When a pet escapes or wanders too far from home, it can be a very stressful and upsetting time for the animal and their owner. Each year we get hundreds of stray animals back to where they belong.
What to do if you find a stray dog
If you come across a dog and there is no sign of their owner, it can be difficult to know what to do.
Be careful when approaching unknown dogs. Animals can be unpredictable, especially if they are scared or injured.
Uninjured stray dogs
If the dog is friendly, you can check if they’re wearing a name tag and get in touch with the owner. Alternatively, if you are able to get them to a local vet, they can scan for a microchip free of charge. Local rescue centres may also have the facilities to do this. Microchipping is a legal requirement for dogs so this is often the fastest way to reunite dogs with their owners.
If this is not an option, you must report the dog to your local council dog warden. Out with normal working hours, you should contact your local police station by calling 101. If you do not either return the dog directly to their owner or report the stray to the authorities, you could be committing an offense.
Often, searching for a post or sharing a photo of the dog in local social media groups or on lost and found pet sites to help get them home quickly.
Injured stray dogs
If you come across a stray dog with obvious injuries, and they have been caught or are otherwise unable to run off, please contact our emergency helpline on 03000 999 999. Please stay with the dog until one of our animal rescue officers arrive.
What to do if you find a stray cat
Some cats are mistaken for strays when they actually have a loving family. Unlike dogs, cats have the right to roam. For some cats, it is normal to wander and spend long periods of time away from home, especially if they are being fed elsewhere. Unneutered males may also wander for quite some distance on the lookout for a mate.
We strongly discourage people from feeding or taking in cats that do not belong to them as this can stop them returning to their owners. Even though well-meaning people do this with good intentions, you could inadvertently be giving the cat food that they’re allergic to or overfeeding them.
How can you tell if a cat is a stray?
It’s important to be absolutely certain that a cat is a stray before doing anything else. Well-meaning people take in cats they believe to be strays when they actually have a loving family.
If the cat appears to be healthy and well-groomed, you could check for posts or share a photo of the cat in local social media groups to ask if anyone recognises them. If the cat is friendly and lets you approach them, check if they’re wearing a collar with a name tag and get in touch with the owner. If they don’t have a name tag, you could try putting a paper collar on them with your phone number and asking the owner to contact you. Use a small piece of tape to secure it and make sure it’s not tight or sticking to the cat’s fur.
If the cat does not look well cared for, this could mean that they’re a stray. However, bear in mind it’s easy to mistake common matters such as old age, a long-haired coat, ongoing health conditions or historic injuries for neglect but the cat could have a loving family waiting for them at home.
Uninjured stray cats
If you’re sure the cat is a stray, contact your local rescue centre or Cats Protection on 03000 12 12 12 for assistance.
If the cat is friendly and you have a cat carrier, you could try and take them to a local vet to check for a microchip. However, handling or trying to catch a cat you’re unfamiliar with can be stressful and can cause injury to yourself or the cat. If the vet has no concerns about the cat’s health, they may ask you to return the cat to the area you found them.
Microchipping is not a legal requirement for cats but we strongly recommend that cat owners microchip their pets. This helps get missing cats back to their families quickly.
Injured stray cats
If you come across a stray cat with obvious injuries, please contact our emergency helpline on 03000 999 999. Please stay with the cat until one of our animal rescue officers arrive. If the cat is still mobile, it’s helpful if they can be contained in a cat carrier, a shed/garage or in your house if possible.
What to do if you find any other stray pet
All other types of stray pets should be reported to us on 03000 999 999.
If it is safe to do so, please contain the animal to prevent them wandering off or becoming injured. You could use an animal carrier if you have one, or try to keep them in a shed/garage or in your house.
Looking for posts or sharing a photo in local social media groups or on lost and found pet sites can help you find their owner.