I often see stray dogs and would love to be able to help them. What do I need to know before helping a stray?
Hoping to help strays in The Heights
Dear Hoping to Help,
Stray dogs are a growing problem in the United States, and a majority of these strays are forced to wander the dangerous streets or begin a new life in an animal shelter. Learning how to properly bring a stray dog to safety is vital for your safety, as well as the stray’s safety. Our friends at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Science have some advice on how to help.
When trying to care for a stray, safety is always first. It is easy to become swept up in emotions when you see a stray dog hurt or in a dangerous situation—like running in traffic. Even if you have good intentions, it is important to consider all options before taking action to keep the situation from becoming even more hazardous.
There are numerous ways to encounter a stray dog, but the most common scenarios are on foot or in vehicular traffic. Remaining calm is the key to keeping a clear mind and deciding the best option for the stray’s safety. For instance, if you are driving and encounter a stray in traffic, try to pull over on the side of the road where it is safe. If you are unable to pull over or are a passenger of the car, take note of the animal, its health condition, and the exact location it was seen. The driver of the car can either turn back around to help the dog or report the situation to animal control. Whether you are on foot or in the car, analyzing the condition of the animal is important for your safety. The dog may be injured, sick, malnourished, or even rabid. If the stray dog appears to be defensive and could bite or attack, do not approach the dog. Instead, take note of its location and give as much detail as possible to animal control.
A stray dog may also find its way into your yard, which can be potentially hazardous for your outside pets. “As with any pet that you do not know well, you must approach the stray carefully,” said Dr. James Barr, clinical assistant professor at A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “If the stray is friendly, make sure that they do not have any substantial contact with your pets. The stray animal needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian for infectious disease and to ensure they are healthy. Strays are not likely vaccinated so they should be kept separate from other pets until they get an all clear from a veterinarian.” Be sure to check for an identification (via tag on collar). The vet can also check for a microchip, which can give contact information for the dog’s owners.
While it can be heartbreaking to see a stray dog in a dangerous situation, it is important to thoroughly evaluate your options before letting your emotions get the best of you. Remember to remain calm and choose the safest option for both you and the stray dog, and never approach a dog that poses as a threat. It is best to save the number of your local animal control service in case you ever need to report a stray dog.
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