"To be of use in this world is the only way to be happy. ...Hans Christian Anderson "Speak up for the animals who can't speak for themselves" You’re in your car, heading somewhere or other, a long list of things to accomplish and already running late. Suddenly, you see a dog by the side of the road. With a sinking feeling, you realize he’s alone. Your car is coming alongside him now. You have only seconds in which to act. But what should you do? This is a wrenching scenario for all who care about animals. Once you’ve seen the dog or cat, it’s too late to avert your eyes and drive on. After all, what if your own dog or cat were standing there? So before you pull over, good Samaritan that you are, here are some guidelines for assisting animals safely and effectively.
- Be ready to rescue. If you know in your heart that you’re a rescuer, equip yourself to do the best possible job. Have in your car at all times: phone, phone numbers of local animal control, a shelter, cat carrier or cardboard box, collars, leashes, muzzles, heavy blanket, water and bowl, strong smelling food, such as canned tuna or dried liver, and an animal first-aid kit.
- Consider the safety of the animal. A strange, frightened, sick or injured animal may behave unpredictably. A sudden move could spook him, causing him to bolt--possibly right onto the highway.
- If possible, restrain the animal. If the animal is injured, and still on the roadway, signal approaching vehicles to slow down, or divert traffic around him until he can be moved.
- Use caution when approaching the animal. If you succeed in getting close enough to capture him, you stand a good chance of being bitten. Try to place the proper size muzzle on the dog. If you are bitten by an animal whose vaccination status is unknown, you will be advised to undergo preventive treatment for rabies.
- When approaching the animal, speak calmly to reassure him. Make sure he can see you at all times as you approach, and perhaps entice him to come to you by offering a strong-smelling food such as canned tuna or dried liver.
- Try to lure an animal into your car with food, and close the door. Before you take an injured animal to a private veterinary hospital for treatment, be willing to assume financial responsibility for the animal before treatment begins. If you take a badly injured stray dog to animal control, understand that that agency may be unable to provide expensive treatment for the animal, to relieve him from his suffering they may euthanize him. If you plan to keep the animal in the event no owner is found, notify animal control that you have the animal. You can place a “found” ad in your local newspaper.
- Don’t assume you are dealing with an irresponsible owner. Accidents can happen to anyone. The frantic owner may be looking everywhere for their beloved pet.
If you’re uncertain about whether to assist or keep an animal, here’s a final word of advice: first, think of what you would want the finder of your animal to do if he happened to find him injured and his collar missing. You’d want him to take your pet to a veterinarian, and you’d want him to try to find you. At the same time, be reasonable about how much you can afford to do if no owner shows up.