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What To Do If You Come Across A Stray Dog

Most of us will come across a stray dog at some time or another, whether one wanders into the garden or we spot one while out driving on the road. It is very easy to think, “well it probably knows where it’s going” or “if I stop the owner may see and think I’m trying to steal the dog”. What we should really be thinking is how we would want people to react if it was our dog that was lost and running the streets. Of course most of us would hope that somebody would stop, pick the dog up and return our pet safely back to us as soon as possible. Perhaps an even more important reason than this is that it is actually a legal requirement to report a stray dog to the police. This is in case the dog poses a danger to the public, by attacking a child or causing a road collision. The longer a dog is out running the streets, the more time there is for it to get injured, run over or possibly get picked up by the wrong person. The numbers of stray dogs are increasing for reasons such as people deciding to buy a puppy and quickly realising they were not prepared for it, in addition to this many dogs are not neutered and will breed which results in unwanted puppies.

Dealing With a Stray Dog

The first thing to do when you see a stray dog is to avoid approaching it. Remember that the majority of dogs will be friendly, but in this situation the dog may feel scared and threatened causing it to lash out at you. If the dog approaches you then avoid putting your face or hands near to the dog’s mouth and if you feel unsure about the dog, perhaps because it is barking or growling, then move to a safe location as quickly as possible. Once you are in a safe location it is time to contact the police with the necessary information. If the dog does not seem aggressive and seems friendly when approaching you then you can calmly attempt to secure the dog, by either leading it into your garden or perhaps into your car. Whether you manage to secure the dog or not, it is important to report it to the police or the RSPCA. When you ring the police you will need to give information about yourself, where you saw the dog and at what time and give a description of the dog. If the dog is still running free then the police or RSPCA will conduct a search for it. Often a dog on the loose will not be stray dog that does not have a home, but a loved pet that has wandered out of the garden or run off on a walk. The dog may have a collar and approach everyone it meets, happily wagging its tail. It is important to still be cautious and use common sense in this situation by avoiding putting your face near the dog’s mouth. If the dog seems friendly and approachable then carefully check to see if it is wearing a collar whilst talking calmly to it. The dog may have a tag with information about its owner such as an address or phone number. If it does then you can then attempt to contact the owner about the dog. If the dog is not wearing a collar then there are a few options available to you :

  • Contact the Police or RSPCA – Contact the police who will come and secure the dog.
  • Take the dog to the local Police station.
  • Take the dog to a local vets or RSPCA center who will scan the dog for a microchip in an attempt to trace its owner.

Keeping a Stray Dog

It is not uncommon for people to find stray dogs and then develop a bond with them. It is important to be aware that it is illegal to keep a stray dog without reporting it to the authorities, because the dog may belong to somebody else or it may be a danger to society. Perhaps while waiting over several hours with the dog for the Police or RSPCA to arrive, you might find yourself beginning to develop a bond and gain the dogs trust However perhaps you have waited with the dog for a few hours while the authorities came, and in that time you feel that you have gained the dogs trust and would like to give it a home should the dog not already have one. In this case you must express this wish to the police or RSPCA who can then keep you updated on the dog’s progress. There will be a waiting period to give any owners a chance to come forward. However if nobody comes forward to claim the dog within this time then you can start the process of adopting the dog.


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