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How to report a stray dog

Stray dog outside

Do you know how to report a stray dog?

© Corneliu LEU - Shutterstock

Losing your dog is every owner's worst nightmare. But what if you are the person to find someone's dog? Do you know what to do and how to report a stray dog?

By Zoë Monk

Updated on the

With thousands of dogs going missing in the UK each year, you may need to know how to report a stray dog. From a dog running off to dog theft, they can go missing for various reasons. Although sometimes a dog may just disappear without any explanation.

If you find a lost dog on your travels, read on to find out what you can do to help reunite it with its owners.

How to report a stray dog

If you find a stray or lost dog and are happy to approach them, check to see if the dog has any form of identification on them that will enable you to return them to its owner straight away. However, you'll need to report a stray dog to your local council if it doesn’t have any form of identification and you don’t know who the owner is.

They will contact the dog warden, who will arrange to collect the dog from you. In the meantime, you may be asked to keep hold of the dog if you are comfortable doing so. If you decide to keep the dog with you while you wait for the dog warden, keep in mind that lost dogs can be frightened or anxious. It’s a good idea to keep them away from your other pets while you wait.

Will the police take stray dogs?

While the police may pick up a dog running after or worrying livestock, they do not take reports of lost or found dogs or accept found dogs at the police station. Lost and stray dogs are the local authority's responsibility, and you should contact your local council or the dog warden, who will advise you on what you should do next.

Who do I ring if I find a stray dog? 

If you know who the stray dog belongs to, you must reunite the dog with its owner. If not, you should contact your local council. Rehoming organisations like RSCPA dogs shelters can only take in dogs signed over by their owners for rehoming or those brought to them by the local authority dog warden. They do not have the resources to take dogs in straight off the street or from members of the public unless there are special circumstances.

Should I call the dog warden for a stray dog? 

Your local council is required to provide a dog warden service. You can find more information about this service on your local authority’s website. Dog wardens have a lot of experience capturing stray dogs and are equipped with scanners to check if a stray dog has a microchip with the owner’s contact details. The dog warden will keep hold of stray dogs for seven days. If the dog warden cannot find the dog’s owner or no one comes forward to claim the dog during this time, it will be taken to an animal shelter, where it will be rehomed or possibly put to sleep.

You can help speed up the process of reuniting the dog with its owner by contacting local vets and rescue centres to see if anyone has reported a lost dog matching the stray’s description. You could also create a found poster and place it around the area where you found the dog. It’s also a good idea to check local online listings and add the dog’s details to missing pet websites and share them on your social media.

Can I keep a stray dog?

If you come across a stray dog and decide you want to keep it, you still must contact your local dog warden first. Otherwise, you could find yourself accused of theft. Tell the council that you want to keep the dog, and if they cannot find the owner, you might be able to keep it. However, the dog warden or council will probably want to check that you will make a suitable dog owner before you are allowed to adopt it.

A dog going missing is heartbreaking for the owners. Therefore, if you come across a lost or stray dog, you must know what to do and how to report a stray dog. The quicker you take action, the sooner the dog can be reunited with its family.

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