with an emergency kit in your car that contains strong-smelling food like tuna or liver, a crate or cardboard carrier, a blanket, water bowl and water, various collars and a strong leash, an animal first-aid kit, and all necessary phone numbers such as for animal control, your veterinarian, and the local animal shelter.
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