What to do if you find a stray dog – tips from the RSPCA

If you come across a dog alone, there are right and wrong ways to go about helping them.

No, you can’t just decide to keep them – and, depending on the emotional and physical state of the dog, there are different steps you should take.

RSPCA chief inspectorate officer Dermot Murphy said: ‘We prioritise rescuing neglected and abused animals, and we simply don’t have the resources to come out to help with healthy stray dogs.

‘As we enter our busiest season, we’re urging the public not to call us about healthy stray dogs as it could block our phone lines and prevent an emergency call from getting through.’

With that in mind, if you some across a dog that looks sick, injured, or in imminent danger, please contact the RSPCA’s emergency line on 0300 1234 999.

If you see a healthy-looking stray or lost dog, then here’s what the charity says you can do to help.

What should I do if I find a stray dog?

While it’s natural to want to help an animal in need, your first priority should be your own safety.

Ask yourself if you can catch the dog safely. If the pooch appears calm and isn’t displaying any aggressive or nervous behaviour, then you may be able to lure them over to you using some treats, and slipping a collar or lead on them.

If the dog is showing showing their teeth, has their ears flat and tail between their legs, and is snarling, then do not approach them. Call a dog warden instead.

‘Local authorities must provide a dog warden service,’ said Dermot, ‘and it’s paid for by your taxes, so we’d urge you to contact them should you find a loose dog in your area.’

You can search for the right person to contact via the Government website or check this list of contact details for local dog wardens.

You need to be careful of the dog’s surroundings, too. For example, if they’re on a busy motorway, you should contact the police or the Highways Agency instead of going after it yourself.

If it looks like they’re stuck somewhere dangerous, then your local fire and rescue service can help.

If you’re able to catch the dog, check to see if they’re wearing a collar which could lead you to the owner.

Alternatively, take the dog to your local vet who will be able to scan the dog for a microchip and, hopefully, return them to their owner quickly – as well as check them over for any health problems.

If finding the owner isn’t proving so straightforward, you could mock up a ‘dog found’ poster to put up in the local area.

You can also register the dog as ‘found’ on Animal Search UK.

Finally, if you haven’t had to yet, get in touch with your local dog warden, who will be able to take over.

If you decide to take the dog home in the meantime, then remember it’s likely that they’ll be scared and distressed.

The charity recommends keeping a close eye on their body language and behaviour to keep them happy and to keep yourself and your family safe.

If you’re thinking of adopting the dog, know that, by law, you can’t just keep a stray dog.

If you want to provide them with a forever home, you’ll need to leave your details with the dog warden to be up for consideration.

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