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I’ve found a dog, now what?!


If you're an animal lover, there's a good chance you'll one day find a dog that appears to be lost or homeless! Our first instinct is always to help the wayward soul, opening our car door to any furry friend. However, before you take action, there's safety guidelines you should follow – not only for your safety but the dog's as well. A frightened dog can bite and while it may be a harmless bite to you, for the dog it can be a death sentence since it will be labeled as a biter. So please, read the following and act cautiously.

Contact your local shelter

A dog wandering the streets may be ill, scared, abused, or hurt. Any of those conditions can make a dog behave unpredictably. The situation can also escalate if you're walking your own dog at the time. If your dog starts barking or tries to "defend" you, the other dog – even if he initially appears harmless – may become aggressive or run away.

For all those reasons, it's often best to call your local police or animal control professionals. They're experts at dealing with these type of situations. Given their training, they'll know the best techniques for approaching and capturing the dog safely.

It's always a good idea to program the phone number of your local animal control department into your mobile phone's contact list. Once you've called them and provided the dog's location, keep an eye on the dog from a safe distance. That way, you can call animal control to give them updated information about the dog's location if he starts wandering. 

Local Shelter Numbers

Tulsa Animal Welfare, (918) 596-8011, 3031 N. Erie Ave., Tulsa, OK

​Broken Arrow Animal, (918) 259-8311, 4121 E Omaha St, Broken Arrow, OK

Glenpool Animal Control, (918) 322-8110

Jenks Animal Shelter, (918) 299-9511

Remember, a lost dog may have owners who are desperate to find it and their local shelter will typically be their first stop when searching for their dog! Don't discount taking the dog to the shelter simply because of misconceived notions "they'll kill it." It does a tremendous disservice to animal shelter employees who work so hard to save lost and homeless animals. 

Acting on your own

If you can't reach animal control and if the dog seems harmless, docile, uninjured, and approachable, you still need to exercise good judgment and caution.

  • Approach slowly. Scaring a dog by making sudden or fast movements may provoke him to attack or cause him to run away, perhaps into traffic. NEVER chase a dog!

  • Stay calm and speak in quiet tones. Try to act in a reassuring way, soothing the dog with a friendly demeanor.

  • Offer food or a treat. This may motivate the dog to meet you half way by coming to you and establish trust. Besides, if he's been lost awhile he may be hungry.

  • Check to see if the dog has tags. At this point, the dog should be close enough to check and see if he has tags. If he does, there's a good chance he's simply lost and not been roughing it on the streets. If you have a lead with you, gently slip it over his head to keep him from running away. Hopefully, the tags will have the owner's contact information or other useful info to help you identify where he lives (sometimes you can track a dog's owner by the rabies or Vet clinic number on some tags). 

  • Scan for a microchip. If there aren't any tags, it still doesn't mean the dog doesn't belong to someone as it's easy for tags and collars to slip off. Take the dog to a local PetSmart or your vet and ask them to scan for a microchip.

If you want to keep the dog until you find the owners, there are certain legal protocols you must follow (see "Check the Laws" below). Once you have him safely off the street and at your home, place him in an area where he feels comfortable. DO NOT just throw him out in the backyard or in with your other dogs! It's imperative to keep him separated from your own pets to avoid territorial disputes and the possibility of transferring parasites or diseases. Also, leaving an unknown, unattended dog in a backyard makes it easy for the dog to dig out or jump the fence, leaving all your hard work for nought.

Reuniting the dog with its owner​
  • Call your police and animal control departments, as well as local animal shelters, and notify them about the dog. If the owner has been searching for the dog, they may have notified at least one of those organizations.

  • Post FOUND DOG messages on all social media sites you use as well as CraigsList and local newspapers. People who have lost dogs often read these notices to see if any description matches their beloved pet. 

  • Place FOUND DOG posters and flyers in popular areas around town. Make sure your posters and flyers have the dog's photo and your contact information. 

  • Spread the word to all your local dog-loving friends. Use email, phone calls, Facebook and Twitter to get the word out. Use a photo of the dog wherever you can. In today's social-media era, it's easy for these messages be shared. The ever-widening net of contacts may eventually reach the owner or someone who knows the dog.


Links to Lost Dog Social Media Pages and Groups

Check the Laws

To check on any relevant laws regarding lost or stray dogs in your state, county, or town and contact your local animal control agency, humane society or SPCA. Many times the animal you find will turn out to be stray, unwanted, or unclaimed. Even so, the person finding the stray animal does not automatically become the owner or keeper until they have satisfied certain state and/or local requirements. This means you can't just "rehome" a found animal without due diligence finding its owner.

In almost every state, the animal is not "owned" by the finder until the holding period for strays (as specified by state or local laws) has expired and the finder has made an attempt to reunite the animal with their original owner and/or has taken steps – obtaining vaccinations, license, collar and identification tag – to prove they are now the owner.

What to do if someone claims the dog

Never simply hand the dog to a person who claims the dog his theirs. The fact is, you never know if this person is being honest when they say, "He's mine. Oh, how I've missed him."  In addition to asking for the person's identification, make sure they can prove the dog is really theirs. This can take the form of photos of them with the dog – we all have tons of photos like this on our mobile devices – or official documents that list the dog's breed/description and age, vet records, or other documents to prove ownership.

And here's another simple to thing to try: See how the dog reacts when he see's the purported owner. If he runs up and give him a lick, that's a good sign. But if the dog is indifferent or backs away in fear, you should be leery. If the person insists the dog is theirs but you still have your suspicions, call your local police department.

A hopeful happy ending

We hope this article will help you next time you're faced with a stray or homeless animal! Thank you for having such a big heart and caring for our furry friends!