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What to do if you find a stray pet

Original Publication Date: February 2, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

An estimated 70 million stray animals live in this country. Consider that one unsprayed female dog and her offspring can create 67,000 dogs in seven years, and an unsprayed cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years.

It is not difficult to understand why there are so many stray dogs and cats.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, only 6 to 8 million of the 70 million stray dogs and cats enter shelters. The rest are left to roam.

About 26 percent of dogs that arrive at shelters are returned to their owners.

Less than 5 percent of stray cats are reunited with their families.

Shelters find many other strays loving forever homes.

Realizing the number of stray pets that need assistance, would you choose to be a Good Samaritan and help one? There are several things to consider if you decide to do so.

Think safety first when you see a stray that needs assistance. Do not put yourself, the pet, or others in danger. Approach with caution whether the pet is along the side of a road or wandering in your neighborhood. The stray is probably frightened and may be ill or injured.

If available, food can be effective in getting his attention and gaining his trust.

Call for backup if he is reluctant to let you comfortably approach. A friend or Animal Control can be very helpful.

If the stray is friendly and you feel safe making contact, try to get him into a carrier or your car with a treat and firm commands.

You must then decide how to proceed.

A sick or injured pet may need to be seen by a veterinarian. You must be prepared to pay the expenses. A number of strays are brought to veterinarian clinics. Even a kind-hearted vet cannot supply free medical care for all.

If you do not have the resources to pay veterinarian fees, your best option may be to take the stray to the local shelter where he will get care.

Even if you would like to take the pet home, it is best to stop by a vet or shelter first and have him checked out. A stray that seems healthy could have fleas or other critters that you do not want on your pets or in your home. He may have any of a number of serious and highly contagious diseases like parvo virus or rabies that could put your pets at risk.

The kindness of strangers can support our furry four-legged friends to get them back to their loving family or perhaps find them a new forever home.

Helping one reduces the number of wayfaring strays. The fewer unspayed strays, the fewer future homeless pets. Please help if it is within your means and within your heart.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at