I believe we can all help rescue although we may not all be able to rescue every animal we come across.
Rescue seems like a simple word yet it describes a very complicated process. This website grew out of the fact that I am drawn to rescuing animals. However, it is not always an easy process yet it can be unbelievably rewarding. For the purpose of this section when I discuss “rescue”, I don’t mean adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue group although you absolutely would be saving a life. For more information on adoption, (click here). In this section when I refer to rescue I am talking about rescuing stray animals and helping return them to their owner(s) or finding them a new home.
I believe we can all help rescue although we may not all be able to rescue every animal we come across. I wish that were the case. However, if we all possess an awareness for possible stray animals and are educated on how we could help I believe you can help in the process of animal rescue. Feel free to visit the blog section where I share personal rescue stories.
Steps to Rescue:
Be aware and keep an eye out for animals. Take note whenever you spot an unaccompanied animal (dogs not on a leash, cats walking around) and try and assess the situation.
-Assess the behavior: are they running down the street, looking for food, walking across a busy street?
-Do they have identification: do they have a collar and tags? If so, still could be lost.
-Examine their appearance for health indicators: do they appear malnourished, have healthy hair and skin, do they look injured?
Based on the questions above you should have a pretty good indication if the pet belongs to someone or is a stray.
Sometimes it’s easier to identify a stray dog than a stray cat. If you notice a cat and there are signs it’s a stray but you aren’t sure. I will go door to door asking neighbors or business owners if they recognize the cat and that usually helps to determine if the cat is a stray or not.
If they appear to be on their own (lost or stray) try and get a closer look.
2- Approach animal if comfortable
Approaching animals is not for everyone and I can’t say is safe and without risk. I grew up with a mother who told me not to touch strays but I couldn’t help myself. I was drawn to animals especially those who appeared lost, hungry or hurt. Most of the time I was fortunate to be able to secure the stray animal through treats, food or just patting. I always carry stray animal supplies in my car (bowls, water, leash, food and treats).
If the pet is very friendly he or she may just come (also a sign they probably have an owner). If not, I try and slowly gain trust by putting treats down, giving them distance and just waiting. In some situations I have waited a long time before I was able to get close enough to touch an animal. If they allow me to touch them I still take my time patting them to gain their trust before I try looking at their tags, putting a leash on them or putting them in my car or my backyard.
I have also had to come to the terms that I can’t rescue every animal. When I have tried all my tricks to no avail or I just continue to scare the animal in a direction and am concerned they are headed for danger (busy street) I back off and realize my limits. I pray for God to watch over the animal and for the animal to either find his way home safely or for someone else to be able to help the animal. It was a hard lesson recognizing my limits and learning to let go but very valuable.
3-Find the owner
Animal has identification (tag)
If the animal will let you approach and if they have a collar with a phone number or tag, the reunification could be as simple as a phone call. If the animal has a rabies tag but no contact phone number you should be able to track down the owner by calling the number listed on the back or in Tennessee you can call General Environmental Health Office at 615-741-7206 and they will be able to give you the vet who administered the tag and you can find the owner that route. Sometimes you have to leave a message and find a way to temporarily house the dog until the owner can come and retrieve.
Animal does not have identification (no tag)
If the animal does not have a tag, you might be able to put him on a leash and walk him around the neighborhood and see if anyone recognizes him. Still no luck, take him to a local vet to have him scanned in case he has a microchip. Still nothing, take him home or find someone who can house him/her temporarily. *Take precautions not to expose to your pets/family as the animal could have a disease or easily curable medical condition like fleas or worms. Just isolate the animal from your pets and make sure and wash your hands in between contact with the animal until you are able to visit the vet for a health check. The vet will also help to identify more information about the pet (age, breed, medical conditions) and if they are likely a stray or not. Put signs up near where you found the dog and post info on local websites.
(*Visit the lost and found section for more info on how to help locate owners).
If the animal is injured or clearly a stray
If injured immediately take to an emergency vet clinic/hospital. If the animal appears to belong to someone, the nearest vet clinic might recognize the animal and help in contacting the owner.
Call the vet and set up an appointment to take him/her ASAP for assessment and vaccines. *Remember if you have to house the animal until they can go to the vet make sure and isolate them from your other pets to protect them from any health concerns. Just wash your hands after contact so you don’t pass along any germs. The vet will also help to identify more information about the pet (age, breed, medical conditions) and if they are likely a stray or not. I would post signs and try and find the owner for a period of time just in case the animal does belong to someone.
(Visit the lost and found section for more info on how to help locate owners).
If there is no known owner
After you have attempted to locate the owner for a period of time (week or two) posting signs, website notices etc. (additional info in our lost and found section) you can help by finding the animal a new home. If you are able and willing to adopt-amazing, congratulations and thank you!!!! If not, utilize your social networks (friends, colleagues, family) to spread the word. Email, social networking sites and even bulletin boards at schools and companies are effective ways of spreading the word. If you have a certain breed, you may even be able to find rescue groups that help place that particular breed. Sadly there are millions of animals that need homes and the majority of those who end up at animal control or state facilities will be euthanized so the animal’s best chance is if you help to find a home. If you are unable to find a home through your personal networks, contact local rescue organizations and shelters (list_rescue_groups and list_animal_shelters). There are a lot of humane organizations/shelters with no kill or low kill policies but often they are full so you may have to get on a waiting list.
Thank you in advance for caring enough to want to help. I believe you can and will make a difference.
Locater Services: If you wanted to intentionally help with rescuing pets in your area you could sign up for pet alert emails or voicemails when animals are lost in your area. We offer a free email alert system for counties in Middle Tennessee. Please sign up to help. There are several national companies like HomeAgain, that offer lost and found services. Owners pay to have emails and voicemails sent hoping to educate the community and solicit their assistance in locating their lost pet. For a list of more companies with lost and found services and mailing lists you can join, visit Lost and Found Website Resources.