Please understand we don’t own a facility that houses animals. We are a non-profit rescue organization. Unlike animal control who’s hired by the city or county, we do not drive around picking up animals. Each and every dog or cat needs to have a plan and a place to go before we rescue it.
The City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services estimates that anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 feral and stray dogs and cats roam the streets of Los Angeles at any time. Hope For Paws suggests you use the following steps when finding a stray:
Find the Owner
The first thing to do when you find a stray animal is to take the animal to your local shelter. Legally, you must take the animal to the shelter for the minimum holding period, or make an attempt to find the owner with flyers, ads, etc. for ten days. The best way for an owner to locate their missing pet is through the shelter system. Even if a dog or cat does not have a collar or appears filthy, someone still could be looking for them. Collars can come off, and many dogs are excellent escape artists and can make their way out of what seems the most secure yard. Moreover, with the new micro-chipping technology, a dog or cat could very well have a microchip that would be scanned immediately at a Veterinarian's office (they will do it for free) or Public Animal Shelter.
If you decide you still want to rescue and re-home the animal, you can place “First Rights” on the animal. Every stray turned into a shelter has to be held for five working days to give the owner a chance to reclaim it. After the five-day period, the animal becomes available for adoption. Through the First Rights program, if you show up between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on the first day the animal is available for adoption, you have the right to adopt him/her.
If you decide against taking the animal to a public shelter, you must put up flyers in the area where you found the dog or cat for at least ten days before you can legally claim ownership of the animal and attempt to re-home him/her. You can also post on Next Door and Facebook as well.
When placing an ad, be careful to give simple descriptions that do not describe too much about the animal, so that you can determine whether or not any callers really do own the dog or cat in question. For example, a good ad would be: “Found small dog, Vermont and Slauson. Please call xxx-xxx-xxxx”. When someone answers your ad, make sure they can give you an accurate description of the animal. You can ask the caller to produce a photo of the animal, a veterinary reference, or proof of ownership. Ask the owner for the animal’s name and call it out to see if the animal reacts.
Also be sure to look on Facebook, Craigslist, and flyers posted in your neighborhood to see if anyone is looking for the animal. Your local animal shelter also keeps logs of lost dog and cat calls and you can view these to see if any animals match your animal’s description.
The Animal has No Owner – What’s Next?
Flyers and ads need to be posted immediately. If no one contacts you within a week, take the animal to your local shelter. Upon intake at the shelter be sure to get the animal ID number and the date the animal will be available, should the owner not claim him/her.
The shelters are open 24 hours a day to take animals in, even though they are open to the public during regular business hours only. Once the animal becomes available, and no owner has claimed the animal, you can then reach out to rescue groups and network him/her on social media sites to try and find the animal a home.
Finding a Home For the Animal
The first thing to consider before re-homing the animal is what his/her current needs are. The more you know about the animal, the better chance you will have at finding them a forever home. For example: Does he/she need training? Does he/she need medical care? Have they been spayed/neutered/vaccinated? Is it a young dog or a senior dog? Is he/she good with other dogs, cats and children? Is the animal house broken?
Please be very cautious of where you post the dog for adoption. Craigslist is not advisable. Unfortunately many dogs and cats have ended up in horrendous situations from posting on Craigslist. Most rescue organizations will courtesy post for you on their websites. Facebook, Nextdoor, word of mouth, and attending adoption events are great ways to find the animal a loving home. Keep in mind, it might take several months to find the right home and you must be willing to foster or find a foster in the interim.
Don’t give up, you are a hero for helping them.