Help! I found a stray!

This article was written with the intention of helping people who come across an obviously friendly stray Labrador Retriever. Use good judgement when deciding to help a loose dog and always err on the side of caution if you’re unsure of a dog’s temperament. While the information below is written specifically for dogs, it applies equally to stray cats.

SCLRR receives hundreds of inquiries (5-6 a day!) from worried Good Samaritans who find friendly stray dogs on our city and country streets. While we hate the fact that there are so many homeless and unwanted dogs, we LOVE that there are so many kind people willing to get involved and help a friendly dog get to safety! We thank you very much for caring.

But what do you do once you have a stray dog in your care?

With dog overpopulation at an all time high, options can be hard to come by. Here are some suggestions you could consider if you are trying to help a stray dog.

Note: It is always advisable, if you have other pets, to isolate a newly found dog/cat for various reasons (illness, fleas or other parasites, possible temperament issues) until its health can be confirmed.

Plan A – Can You Locate the Owner?

The dog you found may belong to a worried family. Accidents do happen where an animal can get lost, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, children/visitors/pet sitters accidentally letting the pet out or yards not secure enough to keep the dog inside.

  1. If the dog has no collar or tags, see if your vet or local shelter can scan the dog for a microchip. Most will happily scan the dog for you at no cost.
  2. Post signs, Check the Lost Dog Postings at your local shelters and file a Found Dog notice while you’re there.
  3. Place a found ad in your local classifieds section. Most newspapers will place this ad for free and it will run three days. Check the lost dog listings in the paper. Don’t provide too many details in your found ad. Keep it simple and make callers provide you with something unique about the dog. For example: FOUND: Black Labrador Dog. Holdt Park area. Call to identify. 555-1212
  4. Place a found listing on internet lost/found websites such as:
  5. Be sure and ask the neighborhood kids if they’ve seen the dog before. Kids are famous for noticing things that adults miss!

What If You Can’t Find the Owner?

You can choose to do any of three things (detailed suggestions below):

  • Plan B – Try to find a new home for the dog yourself.
  • Plan C – Contact SCLRR to check if there is a space available. Since we receive on average 5-6 calls a day to take stray dogs, there is often a waiting list.
  • Plan D – Take the dog to an animal shelter. If an owner is looking for the dog they should be checking the shelters.

Plan B – Finding a Responsible New Home for a Stray Dog

Some Finders foster the stray dog themselves while they advertise for a new home. This will take time and energy, but the rewards of helping an orphaned dog find his way to a new permanent and responsible home can be amazingly satisfying.

What kind of home would be right? Can he be placed with other animals? kids? older people? Can he go into a beginner’s home or only a very experienced home?

Is the Dog Healthy?

Life on the streets can be hard on a dog. Have the dog checked by a veterinarian to determine if he needs any special care beyond vaccinations and rabies. Have the dog spayed or neutered BEFORE sending to a new home. PLEASE don’t let your found dog be used to make more dogs. Let the littering stop here.

How Can I Make My Foster Dog More Adoptable?

  1. Spay or Neuter is a must! There are several low-cost Spay/Neuter option available (click here)
  2. Give the dog his vaccinations.
  3. Consider basic obedience classes. A well-trained dog makes adoption into a new home much easier (and it helps YOU live with him while you are fostering!). Some trainers may reduce their fees for you. They can also guide you in the process of socializing your dog with other animals. Many cities offer training classes through their parks and recreation department.
  4. And of course, make sure he is clean, well groomed and well behaved when meeting potential homes.

Advertising: Where? How?

There are a few key ways to advertise your foster dog. First, learn everything you can about the dog so you can give potential adopters the honest information. Some of your information can come from the dog’s veterinary exam, but ; much will come from your observations as you spend time with him.

Places for Advertising

  1. PennySaver
  2. Craig’s List for your area,,,
  3. Recycler and other local newspapers
  4. Anywhere that will allow you to post a flyer

Key Information for Your Ad

  1. Dog’s age, sex, health, size, and the fact that he’s been fixed.
  2. His energy level: Mellow? Energetic?
  3. Does he get along with people, children?
  4. His known limits with other animals.
  5. Has he had any training? Is he crate trained? house trained?
  6. Post one or more great photos, preferably with him looking right at the camera.
  7. Charge an adoption fee to protect against animal research facilities that take free puppies for research.
  8. Use an adoption application form and owner release form (you can find sample forms on our website) and ask for vet references.

Potential adopters will want to know: Where did he come from? How is he with small kids? Can he live with cats? What (if anything) scares him? What is his known medical history? What are his ‘bad habits’? Be honest! What are his best qualities? What does he like to do?

How Do I Know If an Interested Home is Right?

Please be very picky about who adopts your foster dog. Someone may be perfectly nice, but this doesn’t mean they’re the best home for the dog. Ask for 2 forms of identification: a driver’s license and a major credit card. You don’t need to write down the numbers, just see the id, make sure names and addresses match up. Ask LOTS of questions. Do a home visit and meet the whole household. We strongly encourage checking with their landlord and their vet – Don’t be too shy to ask for contacts. SCLRR has found that the very BEST homes are happy to share their information. Homes that are reluctant to share info may have something to hide. Take your time with this decision…you’ve put a lot of effort in saving this dog and you want his next home to be permanent. You may want to meet with a home several times before you know if its right for this dog.

Plan C – Contact SCLRR

If you are willing to foster the orphaned dog and bring it to adoption events, then having the dog accepted into SCLRR helps to find it a good forever home, get spayed or neutered, get current on vaccinations, and get exposure at events. Once accepted into SCLRR, the dog will be listed on the website, on, on fliers, etc. We will screen potential adopters and you will have a large say in whether a potential home is right for your foster dog. Please check out Giving up your Lab for more information on how to turn a dog over to SCLRR.

Since we receive on average 5-6 calls a day to take stray dogs, there is often a waiting list. If you are unable to foster, then you will most likely be put on the waiting list for an available foster space at SCLRR.

Plan D – When You Have to Take a Stray to a Shelter

It happens to the best of us: not every found dog can stay in our homes while we look for a permanent home. Landlords may dictate, neighbors may complain, some dogs may be too much to handle or may not be able to co-exist with your pets. If you decide to surrender your orphaned dog, please look for a shelter that will offer him the best chance of being adopted responsibly by well screened, responsible adopters.

THANK YOU for helping your homeless dog friend find a safer place to rest his head. We understand how frustrating and difficult it can be to find positive solutions to a homeless dog’s plight. So much of our inspiration comes from folks like you who are so willing to go that extra mile for a dog in need!

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Here are some additional links to read with ideas