What should I do if I find feral or stray animals?

If feral or stray animals turn up at your doorstep, don’t assume that they have homes and are just visiting. It never hurts to err on the side of caution and take them in. If they have families, your signs and ads will bring them running. If they don’t have homes, your intervention could save their lives.

Stray and feral animals can rarely survive long on their own. They die of disease, poisoning, starvation, theft by laboratory dealers, and worse. One beautiful white stray cat, nicknamed “Bob,” was fed by several families but not adopted by any of them. Someone finally called PETA after wounds that Bob had suffered in an attack by a dog went untreated for several months. By then, it was too late to save him.

If you spot a stray, bring him or her inside! If the animal is not sterilized, one stray can quickly turn into a dozen. If a stray flees when you approach, start putting out food to get him or her into the habit of visiting. Borrow a humane box trap from your local animal shelter or purchase one from Tomahawk Live Trapping Company (1-800-27-ATRAP).

Check for tags; many lost animals are reunited with their families because someone took the time to call. But don’t assume that because the animal has a collar, he or she has a home. Many are abandoned, or their families have given up looking for them.

Immediately file a “found” report at all area shelters (animals can wander many miles). Don’t be afraid to take the animal to a well-run shelter—that’s usually the first place where people look. Place a classified ad in the newspaper (many papers run “found” ads for free or at a discount). Put up signs within a 2-mile radius that say, “Found cat. Call [telephone number].” Don’t give any details. Let callers give you details; this weeds out people who are trying to acquire animals under false pretenses to sell to laboratories or dogfighting rings.

If no one claims the animal, find a home where he or she will live inside as a member of the family. Visit the home, ask lots of questions, ask for and check references, and have adopters sign a contract. (Order our “Finding the Right Home” brochure for more details.) Always sterilize animals before they go to their new homes. Call 1-800-248-SPAY for information on low-cost spay/neuter programs in your area. If you are unable to find a good home, take the animal to a reputable shelter run by a humane organization.

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