Strays are a problem in many communities, especially big cities where dogs often get lost or just plain abandoned. It is one of the reasons why animal shelters are overflowing with cats and dogs. But if you happen to spot a stray, here are some tips to follow that might make the difference between a happy or a sad outcome.
No matter how much your heart may want to help a stray, if the dog is foaming at the mouth, looks sickly or is growling and acting defensive, always think safety first. Sick dogs can pass on several illnesses or parasites including rabies, scabies, worms, and other nasty things. Yes, you may want to help, but if you do, you may also be bringing home a batch of fleas that will be very difficult to get rid of, especially if you have pets of your own.
Keep that in mind if you decide to rescue a stray dog yourself. It may be better to keep your eye on them and call the local Humane Society so they can send someone out and catch the dog. After all, you may be doing a good deed by rounding up a stray and taking it into your local animal shelter, but if you get bitten by an infected dog in the process, or bring back some type of parasite that affects your other animals or family, it's not going to be worth it.
To Catch or Not To Catch
A good saying is that, all strays have been abandoned but not all abandoned dogs are strays. In many large cities or in rural settings, there are actually packs of wild dogs that have become feral. These dogs, while still technically strays, have had little or no human contact, and they will resist, many times aggressively, any attempt at being captured. So when it comes to catching a stray, here are some things to consider.
Friend or Foe -- If a stray is naturally friendly, it may just need to be found. These types of dogs most likely came from a good home, got lost and don't want to be wandering around. If a stray dog literally comes up to you and shows no fear or aggression, catching them or luring them into your car is probably a good idea for a trip to the local animal shelter. If they growl and run away, or just growl and stand their ground, the animal may be feral, and your local Humane Society should be called.Sickly Looking -- A sickly looking pooch doesn't mean the dog has been ill cared for, it may just mean it has been wandering around for a while looking for its home. It may be malnourished, have cuts, scratches, hair falling out, covered with mud or burrs, and other physical signs that it has been away from human contact for a long time. If it is friendly, you may be able to lure it into your vehicle and get it to a shelter. Food, water and a bath may be all it needs on the road to being found again.Happy Go Lucky -- This is the easiest stray to deal with, it has just probably been separated from its owner and wants to be found A.S.A.P. If it runs up to you, jumps up, rolls on the ground at your feet and other signs of affection, chances are it wants to get back home right away, and there may even be signs posted in the neighborhood, or local paper, with name and number, a picture and who to contact.
Shelters for Strays
Every community has an animal shelter for strays, and virtually every one is funded by the community itself. If you really want to do something supportive for the stray dogs in your community, consider donating items and volunteering your time.
Shelters need food above all else, and any type of dry or moist dog food, (and cat food is welcome too for stray kitties), will be a welcome commodity. But even if donating a bag of food is beyond your budgetary means, you can get out and volunteer. Animal shelters are always looking for people to help, and it can be as simple as walking the dogs once daily. That won't take much time, it's good for both you and the dogs, and it will make you feel good too.
If you want to take it a step further, consider coming in and cleaning kennels, helping at feeding time, or even answering the phones. All of these things can be easily be done by a novice, and may make a huge positive difference in the life of a stray dog.
Mary Nielsen is a passionate dog lover, blogger and part-time music teacher. She started MySweetPuppy.net to share her ups and downs of being a pet parent to a bunch of adorable mutts. When she is not playing with them or teaching, you can find her experimenting in the kitchen.