This article comes to us from our Cruelty Investigator, Sharron Carmichael.

What’s the protocol when you find a stray or lost pet? What should you do when your own pet is missing? Keep the following in mind should you find yourself in either situation.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

If you come across a seemingly stray pet, always assume — no matter how the dog or cat behaves or what it looks like — that he is owned and loved by someone who wants the animal back. This is the basis for dogs and cats with skittish or “xenophobic” temperaments that run from strangers; especially when lost, they’re often mistaken for having been “abused animals.” Actually, many of these animals are pampered pets that have exhibited fearful behavior from an early age. They are genetically predisposed to being skittish and their behavior has nothing to do with how they were treated.

Lost Pet

Also, an animal’s appearance can be deceptive when determining how long the animal was treated before you found it. A loose, lost dog or cat will lose weight, become dehydrated, obtain injuries, become matted, and pick up ticks, fleas, and burs in their fur. So for the sake of a potential happy reunion, never assume that the animal you found was dumped, abandoned, or homeless until you have concrete evidence or until all efforts to find an owner/guardian have failed.

Click here to learn about who to contact if you find a lost pet.

Sec. 4-23. – Harboring of stray dogs and cats

Far too often good Samaritans fail to follow Broward County Ordinance 4-23, choosing to keep the animal or give it to a small rescue group that also fails to comply with the ordinance. Daily, I hear stories from people whose animal escaped, and by some miracle, they find them “up for adoption” in a rescue group. Many of these animals have rabies tags and microchips, but no attempt was ever made to contact the owner, automatically assuming the owner was not worthy. Several times I was told that the rescue groups that participate in this type of behavior have requested exorbitant amounts of money to return the animal to the rightful, legal owner.

The basic rule when finding a lost animal is to do what you want someone to do if they found your lost pet.

The Official Sec. 4-23. Language

It shall be a violation of this section for any person to harbor any stray animal unless he or she has notified the Division within twenty-four (24) hours of becoming aware of the presence of the stray animal. Upon receiving such notification, the Division may take such animal and place it in the animal shelter. Refusal to surrender any such stray animal upon the request of the Division shall be deemed an additional violation of this section.

Animal rescue organizations, veterinarians, or law enforcement agencies that receive stray dogs and cats shall notify the Division within twenty-four (24) hours of the possession of any stray dogs or cats to enable the Division to distribute the information to the public.

The HSBC’s Role

The Humane Society of Broward County, as a rule, does not accept stray pets, as we have found that having one centralized location (Broward County Animal Care & Adoption Center) for residents to attempt to locate their lost pets better serves the community and the animals.

We encourage people to look at our shelter if they have lost a pet, as people do sometimes untruthfully claim a pet as theirs — or if BCAC&A is closed we may accept a pet. Also, check other local shelters. Each shelter is independent and not affiliated, and they do not know what pets other shelters are housing. Your pet could have been picked up and dropped off at a shelter that is outside of the immediate area.

If you have lost a pet, act quickly; don’t expect your pet to come home on its own. Make signs, post them where you can, alert neighbors and your mail carrier. There are apps such as “Finding Rover” and “NextDoor” where you can post both lost and found pet information. There are also pages on Facebook devoted to lost pets, so make sure to look there as well. If you think your pet has been stolen, file a police report.

Click here to learn about who to contact if your pet goes missing.

Make sure your pet is ALWAYS wearing a collar with up-to-date rabies tag and an ID tag, and make sure your pet is microchipped. It is your responsibility to make sure the microchip is registered, especially if you move.

Be diligent and hopefully you will never have to look for a lost pet.


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