What to do When You've Found a Pet
Thank you for helping the pet(s) you've found! They're lucky to have come across someone caring like you. Below is a quick-tips guide to use for any pet that has been found
If you've found a cat: Determine if the cat is sociable or feral
We recommend this article to help you determine if the cat you have found is friendly or feral. If the cat(s) you have found is/are feral, finding them placement in a rescue or shelter environment can be detrimental to their health and well being. For feral cats, the best solution and most humane option is to perform TNR and to provide care for them in the outdoor environment they are comfortable in.
We understand that outdoor cats can be frustrating, however “getting rid” of them does not get rid of the problems you or your neighbors are facing. Feral cats don't want to live with humans, and although it may seem like it's better for the cat to go to a shelter or rescue, it could actually decrease their quality of life and take away lifesaving space for cats who want to live with humans. Feral cats often take months or years if they get adopted at all to find a home, and would much rather live their happy feral lives outdoors.
If the cats have been spayed or neutered and are given consistent care by colony caregivers, the problems you may face will be lessened or disappear completely, and the population will be stagnant or will slowly decline due to the cats not being able to reproduce. If the altered cats are removed from the area, it will cause unaltered cats to move into the territory (vacuum effect) who will reproduce and quickly double or triple the number of cats in the area, causing a more expensive and difficult issue for everyone.
Step 1: find an owner
Regardless of the type, condition, health, or location the pet is found, it should never be assumed that the pet has been dumped. Sometimes pets go missing for long periods of time or have health conditions and assumptions can be made without us having all the facts. There have even been cases of dumped animals found in poor condition that had previously been stolen from loving owners who were ecstatic to have their beloved pet reunited with them.
If you're concerned about neglect or cruelty, you should report the animal to your counties animal control organization so that if an owner is identified, they can be investigated to ensure the safety of the found animal any other animals in their care.
Below are tips on how to help reunite a pet with their owner.
• Look for collar tags - Check to see if the animal is wearing a collar, and if there are any tags attached to the collar. Look at all sides of the collar, as some collars have embroidered owner information or sewn on tags. If the animal has a rabies tag with no contact information, you can contact your county health department for information on the facility that gave the vaccine. If there is a county dog license with no contact information, you can call your county dog warden or animal shelter to determine the owner.
• Scan the animal for a microchip - this can be done for free at any time at any veterinary clinic or animal shelter. This is the quickest easiest way to identify in the animal has an owner, and should be done as soon as possible if no identification is found on the collar.
• Report the animal to your local humane society and/or animal control - The first place pet owners check when their pet is missing is often the local humane society or animal control. Depending on the county, they may be able to accept the animal into their facility as a stray and continue the search for an owner. These organizations often keep logs of lost and found pets, and may be able to match up reports to get them home safe.
• Make a report with the sheriff's office - Call your local sheriff's office to make a found pet report. Some people still utilize the sheriff's office to report pets as missing.
• Post online in community groups on Facebook and on the NextDoor app - Social Media is another easy way to reunite pets with their owners. This opens up the possibility of a neighbor, friend, or family member of the owner seeing your post and passing it along to them! If posting to Facebook, post on public pages and groups rather than just your personal page for the best chance of reaching the owner.
• Post "Found Pet" signs in the surrounding area - If the owner doesn't have access to the internet, this is another way you can expand the chances that the owner will contact you about their missing pet. Make sure to include your phone number, a clear description of the pet, and a photo of the pet if possible!
• If you've found a dog, walk the neighborhood with them - If you have a collar or harness and leash to safely walk the dog on, take them for a walk around the area you found them in. Chances are you could come across the owner or someone who knows where the dog lives! Try to ask neighbors you see outside if they know where the dog lives.
Step 2: Keep them safe and find placement
While you are looking for an owner for the found pet, you can start reaching out to others for help with placement options. Due to the length of intake waitlists and the high volume of animals needing placement, immediate surrender to a shelter or rescue is not always possible. With a lack of volunteer and foster space, we desperately need the community to chip in too. The following tips can keep the pet safe until placement is found.
• Reach out to local shelters and rescues - This can be one of the most difficult steps, as it often involves being told "No" or "Not right now" quite a bit. It's worth reaching out to multiple organizations in case they are able to put you on a waitlist. Even if the waitlist seems long, it is better to get on the waitlist than to not have any options at all. Best case, they call you quicker than they originally said they could. Worst case, you're on the list and will be contacted as soon as space opens up. To find shelters and rescues by location, visit Adopt-a-pet.com.
• Foster the pet in a room away from your pets - Without knowing the found pets' vaccination status, health conditions, or temperament, it's best to keep them in a bathroom, bedroom, or other room that can be closed off from other pets in the house and away from children. Some organizations will be willing to accept the pet into their program if you agree to foster for the duration of their stay.
• Ask friends and family if they're able to foster - If there are extenuating circumstances and the pet cannot be kept at your home, a friend or family member may be willing to help too.
• Reach out to the community to find a foster - If no family or friends can foster, update your posts on social media or make new ones asking if someone else in the community can step up and hold onto the found pet until safe placement can be found.
• Post the pet on Adopt-a-Pet and Home.home.org - If after the animal's legal stray hold has run out and you've exhausted all avenues of finding an owner with no luck, you can post the animal for adoption directly through rehome.adoptapet.com and home-home.org. This allows individuals looking to adopt a pet the ability to see that the animal you've found needs placement, and will walk you through the steps shelters and rescues take to find safe placement.
• For Cats - If indoor placement can not be obtained, perform TNR and provide community cat care- By ensuring kitty is spayed or neutered, you can prevent having 3-10 more kittens to find placement for in a few more months! Many organizations offer TNR for free or at a highly discounted rate. We recommend OAR, UCAN, and The Humane Society of Greater Dayton. We also recommend Alley Cat Allies website for information on providing care to community cats. Even if the cat is intended to be placed in a home in the future, performing TNR and returning the location the cat was found will give them a better chance at finding a home.
Still need help?
If after trying the steps above you still need help rehoming a found animal, please visit our Rehoming Assistance program page below.