RSPCA top tips: How to help a stray dog

Did you know your local authority must provide a dog warden service?

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Would you know what to do if you found a stray dog in your neighbourhood?

Many people think to call the RSPCA for help but the charity, whose focus is on rescuing animals who are sick, injured or being badly treated, is urging people to contact their local dog warden. 

RSPCA chief inspectorate officer Dermot Murphy said: “We prioritise rescuing neglected and abused animals and we simply don’t have the resources to come out to help with healthy stray dogs.

“As we enter our busiest season, we’re urging the public not to call us about healthy stray dogs as it could block our phone lines and prevent an emergency call from getting through. 

“Local authorities must provide a dog warden service and it’s paid for by your taxes so we’d urge you to contact them should you find a loose dog in your area.”

Here are our top tips on how to help a stray dog:

  1. Can you catch the dog safely? If the dog appears calm and isn’t displaying any aggressive or nervous behaviour then you may be able to catch him using some treats and a collar or lead.

  • If he is showing his teeth, has his ears flat, his tail between his legs and is snarling then don’t approach him but instead call the dog warden

  • Never put yourself at risk to reach a stray dog; if the dog is on a busy highway then contact the police or Highways Agency, and if they’re stuck somewhere dangerous then contact your local fire and rescue service for help.

  1. Is the dog wearing a collar? If the dog is wearing a collar then he may have an ID tag which means you can contact his owner and reunite them  quickly.

  2. Take the dog to a local vet - A local vet will be able to scan the dog for a microchip and hopefully return them to their owner quickly. 

  3. Put up posters - You could create a found poster to put up in the local area and you can register the dog as ‘found’ on Animal Search UK

  4. Contact the dog warden - Report the dog to your local authority dog warden. You can find out who to contact on the Government website or here is a list of contact details for local dog wardens.

  • If you decide to take the dog home with you while you wait for the dog warden then remember they are likely to be scared and distressed. Keep a close eye on their body language and behaviour to keep them happy and your family safe.

  • By law, you can’t keep a stray dog. If you want to rehome them then you can leave your details with the dog warden. 

If you believe a dog is sick, injured, or in imminent danger, please contact the RSPCA’s emergency line on 0300 1234 999 (phone lines open 8am-8pm daily)

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