What You Can Do to Help Stray Pets

Dec 08, 2023

As an animal lover, one of the most gut-wrenching things to see is a stray pet along the highway or roaming the neighborhood. Not only is it unsafe for the animal, but it also presents a risk to drivers who may have to swerve or brake suddenly to avoid hitting them. When you see a stray pet in need of help, it's natural to want to jump into action right away. 

However, this may not be the best solution. There are a few steps you should take before approaching a stray pet.

Assess the Situation

Before you can provide care for a stray pet, you must ensure your personal safety. This includes being aware of your surroundings and potential hazards. If you happen to be driving when you spot a stray, pull your vehicle safely off to the side of the road. 

Turn on emergency lights to signal your intentions to other drivers once your car is in park. This minimizes the risk of accidents and ensures both your safety and that of the animal in question. While the impulse to help is commendable, it should never compromise your well-being or the safety of others. 

After assessing the situation and ensuring your safety, take a moment to observe the stray pet. Pay attention to the animal’s behavior as you assess it for potential injuries. If the stray is showing signs of aggression or appears injured, contact your local animal control agency for professional assistance. 

Never feel obligated to address a stray animal situation on your own if you are uncomfortable or feel inexperienced to do so.  There are many animal control, shelter and rescue groups available to assist in these situations. Contact your local shelter, veterinarian or law enforcement for information on who can assist if you are unsure.  

Cautiously Approach and Restrain the Animal

Sudden movements can startle the animal which may trigger their fight or flight response. This could cause the animal to bolt into oncoming traffic or potentially become aggressive. If you feel uneasy approaching a stray animal, stay at a safe distance and call the appropriate authorities.

If the stray is calm and you feel comfortable enough to approach, do so cautiously. Remember, even friendly-looking animals may become defensive around strangers. Speak softly and keep your movements slow and steady as you approach the animal. 

If possible, try to create a barrier between yourself and the animal before restraining it. A blanket or even a piece of clothing can be used to create a physical barrier while you attempt to secure the stray. This can prevent you from picking up potential bugs or illnesses which can be passed to family members and pets you may have at home.

If you have a box with air holes or a pet carrier in your trunk, place the box or pet carrier on the ground in a safe location. You may be able to coax the animal  inside the box or carrier to keep them safe until animal control can arrive. Once they are safely restrained, continue making slow, steady movements to keep the stray pet calm.

We strongly encourage those interested in helping stray animals to proceed with caution. Unknown animals can pose a risk of injury or disease to you and those important to you. Always prioritize your safety. 

If a stray animal becomes defensive or begins behaving erratically, head to a safe location then call animal control. 

Check for ID Tags

If the stray pet is wearing a collar, check for any identification tags. These should have their name, their owner's name, and their owner's contact information on it. If their phone number is on the tags, contact the owner to inform them you found their pet.

If there are no ID tags present, you can take the animal to a local veterinarian or shelter to have it scanned for a microchip. These small devices are implanted under a pet's skin and contain their owner's contact information. Even if no microchips are found, pets generally have higher chances of reuniting with their families if they are left with an animal shelter. 

Animal shelters are usually the first place pet owners check when their pets go missing. Most shelters have a database of each animal in their care with brief physical descriptions. You can also take a picture of the pet and give this to the shelter.

Depending on the shelter's software, they may be able to upload an image to their database. Once a record of the stray has been created with a local shelter, you can leave the animal with the shelter or foster them as you continue to search for their owner.

What Does it Mean When an Animal is in Foster?

Fostering an animal means providing a temporary home for them until they can be permanently adopted. This is often done through partnerships with animal shelters or rescue organizations. By fostering a stray pet, you are giving them a safe place to stay while the search for their owner continues or they wait to be adopted.

If you foster with a shelter or organization, they will cover costs related to the animal’s care. This allows the animal to receive proper medical care, socialization, and training. This can greatly increase their chances of being successfully adopted into a new loving home. 

If you choose to become a private foster, you are financially responsible for the pet.

If you are interested in fostering an animal, contact your local animal shelter or rescue organization to learn more about their foster program. They will provide training, resources and support as you open your home to help stray pets in need. 

Fostering allows you to help animals, reduce stray populations and find homes for animals in need. Seeing the positive impact your care has on an animal's life can be a rewarding experience.

Fostering Pets

If you choose to foster a stray pet, you must still continue to search for their owner. Take a picture of the pet to use in flyers, post them around town and distribute them at local veterinary clinics. You can use social media to reach a wider audience and increase the chances of reuniting the stray with their family. 

While fostering is a great way to make a difference in the lives of stray pets, it is a temporary solution. Before choosing this option, take time to consider if you are prepared to return the pet if its owner is found. Simply finding a stray pet and fostering them does not automatically make them your pet.

Each state has different laws regarding the ownership of stray pets. Make sure to thoroughly research and understand the regulations in your area. If you plan to adopt the pet if their owner is not found, you want to ensure you are taking the right steps.

As a foster pet parent, you should keep in contact with the animal shelter or rescue organization you are fostering through. They can provide guidance and support as you navigate through the fostering process.

Adopting Pets

Adopting strays refers to the process of finding a new permanent home for stray animals. This is typically carried out by animal shelters or rescue organizations but can also be undertaken by individuals who have found and taken care of stray animals. The adoption process often involves addressing any health issues the animal may have, providing necessary vaccinations and often includes spaying or neutering the animal. 

The goal of adoption is to locate a responsible owner who will provide the animal with a loving, secure, and nurturing environment. The new owner should be well-informed and prepared for the responsibilities that come with pet ownership, ensuring the pet's well-being and quality of life.

Improve Your Vet School Application by Helping Shelter Pets

Animal shelters are often short-staffed and operate with limited resources. Volunteering can help you gain hours under a licensed vet while simultaneously filling this gap and improving the lives of stray pets living in shelters. It allows you to work with a wide range of animals as well as develop a practical understanding of veterinary medicine. 

Volunteering is an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to animal welfare during the application process and as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) student.

At Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (RUSVM), we offer many curricular and extracurricular activities for students to work with stray, homeless and underserved animals in St. Kitts. RUSVM partners with local animal shelters such as Basseterre Animal Rescue Center (BARC) to help students gain experience during their preclinical studies. Students can gain additional experience through student organizations and their preclinical rotations at the Ross University Veterinary Clinic.   

Ready to start your vet school journey? Apply for admission to RUSVM today!

The information and material contained in this article and on this website are for informational purposes only and should not be considered, or used in place of, professional medical advice. Please speak with a licensed medical provider for specific questions or concerns. Ross Med is not responsible for the information maintained or provided on third-party websites or external links.

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