What to Do If You Find a Lost Dog

The dog appeared out of nowhere. His people don’t seem to be around, and he may look lost and scared. Of course, he may express pure joy at having found a friendly face! It all depends on the animal, but always take care in approaching any strange dog. Move quietly and speak in a soothing tone. Do not put yourself in harm’s way if the dog growls or displays other behavior indicating aggression. Take a photo of the dog, whether you can catch him or not.

Check for Identification

If you are lucky, the dog is wearing a collar with ID tags. Call the numbers on the tag, and leave a message with your contact information if the call goes to voicemail. Sometimes, a dog will have a rabies tag on the collar even if there is no ID per se. Call the veterinarian or animal shelter listed on the rabies tag. They may identify the dog via the tag number and year.

If the dog has no ID tags, ask neighbors if they know where the dog belongs. Sometimes a loose dog has just wandered out of his yard, and his people aren’t yet aware. You can often tell by the condition of the dog whether he has been lost for a while. If he appears in good condition, odds are he got loose recently.


Just because the dog doesn’t have a collar with ID tags doesn’t mean you can’t identify him. He may have a microchip, which should provide you with his identity. Take the dog to a veterinarian or animal shelter to have him scanned for a chip. You can also call the police department, which will instruct you on how lost dogs are handled in that jurisdiction. Usually, that involves animal control.

Contact Animal Control

Contact the municipality in which you found him and ask if they have received any reports of missing dogs fitting his description. The local Animal Control Officer is generally listed on the town’s website, and they should know about dogs reported missing.

The ACO should also have a scanner available to look for a microchip. In most cases, the ACO will take the lost dog to the shelter. That is the best place for a lost dog without ID, since the owners will contact shelters if their dog is missing.

Posting Information

Check out local animal lost and found websites, along with those of nearby shelters. If you live in the area and are a member of local Facebook or other social media groups, post the lost dog with a photo and his current location. For instance, if the ACO has custody of him, provide the contact information. If the dog is still on the loose because you couldn’t get near him, post his last known location.

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