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So you found a stray dog in DFW… but now what should you do?

Often, we get contacted by well meaning good Samaritans that say “I found a dog last month and can’t keep it anymore.”  Unfortunately, the reason many dogs end up in this situation is because good Samaritans don’t know what steps they need to take when they have found a dog.  This can create problems because prompt action gets dogs back to their homes!

The very first thing you should do if you have found a dog is take it somewhere to be scanned for a microchip.  Just because a dog does not have a collar or tags does not mean that the dog is unowned or dumped; the dog’s collar may have fallen off, been taken off for a bath, or may be missing for any number of other reasons.  If the dog is friendly, someone made it that way and the dog most likely has an owner.  If the dog is microchipped, a veterinary office or shelter can contact the owner and get the dog back to his home.

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This heeler puppy was brought to us as a stray

If the dog is not chipped, many good Samaritans then take the dog home and post to Nextdoor or Facebook.  While these actions have reunited many dogs with their owners, it’s worth noting that 69% of Americans are not on Facebook or are very rarely on Facebook and only 27% of Americans are on neighborhood groups like Nextdoor.  However, everyone knows to check the local shelter if their dog is missing.  This is why it is critically important to take a dog that you have found to your local animal control as soon as possible.  If you found the dog in one city (for instance, Fort Worth), but live in another city (for instance, Crowley) the dog needs to go to the municipal shelter for the city where it was found.  We have been contacted in the past about dogs that were found many hundreds of miles away and brought to DFW by well-meaning citizens, but unfortunately there is no realistic or legal way for ownership of the dog to be transferred because they have to pass through stray hold where they were found.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I want to keep the dog?

If you want to keep the dog you found, it still needs to pass through stray hold before ownership can transfer to you.  The owner needs to have an opportunity to reclaim their dog because that is both morally and legally the right thing to do, and if the dog does not pass through stray hold the owner can reclaim the dog from you even if years have passed since you found the dog.  You can tell the city animal control staff that you would like to adopt the dog after stray hold, and in most cases they will allow you to “preadopt” it and for many of our area municipal shelters the dog will also be spayed/neutered, microchipped, vaccinated, and heartworm tested.

What if I don’t want the owner to get the dog back?

This, unfortunately, is not something that we citizens get to decide.  Issues of animal cruelty or neglect are law enforcement issues that are handled by animal control officers and/or the police.  If you found a dog that is in poor condition there is no way to know how it got in that condition (for instance, if it has been lost for an extended period of time).  Animal control officers have legal avenues available to them to investigate issues of cruelty or neglect, and to either seize the animal or require the owner to take them for veterinary care.

What if the dog needs medical care?

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This dog came in to Fort Worth Animal Care and Control as a stray needing medical care and they reached out to us for medical rescue

The larger city shelters like Fort Worth and Dallas have veterinarians on staff that can assess and stabilize animals and rescue coordinators whose job consists of networking at risk animals out to rescues.  Even smaller city shelters have rescue contacts to whom they can reach out for animals in need of medical assistance.

Won’t animal control just euthanize a stray dog?

The DFW area consists of many different municipalities, most of which operate their own animal control facilities.  Most of those shelters are well run and very open about their “live release” rates, and the staff will tell you if they are currently euthanizing animals for space or time on shelter.  Fort Worth Animal Care and Control, as an example, generally has live release rates over 95% and rarely euthanizes for space or time on shelter.

What if I want to contact a rescue about a stray dog?

Most rescues understand that dogs have to pass through stray hold and have relationships with the area shelters that would allow them to do so.  Animal Hope usually handles stray dogs as “remote impounds,” meaning we check them in to the appropriate city shelter so that the owner can reclaim them but the dog actually stays at our facility during the stray hold period.  Make sure the rescue understands that the dog is a stray or that you found the dog and make sure they know where you found it.

Will Animal Hope take the stray dog I found?

We can take stray dogs if we have space.  We usually have space for dogs under 25 pounds, but not often for dogs over 25 pounds.