First, always consider the safety of the dog and of yourself. A frightened and possibly sick or injured dog may behave unpredictably. A sudden move may spook him, causing him to bolt into traffic. If the dog looks or acts threatening in any way, stay away from the animal and notify a local animal control agency (some are listed below).
If the dog appears approachable, remember to use caution and common sense. When approaching the dog, speak calmly and reassuringly to it. Make sure he can see you at all times as you approach, and perhaps entice it to come to you by offering food (keep easy-to-open cans in your vehicle). Once you’ve managed to approach and capture the dog, the best care you can give it is to attempt to return it to its owner.
Check the dog for ID tags or tattoos. Tattoos are often found inside the ear or on the inner legs.
Place a long leash (and secure collar) on the dog and tell it “Go Home!” Unfortunately, some people do allow their dog to roam off leash and it is possible that you found a dog that knows exactly where its home is. See if the dog will lead you to its home. If you pass by any people, ask them if they know who owns this dog. Don’t release the dog to ANYONE until you are positive that you have found its rightful family!
Check the area for any “LOST DOG” posters, but understand that the dog might have traveled quite far and the posters could be one to three miles away. Also consider that the dog may have escaped in the last few hours and the posters haven’t gone up yet. Just because there is no poster, don’t automatically assume that there is no owner! Be sure to check back in the area and within a one to three mile radius for “LOST DOG” posters for up to five days after you found the dog. Different circumstances (health problems, being out of town, etc.) can prevent people from posting lost pet flyers immediately.
Take the dog to a vet’s office and have it scanned for a microchip. Most vets and animal shelters are equipped with the readers needed to detect and interpret microchips.
Place a “found dog” ad and send out an email to many in the neighborhood letting them know that you need their help in locating the animal’s owner. Remember to check the “lost” ads periodically, as well as local lost pet websites. Even if the description given doesn’t perfectly fit the dog you’ve found, call anyway. You’d be surprised how many pet owners, shelter workers, and individuals who find lost pets and place “found dog” ads get the breed wrong!
Post a giant “FOUND DOG” poster near the exact spot where you found the dog and a couple more at major intersections in that area. Use fluorescent posters that are 28″ x 22″ (found at most office supply or drug stores). Using a wide black marker (do not use water soluble markers), write five or six words that convey your message, then put your phone number in smaller writing at the bottom. For example, if you find a white teacup Poodle, you could write: “FOUND TINY WHITE FLUFFY DOG” and your phone number. That’s it. Don’t be too descriptive. If someone calls to claim the dog you found make THEM tell YOU what their missing dog looks like. Ask the caller if the dog is licensed and/or microchipped. If it is, then ask him or her to bring proof of that or photographs of the dog when you meet each other with the dog. If there is no paperwork or photos, then ask him or her to meet you at your vet’s office where you can have the dog scanned by your vet. If you don’t meet at your vet’s office, make sure to meet in a public place. Never agree to deliver the dog to the caller unless you have first told a friend or family member exactly where you are going and take someone along with you.
If possible, take a photo of the dog and make up smaller (8 1/2″ x 11″) black & white “FOUND DOG” flyers with a partial description of the dog, the location where you found the dog, and your contact information. Leave off certain details so all callers will be forced to identify the dog. Deliver these to vet offices and pet supply stores in that area (including large ones such as PETCO and PetSmart).
Do not answer any questions (from the caller) pertaining to the description of the dog. Do not ask leading questions like “Does your Poodle have a kink in its tail?”, but instead ask open-ended questions like, “Describe your dog’s tail” or “Is there something unique about your dog’s tail?” Make the caller give you a full description of the lost pet. If you end up reuniting a lost dog with its family, we want to congratulate you on a job well done! You not only helped make a family very happy, you also helped prevent needless suffering, potential injury, or worse, homelessness.