Pop quiz. In which of these scenarios should you report a stray dog?
A. You are on your way to work and you see a stray dog bolt across a busy intersection.
B. You have seen a dog that looks well-groomed and well-fed roaming your neighborhood.
C. You see a dog off-leash in an urban park, but do not see an owner.
D. You see a dog that is skinny, its fur is matted and it is anxiously darting between parked cars in a supermarket parking lot.
E. All of the above.
Answer: E. All of the above.
Whether that dog has just escaped from its yard, snuck out the front door yesterday, or was abandoned weeks ago, all of these dogs are in danger. It does not matter if it has been loose for hours, days or weeks, stray dogs suffer. Without a human caretaker, they are vulnerable to hunger, being hit by cars, taunted or hurt by cruel people, and being attacked by wild animals. Anxious dogs can also pose a danger to other pets and children as they are more likely to bite.
To report a stray dog, call your local Animal Control Services. Take note of where you last saw it, which direction it was going and of course a description. Animal Services, in my experience, will respond very quickly. The dog will then go to the city animal shelter where it will be scanned for a microchip and/or checked for collar tags. The owner will be contacted as long as the microchip and/or tag are up-to-date. If not, the dog will be held for a legally-determined amount of time (varies state to state) to allow the owner to come forward and claim the dog. Most states then allow the animal shelter to require that the dog has a license and, if not, have the owner purchase the license and pay the impoundment fees before the dog is reclaimed.
If the holding period expires before the dog is claimed, the dog will be put on the adoption floor.