PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Pets: Rescuing Animals

So you're walking down your street, and you find a little lost dog with no collar. Or a hungry kitty shows up at your back door one night, crying for food. What do you do? How do you find the owner? If the animal doesn't have an owner, where can you take it? Should you adopt it?

What to do when you find a lost pet
1) First of all, don't automatically assume a stray dog or cat has been abandoned. There's a good chance the animal is lost and a family is desperately searching for him!

2) Get a grownup -- like your Mom, teacher, babysitter, or other adult to help you get a hold of the animal and bring it to a safe place. Take a quick look and decide what it needs right away, like food, warmth, or medical attention, then figure out how to safely give it. If you have pets of your own, keep them away.

3) Check the animal for an identification tag. If the animal has a tag with a phone number, call the owner immediately.

4) If the animal doesn't have a tag, go door-to-door with an adult in the area where the pet was found, to see if anyone recognizes him. If no one claims the animal, you could turn him over to your local animal control agency or shelter. This can be a good thing if the animal has a license, or an implanted identification chip, which will help the agency quickly locate the pet's owner. The downside of this is that if the animal doesn't have a license or a chip, his owner can't be found, and he doesn't get adopted in a certain amount of time, the shelter might have to put him to sleep to make room for more homeless animals.

Many cities have "no-kill" shelters that take care of animals even if they don't get adopted. Look for one of these if you decide to turn the animal in.

5) You might decide that you don't want to bring the animal to the shelter. If so, there are some important things you should do:

  • The law requires you to file a "found" report with your animal control agency, so information about the pet will be available in case his owners are looking for him.

  • You must also place found ads for at least two weeks in a local newspaper.

  • Post flyers with a brief description (such as "Friendly Tabby Cat") and a contact number. Don't put in details about the pet, such as a crooked tail or a spot on his neck -- that's so anyone claiming to be the owner has to prove it without seeing the animal. Put the flyers up in the area where you found the animal, as well as local grocery stores, pet stores and veterinary offices.

  • Place an ad on the Internet or in the newspaper.

  • Check the "lost" ads in the paper or on local Internet bulletin boards every day.

  • Look for posters and flyers that may be describing your "found" pet.

  • Submit a listing to Hugs for Homeless Animals' Worldwide Lost and Found Pets at http://www.h4ha.org/lostfound
Remember: A lost and frightened animal is depending on you. Treat this creature the way you would want someone to treat your lost pet.

Tips for preventing your own pet from getting lost
Sometimes, no matter how much we love or care for our pets, they get loose and even lost. Here are some tips to keep your furry friend safe and sound:

  • Keep cats indoors, especially at night and during summer months when they're more likely to roam
  • Make sure your yard is enclosed by a sturdy fence
  • Keep gates and doors closed
  • Teach your animals to come when you call them
  • Keep your dog on a leash in public areas

What should you do if your pet does get lost?

  • With an adult, search the area where you last saw your pet
  • Do a door-to-door to see if anyone in the area has seen her, and bring along a picture for easy identification
  • Check your local shelter, animal control agency, or rescue to see if your pet has been turned in
  • Post flyers
  • Place a "lost" ad in the newspaper or on the Internet
  • Check the "found" ads every day

What to do if you find a wild animal
So what should you do if you come across a lost or injured wild animal, like a bird, deer, possum, or squirrel? Your first instinct may be to pick the creature up and bring it home-but DON'T. Remember, these animals are wild -- they might be dangerous. Even if it looks like a harmless baby, it could still have a serious disease such as rabies.

Leave the animal where you found it and contact an adult immediately. Call the animal control agency in your community and report the animal and its location. These agencies have divisions that specialize in the treatment of lost or injured wild animals.

For more information on what to do if you find a lost baby or injured wild animal, check out The Humane Society of the United States Web site:

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