So you've seen a dog wandering your neighborhood and you figure he must belong to someone or at least he should be off the streets. What do you do? Well, here are a few tips:

  • Ensure your own safety first. If the dog seems scared or agitated, do not approach him or try to grab him - you'll only scare him more and risk getting bitten. Immediately, call your local police and/or your local shelter and give them a description of the dog, his location and the time you saw him. If you don't know how to contact your local shelter, call the police's non-emergency number and they will contact animal control.
  • If the animal seems friendly, try to coax him to come to you. If you're not alone, try to have someone get a leash. A regular leash can be fashioned into a slip lead that can be lassoed around the dog's neck to safely catch him. If a leash or a similar item is not handy, try to coax him into your garage. If you're in a park and there's no way to confine the dog, try to keep him with you. If he runs off, tell police and park officials when and where you encountered the dog and the direction he went.
  • Once you have the dog safely leashed or confined, check to see if he is wearing a collar and tags. If he has a dog license, the town he was licensed in will have information on the owner. If he has a nametag and a phone number, call that number and leave a message. Some dogs who have been microchipped may have another tag with a phone number and serial number. Most shelters can scan the dog to get the serial number, but if the dog has this type of tag, you can call the number and give them the serial number and they will contact the owner for you.
  • If you find a dog with a tag that can't easily be read, secure the dog inside the house. Remove the tag from the collar. Place it on a flat surface and using a pencil and a piece of white paper, "color" in the tag area with the pencil. Press firmly, using long strokes. Some information may be obtained using this method.
  • If you have no way of contacting the owner, you should take him to the animal shelter in the town HE WAS FOUND, not the town you live in. If you take the dog to a town other than the one he was found in (which is likely to be the town in which he got loose), his owner may not think to look there.
  • You can also post fliers with a brief description of the dog and note your contact information and/or the information for the shelter he was taken to.
  • If you decide to keep the dog in your home instead of taking him to a shelter, be aware that every state has a holding period to give the owner a chance to find their dog. For example, in New Jersey, a shelter must hold a dog for seven days and then the dog would become the property of the shelter. If you take the dog into your home, you must make every reasonable effort to locate the owner. A good rule of thumb is to make at least two or three attempts to find the previous owner (make posters, place newspaper ads and radio announcements, notify local police departments, and humane organizations). If you have made those efforts and the holding time has passed, the dog would become yours to adopt as your pet or to adopt to someone else (please contact your local animal control for specific laws and regulations in your town and state).

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