The Right Thing to Do When You Find A Stray Sheltie

I Found A Pet ~ Now What?   by Karen Peck

as submitted to Northern Virginia Today reprinted with author permission

This article was originally printed for pets in general. As a breed specific web site, I am focused on the stray sheltie. 

Social media abounds with pictures and posts of lost and found pets. In an earlier column, I discussed how to prevent the loss of your pet. However, what should you do if you find a pet? 

First, never assume a skittish or ragged looking animal was abused, neglected or abandoned and therefore must not be returned. It does not take much for well cared for pet to lose condition within a few days of being lost.

A well groomed pet can become matted within a short time. My old Great Pyrenees could go from beautifully groomed to grungy and beginning to mat within a couple days. Within days of not eating well, a pet can lose weight. Even friendly pets can become scared when alone.

Second, just because you do not see “lost” signs posted, does not mean no one is looking. What if the pet was stolen or wandered further than the owner assumed he would range? A few years back, a lost Woodbridge dog was recovered several counties away.

Third if you find a pet and do not make serious attempts to find an owner, this could be considered theft.

Action Steps After You Have Found A Stray Sheltie

If you take custody of a lost pet, you must take action. 

• Alert animal control and veterinarians not only in the area the pet was found but surrounding areas. In Delaware, you must notify Animal Control within 48 hrs.

• Collars can come off. Always check for back up identification such as a microchip or tattoo. Most vet clinics and animal control officers are able to scan for a chip. 

• If you are travelling and find a pet, do not take him home! Take him to local animal control or at least notify all animal control facilities and vets in the region and make sure you are willing to get the animal back where you found him if an owner is located.

• Alert social media and all newspapers in the region. 

• When you post about finding the pet, leave some information off and make sure it is something an owner should know.

Keep up your attempts to find an owner. You need to know the laws in your area regarding found pets. Owners may search for months and years for a lost pet. Always be willing to return the pet when an owner is found. Ask yourself “How would I feel if this were my animal?”

If you are unable to keep the animal while searching for the owner, surrender it to animal control. If you surrender the animal to a group that fails to hold and look for an owner and instead puts the animal up for adoption, both you and the rescue could be in trouble.

Not all rescue groups will try to find the owner. Animal control in many areas are required to hold for a specific time before placing up for adoption, releasing to a private group or even putting down. This is why knowing local laws are important.

Please remember: this is not your pet to do with as you please. This animal you found may be the beloved pet of a caring person. 

Please visit and check your local city/town/county laws for more information on your responsibility if you pick up a lost animal.

It's so important to remember no matter how attached you may become to a stray sheltie, someone else with a broken heart is looking for him. Keep that always in mind.

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