You are travelling down the road when you see a dog at the side of the road. With a sinking feeling, you realise it is alone. What should you do?
A strange, frightened and possibly sick or injured animal can behave unpredictably and could lash out and bite. A sudden move on your part, even opening your car door, can spook them and cause them to bolt – possibly right into oncoming traffic.
So, what can I do?
If the animal acts or looks threatened and about to run, or if you feel uneasy about the situation, stay in your car, and contact the Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL) or a local animal welfare organisation immediately. Report the injured or stray animal to the Inspectorate department. Determine if an Inspector is available to help and approximately how long it will take to assist.
If it is safe to do so, try and restrain the animal. Approach the animal ensuring it can see you at all times, whilst speaking calmly in a reassuring voice. Try to lure the animal into your car with food and close the door or ask a neighbour to allow the animal to be placed into their property while you wait for help. If it is injured attempt to get the animals onto a blanket or jacket and drag to the side of the road or into your car. In most cases it is not a good idea to attempt to drive somewhere with a strange dog or cat unrestrained in your car; they may become frantic or aggressive.
If you are able to transport the animal, take it to the nearest animal welfare organisation (AWO) or veterinary clinic where they will be able to scan to see if the animal is microchipped or treat if injured. If there is no microchip, they will have the means to network and share the animal’s details to hopefully find the pet's owners.
If not, they need to contact the AACL or the nearest AWO to collect the animals in terms of the Municipal By laws that allow for a Pound or for an Inspector to collect stray animals and keep them safe under Regulation 468. Remember to give all information about where and when the animal was found and your details.
Share the animal’s details of where it was found on Facebook and local WhatsApp sites, to hopefully direct the owners to the AWO or veterinary practice where the pet is being held.
If I rescue a stray animal, can I decide to keep it?
Finding and rescuing a stray animal does not entitle you to become the owner or keep the animal.
Because animals are classified as property under South African law, keeping a found animal without informing the relevant authorities, would be an offence.
Domestic animals that are lost do not become the property of the finder. Finders who keep them would be guilty of theft. You are therefore obliged to report a stray animal to your nearest Animal Welfare Organisation and are not entitled to keep or rehome stray animals.
It is further obligatory to have the stray animal scanned for a microchip or check for a tattoo. The best chance of reuniting a lost animal with its owner would be to inform the AACL or closest animal welfare organisation of the animal you have found.
Points to consider:
If you are uncertain about whether or not to help or even keep an animal you see alongside the road, first, think of what you would want the finder of your pet, should it escape your property, to do if they happened to find them injured or wandering around. You would probably hope that they would take your pet to an animal welfare organisation or veterinarian for care, and you would want them to try to find you.
Good Samaritans who have never lost a cherished companion animal may incorrectly conclude that the owner of the found dog or cat callously abandoned them or, at the very least, neglected to keep them safely confined at home.
But accidents can happen to anyone, animals do escape. The frantic owner could be looking everywhere for their beloved pet.
How can I make sure my animal has the best chance of finding its way home should it escape from my property?
Identification and traceability are important parts of responsible pet ownership. A microchip provides permanent identification for your pet and gives them the best chance of being reunited with you, should they happen to go missing. Should your pet have a microchip please check your details are correct and updated regularly with the relevant database. Every year, thousands of pets are reunited with their owners because they have been microchipped or wear an ID Tag.
Incredible ways of supporting abandoned, neglected, sick and surrendered animals
Here you can browse through the photos of pets that are available for adoption.
Become a member?
As a charity, AACL-JHB exists to further its aim of promoting care & protection to animals in South Africa.
For as little as R180 per annum, you can become a member of AACL-JHB, and mandate the organisation to always “ speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves”.
Please complete the membership form by clicking on the link and return with your proof of payment to firstname.lastname@example.org