What to do if you find a stray animal
If you find a cat, dog or puppy…
Try to catch it and keep it safe while you look for the owner. For dogs, you can walk it around the neighborhood to see if anyone is looking for it.
Call the authorities. Never put yourself in harm’s way by attempting to capture an animal that is behaving aggressively. If you cannot safely approach the animal or if it runs away, call 904-630-CITY. Be sure to give the dispatcher the exact street address where the animal was last seen.
Check for collar with ID tag. May list the owner’s contact info.
Check for microchip. Most veterinarians can scan for microchips, as well as your local shelters. They are happy to help.
If you are unable to make contact with the owner, start your advertising campaign.
Place flyers in the area where you found the animal. Place them everywhere - on telephone poles, residents’ mailboxes, veterinarian offices, coffee shops.
See this flyer generator to make it easy.
Post on Finding Rover, a lost and found pet website.
Post on your social media and ask your friends to share.
Post on Craigslist.
Post on NextDoor for the neighborhood where you found the animal.
If the owner is not found after a few weeks, you may need to re-home the pet. See our Resources section on the many ways to help you.
If you find kittens…
Don’t automatically move them or take them to the shelter! If you find young kittens without their mom, it does not automatically mean they have been abandoned. The mother could be out looking for food for finding a more suitable place. She may be in the process of moving her kittens to another location.
Keeping mom and her kittens together gives the kittens their best chance at survival.
Below is a handy graphic from Alley Cats Rescue to help you determine what to do.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does Animal Care & Protective Services (ACPS) hold an stray for the owner to claim it?
Adult dogs – 6 days. Unidentified adult cats – 2 days. Identified adult cats – 6 days. Puppies and kittens under six months – no hold.
Why shouldn’t I just take the animal to the shelter?
We ALWAYS recommend trying to find the owner before bringing a pet to the shelter. Too often someone picks up a stray pet and brings it to a shelter while an owner is frantically searching for it a block away. Very often shelters get calls from residents requesting stray pickup only for the request to be cancelled right after because they found the owner. The best chance of the pet getting back to its owner is getting the word out in area where it was found, so give the owner a chance. Less than 10% of animals that enter shelters are reclaimed by their owners.
Can I bring a stray to ACPS outside of intake hours to get it scanned for a microchip?
Yes! ACPS is always happy to scan for microchips! Veterinarians and other shelters are always happy to perform this service as well. Since ACPS does not allow stray dogs in the adoption lobby, you can come in and let ACPS staff know and they will bring the scanner out to your vehicle. See their website for hours of operation.
I have been trying to find the owner for several days. Can you give me more advice?
Yes! ACPS is always happy to help the public. Send ACPS an email at email@example.com. Please be patient as they sometimes have high volume of emails to answer.