In April, we recognized National Lost Dogs Awareness Day, and we along with many others worked hard to spread the word throughout Georgia and throughout the nation.
Our message was this...
Not all stray dogs are homeless. You can't always judge a dog based on their appearance the day they are found. Lost dogs can be very resourceful and can escape captivity and live on their own for days, weeks, months and in some cases, even years before being caught. When found, they may look very different than they did the day they went missing. They may be thin, dirty and they may even appear dumped, abandoned or neglected, but they may have a family out there frantically searching for them.
With that message in mind, we'd like to touch on what someone should do when they find a "stray" dog.
First, it's important not to judge a dog or his or her family based on it's current condition. A dog may have been lost for a long time and living on it's own and fending for itself. That can explain a dog's dirty, matted or thin appearance. A dog may also have a medical condition that could explain weight loss or skin issues. It's important to give an owner the benefit of doubt and go through the proper channels to search for it's owner.
Second, even if neglect or abuse is suspected, a finder does not have the right or legal authority to make that determination and keep or rehome a pet. In Georgia, pets are considered property and it's illegal to take and keep someone else's property. You must contact your local animal control unit and file a FOUND report for any dog you find. Your shelter will advise you on what steps you must take. Some shelters require you to bring a dog in, but others will allow you to foster the dog as long as you file a FOUND report with them and conduct a reasonable search for the dog's owner. If neglect or abuse is suspected, it's up to that local animal control unit, not the finder, to investigate and intervene if needed. This protects a pet and their family from someone making erroneous claims and it also allows an animal control unit to investigate and bring charges which could protect other pets in harms way.
*** Animals are considered property in Georgia and it is against the law to keep someone's property. The law is on the owner's side in the case of a found dog. ***
Third, conduct an aggressive search for a dog's owner. Owners with a lost dog will move heaven and earth to search for their lost dog, but finders can sometimes fall short. There are many reasons that a finder may not do an aggressive search for a dog's owner and we've just touched on a few. Other reasons could include a busy schedule or a lack of knowledge on all the ways to search for a dog's owner. Some people find a dog and want to help, but they have nowhere to house the dog so they feel the only option is to immediately rehome the dog or send it to a rescue. This way of thinking drastically reduces the chances of a pet being reunited with their family. There are many options out there to help you quickly reunite a pet with it's family if you are willing to do a little work.
Another common reason that someone may not search for a dog's family is that the finder becomes attached to the dog and decides to keep it. This decision is not only wrong, it's against the law. It can also put a dog's life in danger. If a dog has a medical condition and is on daily, life sustaining medication, not being returned to their home immediately could cost them their life.
Read SPIKES BLOG to find out all the reasons you should do everything you can to help a dog get home to their family.
So what are some ways to conduct an aggressive search:
- If the dog has a collar with a tag, contact the number on the tag or the vet clinic listed on the rabies tag. Vet clinics keep records and can help you locate a dog's owner.
- Knock on doors in your neighborhood. The dog may live just a few houses over and this can help a dog get home very quickly.
- Immediately notify your local animal control facility and any surrounding shelter and file a FOUND dog report with each shelter. Find out your county's legal requirements for FOUND dogs.
- Take the dog to any shelter or after hours clinic to be scanned for a microchip. This is a free service and will often get a dog home very quickly. If it's after hours, an emergency, after hours clinic will also scan for free.
- List the pet in our FREE nationwide database for lost and found pets by going to: www.HelpingLostPets.com
- Flyer, Flyer, Flyer.... We can't stress enough the importance of flyers. They are one of the most effective ways of finding an owner. It's important to not only put flyers in the area the dog was found, but to also put them at major intersections, gas stations. neighboring subdivisions, local pet stores, liquor stores, fast food restaurants, dog walking parks, community events..... Put flyers ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE a large number of people will pass or gather. We offer several flyers including our 4-on a sheet and tear off flyer to help get the word out and save on printing cost. Click our FREE FLYER link to get started
- Notify local vets, groomers and other pet related businesses to see if they recognize the dog as a client's pet.
- GET THE WORD OUT ON FACEBOOK!!!! Social media is still one of the most effective ways to network a lost of found pet. For every county there are dozens of sites for you to post on. There are lost and found sites, pet groups, vet clinic pages, grooming pages, shelter pages and the list goes on and on. Post to as many groups and pages as you can find to help reach the one person who may know the owner of the pet you found. Listing with us will also get this pet's listing out to our vast network of shelters, veterinary clinics, rescues and other lost and found site.
- Post your flier to Craigslist - Many people who lose a pet will look on craigslist for their missing pet. While there, look to see if they've posted a matching "Lost" ad. Make sure to check under both “Pets” and “Lost & Found” in your area and in surrounding counties.
- Post on your local "NextDoor" site in the lost and found section.
- Take out an ad in the local newspaper. Most newspapers offer a FREE - 30 day listing for lost and found pets. This will help reach people who don't have access to the internet and are not on Facebook. You may also find a matching lost ad in your local paper.
Make sure to ask for proof of ownership from anyone claiming to be the pet's owner. This can include photos of the owner or family with the pet, adoption papers, vet or grooming records or a matching microchip.
The key to reuniting any lost or found pet with it's family is having the desire to do so and the willingness to go over and above and conduct an AGGRESSIVE search to look for a dog's family!!! Remember, most dogs you find don't need a new family, they just need help getting back home to their own family!!!
Let's all help educate our communities on the laws in our state and educate them on the many ways that they can search for a dogs family.
Please also help spread the word about our page and our mission. Giving our pet owners, pet finders, animal control units, vets and rescues ONE central location, nationwide to list lost and found pets will remove MANY of the barriers and missing links and it WILL get more pets back home!!!
For a more in depth look at Georgia laws concerning lost pets, please go to: http://animallawsource.org/public/lost-pets/
Lost Dogs Georgia is proud to be the Georgia partner of helpinglostpets.com
To list a lost or found pet, please go to: www:helpinglostpets.com/ldga
To search the helpinglostpets.com database, go to: www.helpinglotpets.com
Come find us on Facebook where all of our lost and found pets are listed and help spread the word.
Lost Dogs Georgia