We recently took in a stray dog that someone found on the freeway and stopped to rescue. Bless this Good Samaritan for helping a lost dog that was in trouble and could have been seriously hurt as he ran along the side of a busy freeway exit. That was a generous and kind thing to do. The only problem is that the freeway was the I-5 out by Manteca. That’s over three hours away! What are the chances that an owner (and we always start with the assumption that the animal is simply lost) would think to look at an animal shelter in Rohnert Park?
I can’t even count how many animal shelters the finder drove by on his way back to Sonoma State. Research (so that we could post a found report) turned up two shelters in the Manteca area plus there are shelters throughout the East Bay – Contra Costa, Fremont, Oakland, Berkeley and more. Someone would have to be diligent and persistent to find a stray in a shelter so far away. Sadly, the dog had no ID, nor was he microchipped so we have no way to track down his parents.
A few years ago, we had someone bring us a stray dog all the way from San Luis Obispo – that’s over six hours away! The dog had a microchip and we were able to trace the owner quickly but he was overwhelmed with the logistics of retrieving his pet, even though we were going to find transport and instead he surrendered the dog to us. That might have had a totally different ending if the dog had been scanned closer to home!
This has become a serious issue during natural disasters. After Hurricane Katrina, stray animals were flown all over the country since the shelters there were so overwhelmed. The agreement was that if an owner was located, the pet was to be flown back, but think about the logistics of that! For an owner looking for a lost pet having to look at a gazillion websites to try and identify their pet from all the other look-alikes seems like a daunting task. Of course, a microchip would make it so much simpler (do I push chips enough? I believe in them! And have I mentioned recently that we offer them FREE to residents of RP/Cotati?)
It’s wonderful that there are people who care enough to stop and help an animal in distress along a busy road. I definitely want to encourage and support those people but I think too often we jump to conclusions that the animal was abandoned or dumped or come up with some other story in our heads that justifies keeping or re-homing the animal without giving the real owner even a chance to reclaim their pet. There are so many circumstances that can result in an animal ending up lost and in distress that don’t include a negligent owner and we have to at least start with the assumption that every stray has a home that we just need to find.
Bringing a stray to a shelter is the right thing to do if only to have him scanned for a chip and a found report left – if you’re willing to hold on to the animal. Reporting a found animal to the closest shelter is actually a legal requirement so always do that. It also protects you from being accused of theft of someone’s pet, just in case the owner isn’t as grateful for your help as you expect. Our job is to do everything we can to help the lost pet find his or her parents again. We post all our strays on our Facebook page – you can help us by sharing those posts. We love happy reunions!
Volunteer Orientation, Sat., Feb. 3, 10-11 a.m. in the shelter lobby. Curious about what being a shelter volunteer entails? Come find out! Open to all adults – no reservations required.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.