Dogs get lost for all sorts of reasons, often through no fault of their owners. Even the most obedient and well-kept dogs can wander off occasionally, become lost, or even be stolen and abandoned, all of which can cause great distress to the owner.
What do I do?
Look for a collar and tag – sometimes a number will be printed onto the collar or may be on the tag. If so, try ringing the owner directly.
Are the owners nearby? Most dogs will still be near their owners. They may just have followed an exciting scent and got a bit lost. Ask around where you are; knock on a few doors if you feel safe to do so and see if anyone recognises him.
You may wish to take the dog to your local vets and get him checked for a microchip or tattoo, which will have the owner’s details registered.
If you have no success, you need to contact the local authority dog warden straight away and arrange for him/her to collect the dog.
Numbers for your local dog warden will be available on the local government website.
Our local dog wardens are:
For dogs found in Biddulph: 01782 233055
For dogs found in Cheshire: 01270 529599
If it is outside normal hours for the dog warden, the council will usually give you the details of a holding kennel where the dog can be taken to.
What if the dog is injured?
If the dog is injured and it is safe to do so, get him to the nearest vet. Injured dogs can react defensively, so never put yourself at risk. Always call the vet first if you can, so they know to expect you. If it is out of hours, Vets Now Emergency Vets are available all night and at weekends / on Bank Holidays. Their numbers are:
Stoke branch: 01782 363538
Macclesfield branch: 01625 348284
If you accidentally hit a dog with your car, you are required by law to report it to the police.
Failure to stop at the scene of an accident, or to notify the authorities within 24 hours, is a prosecutable offence.
What else can I do?
Facebook – put pictures of the dog on Facebook and mark them as “found – please share”.
Post them onto the Facebook pages of local vets and dog groups. Many dogs have been reunited with their owners in this way.
Posters – put posters up to see if anyone has lost the dog. Also look for posters / on public notice boards to see if anyone is searching for him.
Online - consider registering the dog with a national lost dog database, such as DogLost (0844 800 3220) www.doglost.co.uk or www.animalsearchuk.co.uk or
What if I would like to adopt the dog?
If you find a stray dog, hand him over to the dog warden and explain that you would be keen to adopt the dog after the seven day period. The dog warden can then pass on your details to the kennels. If they feel you are suitable you will be expected to go through their normal adoption criteria for transfer of ownership (if the owner is not found).
Remember to request details from the dog warden of where the dog will be held and liaise with the kennel manager. Maintaining regular contact with the kennels will enable you to check on the dog’s progress and reassure the kennels of your commitment.
If you keep the dog in your home, you must inform the dog warden. You are then obliged by law to keep the dog for a period of 28 days. After this period you can keep the dog until such time that a person with proof of ownership claims him - in other words, legal ownership is not transferred to you and the original owner may demand the dog back at any time, no matter how long you have kept him or how much money you have spent (including any vet's fees).
Why is it not advisable to look after the dog in my own home?
Quite often people take in stray dogs without informing the appropriate authorities such as the dog warden. It is a legal requirement for you to do this and if you don't, you could be accused of theft - the intention to permanently deprive the rightful owner of their property (Theft Act 1968). The description of the dog you leave with the local authority may not match up to that of the owner looking for their dog, possibly leading to misunderstandings and preventing a bereft owner from getting their much loved pet back.
The dog may have a microchip, which will not be scanned unless he goes into the local authority kennel or a veterinary practice.
One of the major disadvantages of keeping the dog yourself is that it is very easy to become emotionally attached to him. Handing the dog back to the owner can be very traumatic. If the owner reclaims the dog through the dog warden, this will enable the dog warden to discuss the responsibilities of dog ownership, give advice on identification and follow up the case if necessary.
The loss of a dog often causes great distress on the part of the owner. In our experience, handing the dog over to the dog warden will give the owner the greatest chances of being reunited with their much loved companion.