Find a Stray?

lost dog

Lost Dog! What to do?

This page was written for people who come across an obviously friendly lost dog. Use your best judgment when deciding to approach a loose dog and always err on the side of caution. If you aren’t sure, call Animal Control and take photos so you can post them online where his owner might spot them. Thank you for caring!  NEED HELP? Our Good Samaritan Support Program: LINK

Plan A – Can You Locate the Owner?


signScars, injuries or a thin, dirty appearance do not mean that a dog’s been abused. He may have been stolen from a loving home or lost for some time and could belong to a someone who’s sick with worry.

1. No collar or tags? Ask your veterinarian or local shelter to scan him for a microchip. 

2. Post flyers everywhere, including a large sign on your lawn and taped to the back of your car.

3. Go online and post a notice on Craigslist, Facebook ‘Lost and Found’ pages, and your neighborhood message board.

4. Check lost dog postings all of your local shelters. Since dogs wander, he may not be from the immediate area, so don’t forget to file a Found Dog report in as many animal shelters as you’re able to contact.

5. Remember to ask the neighborhood kids if they’ve seen this dog before. Kids are famous for noticing things that adults miss!

What if I can’t find the owners?

Plan B – Try to find a new permanent home or foster home for the dog yourself.
Plan C – Take the dog to your local animal shelter.

Plan B – Finding a new home for your stray dog

Your Legal Obligations: Your shelter will tell you how long you have to wait to for a dog’s original home to find him after you file found dog report. In many places, it’s a minimum of two weeks. If you still can’t find the owners after trying everything, you can legally keep the dog as yours. Or if that’s not possible…

Most rescue groups run full. To share the burden of so many dogs in need, some Good Samaritans foster themselves or ask friends and family to help while they network for a new home. 

NEED HELP? Our Good Samaritan Support Program: LINK

See our Toolkit for housing new dogs.

How-to keep him safe & secure

To keep him from getting lost again, you’ll need to think about a secure set-up. Dog runs, cable trolleys or dog crates can keep him safely confined when you aren’t near to supervise. Craigslist Pet’s Section usually has ads for used dog crates for cheap. We recommend reinforcing wire crates with zip ties so your foster dog doesn’t nose his way out.

HOW TO MANAGE a new dog in your home: TOOLKIT

What kind of home is right? Good question!

Can he be placed with other animals? Is he high energy or low key? Can he go into a beginner’s home or only a very experienced home? Does he have any special behavior or medical needs?

IMPORTANT: Animal-directed aggression can be managed with the help of a trainer, but sketchy behavior towards people is a red flag and requires a very specific kind of professional help. Please don’t adopt out a dog with extreme behavior problems.

Is he healthy?

Life on the streets can be hard on a dog. Have your foundling checked by a veterinarian to determine if she needs any special care beyond vaccinations.

IMPORTANT: You’ll want to have the dog spayed or neutered BEFORE sending to a new home. Intact dogs may attract homes that want to exploit them for breeding purposes.

How can I make my foster more adoptable?

1. Spay or Neuter is a must! Read about free and low-cost resources in the SF bay area. Don’t live here? Check Spay USA for clinics near you.
2. Give the dog his shots. Resources in the SF bay area listed here.
3. Consider basic obedience classes. A well-trained dog makes adoption into a new home much easier and it helps YOU live with her 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.
4. We also recommend microchipping your foster dog.
5. And of course, make sure she is clean, well groomed and well behaved when meeting potential homes.

Advertising: Where? How?

There are a few key ways to advertise your pit bull. First, learn everything you can about the dog so you can help potential adopters know if he’s a good match for their lifestyle. Some of your info can come from the dog’s evaluation; much will come from observing as you spend time with him

Important Information for Your Ad

1. Dog’s approximate age, sex, health, and the fact that he’s been neutered.
2. Has he been seen by someone who works with dogs?
3. His energy level: Mellow? Energetic? Little of both?
4. His behavior with other animals.
5. Has he had any training? Is he crate trained? House trained?
6. Post one or more great photos and follow up with updates. Video is especially popular

HOT TIPS – for promoting your dog. Link HERE

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? Any bad habits? Be honest! What are his best qualities? What does he like to do? How to Interview, Do a Home Visit, and a sample Adoption Contract: Screening Homes

How do I know if an interested home is right for my foster dog?

It’s okay to be selective about who adopts your foundling. Ask good questions. Motivated homes welcome get-to-know-you discussions. We strongly encourage helping the home review their rental agreement to learn if it has any restrictions that could cause problems for the dog at a later date. It’s fine for both of you to sleep on the decision, to meet more than once and to follow up with any nagging doubts. You’ve put a lot of effort into saving your dog and you want his next home to be permanent. 

Right: It’s hard to recognize this dog as the same face from the sad photo above, but a Good Samaritan’s help made all the difference in her survival. Story here on BR’s Barn Dog Blog.

How long will it take to find a good home?

Because you’re waiting for the RIGHT home rather than the first one that responds, attracting a good match can take a few weeks or more, or less! The advice: “Be Patient” definitely applies to dog rescue work.

Plan C – When you have to take a dog 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 our pets.

If you decide to surrender your homeless dog, please look for a shelter that will offer her the best chance of being evaluated fairly and adopted responsibly. Please note that there is no such thing as a ‘no kill’ shelter for pit bull type dogs. Local SPCAs and Humane Societies typically commit to dogs for the longterm, but most accept only a very limited number of pit bull type dogs each year. If you need to surrender to an animal control facility, your dog will only be accepted by the facility in the city where your dog was found. City run shelters are required by law to accept all strays found within city limits, regardless of the available space. When they’re extremely full, chances of your dog being euthanized sooner are much greater. Ask the shelter if they’re full before surrendering. They may tell you it would be better to return with the animal after the weekend when adoptions may open a few kennels.

How can I help a surrendered dog get adopted?

Even if you have to surrender, you can get the word out about him by advertising him as needing an emergency foster or home. Take a good photo of her before being surrendered and learn as much as you can about her so you can advertise her and describe her to others, including local rescue groups. Work fast! You may wish to request that the shelter contact you on the last day before the dog is put to sleep. Some will do this, some will not.

THANK YOU for helping your dog friend find a safer place to rest her 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 pit bull sweetheart in need!

Keep'Em Home. Because every dog owner needs a little support at times.
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