Too often, we assume that a stray pet has been abandoned or is unwanted, when in reality most have an owner who is missing them. When we think lost, not stray, we do our due diligence and even go the extra mile to find the owner and make the reunion happen.
Too many people believe they can keep a pet they have found without making any effort to locate the owner. This belief is not in the best interest of the owner or of the pet, and it is against the law. Although we treat pets as family members, legally they are property and treated as such in a dispute.
Taking a few simple steps will give the owner a chance to find their pet, and will give you peace of mind should you decide to adopt the animal if unclaimed. You never know an owner's situation and must give them a fair chance. They could be out of town, in the hospital, or just not know how to look for their missing pet.
Found dogs and cats should be handled differently. A dog at large should be leashed and brought to safety right away. Many cats live outside, so should be left alone unless they appear ill or injured. If you are unable to hold a dog until the owner comes forward, bring him or her to the shelter for your jurisdiction. Because cat reclaims are so uncommon in shelters, we do not recommend bringing them in unless they are in need of medical attention.
When you find a pet, you should make a found report in every possible venue: at your local shelters and other providers of animal control, at local veterinary hospitals, on Nextdoor, and on any other local pet web pages. Also check for lost reports in the same places, keeping in mind that the pet may have been missing for a long time. We recommend posting signs where possible, as these are highly visible and generate leads.
Many pets are microchipped, but you won't know if you don't get them scanned. Most vets and shelters will scan a found pet for free, giving the owner a chance to contact you and arrange a reunion. Call any phone numbers on an ID tag, license, or embroidered collar. Research the registry of a (less common) tattoo.