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Strayed or lost ... what to do? When you find an animal
wandering, what steps should you take to reunite them with their
owner and keep yourself safe? "One should be careful when
approaching a stray animal," says Dr. M.A. Crist, a clinical
assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
"If the animal is injured or scared it may inflict bite wounds
or scratches to the person approaching or trying to handle the
stray animal," explains Crist. "Because the animal has an unknown
vaccination history, we do not know if this animal has been
vaccinated for rabies therefore it is recommended that experienced
personnel handle stray animals."
"Some rescue groups, animal shelters, and city animal control
have knowledgeable personnel who are experienced in rescuing stray
animals," notes Dr. Crist. "They can provide veterinary care for
the sick or injured and also check if the pet is microchipped or
has any other form of identification that may reconnect it with the
Teach your children or young adults not to walk up to any animal
that does not have an owner attached to it. Even if there is an
owner present, they should ask if they can approach the pet because
it may not be friendly. If they are allowed to approach the pet,
sometimes it is best to come from the side of the pet and try to
avoid a frontal approach.
Crist also suggests that one should be mindful of bringing a
stray animal into a confined area such as your car. The stray may
become frightened and become a fear biter that causes harm to the
person. She recommends that if one does obtain a stray and needs to
transport the animal, it is best to place it into a pet carrier for
"Bringing a stray animal into your own home may be concerning,"
notes Crist. "The pet has an unknown vaccine history. Again, the
animal may become fearful and cause harm to people or other pets in
the household. The stray pet should be kept away from your personal
animals because one does not know if this animal may be carrying
other diseases and expose your pets to these diseases."
If you decide you want to keep a stray animal, Crist recommends
having the animal examined by a veterinarian who can check for a
microchip or other form of identification to determine an owner.
The veterinarian can advise on what the stray would need to have
the best medical treatment and how to care for the pet. "Good
enclosures help to keep pets from escaping and getting lost,"
explains Crist. But, if they escape, identifying mechanisms are
"I would strongly encourage pet owners to microchip or
permanently identify their pet. It is recommended, if a microchip
is used, to supply an additional contact name of a person not in
your state. We learned this when Hurricane Katrina came to
Louisiana and people were displaced. Lots of pets had contact names
of people identified, but these people were displaced as well. The
animal with a microchip that had an out-of-state contact gave us a
person who helped to identify the pet owner."
Crist notes that having pets spayed or neutered will certainly
help with population control of unwanted animals. It will also help
control the unwanted pregnancies of the animals that might escape
and become lost.
The way to help a stray ... what to do? Stay safe with safety
first, seek knowledgeable and equipped personnel, and try to
identify the pet's owner.
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