What to do if you've found a stray dog

The dog you’ve found could be a much-loved pet. Here’s what to do if you see a pooch on the loose.

Arthur the Spaniel with Canine Carer Alice

If you’ve found a dog that appears to be a stray, here are some practical things you can do to help reunite the dog with their owner. Remember that they may not be a stray at all, but a much-loved pet who has wandered away from their family.

Check their collar for a tag 

If it’s safe to do so, check to see if the dog is wearing any form of identification that will enable you to return them directly to their owner. It’s a legal requirement for a dog to be wearing a collar and tag containing their owner’s contact information – it’s part of responsible dog ownership. 

If the dog is wearing some ID with contact details, then get in touch with the owner straight away and arrange a place to meet them with the dog. We have some tips in the box below to make sure you stay safe as you return them. 

Check their microchip 

If the dog isn’t wearing any ID, take the dog to a local veterinary practice, animal welfare organisation, or a dog pound and have it scanned for a microchip

They will ensure the dog’s microchip is scanned and make every effort to return the dog to their owner. Your local vets or rehoming organisations can’t take strays directly off the street or from well-meaning members of the public except under certain emergency situations.

Although it is a legal requirement for every dog in Ireland to be microchipped, unfortunately, many dogs that are presented to us have unregistered chips, the registered owner is not contactable, or the dog is not microchipped at all.

Take a picture and post it on social media

Take a picture and post it on our Lost and Found Facebook group. Please look for proof of ownership if you are contacted about a dog you have found by a potential owner. We also keep a log of lost and found dogs at our Rehoming Centre, so please leave your contact details with us.

Report to your local authority

If the dog you found was in Dublin, check the map below for the local authority the dog should be reported to and contact them on the relevant number.

What if I want to look after the dog in my home, instead of contacting the local authority?

If you cannot identify the owner yourself, and you decide to take the dog home temporarily, then by law, you must inform your local dog warden. The authorities can then take up responsibility for finding their owner. 

This is likely to be better for the dog and their owners for a number of reasons. They can deal directly with any owners who have lost their dog, and decide whether the description matches the dog they have. 

The local authority kennel will also be able to scan the dog’s microchip to see if it has current registered owners. 

By keeping the dog, you could also become emotionally attached to them, then handing the dog back to the owner can be very traumatic.

If the owner reclaims the dog through the dog warden, this will enable the dog warden to discuss the responsibilities of dog ownership, give advice on identification and follow up the case if necessary.

The loss of a dog often causes great distress to the owner. So it’s best to hand the dog over to the dog warden as soon as possible. That will give the owner the greatest chance of being reunited with their much-loved companion.

Staying safe as you hand a stray dog back to their owner

Pick a safe location

When contacting the owner, consider an appropriate location to meet them. You may want to ask that they meet you to collect their dog in a public place.

Protect your personal details

Don’t give away any personal details to the owner if you’re uncomfortable doing so. The important thing is that the owner knows where and when to collect their dog. 

Ask a friend to join you

If you have committed to reuniting the dog with owner at an agreed location but feel nervous about the handover, consider asking a friend to join you. Alternatively you could tell a friend or family member what you are doing, where you are going in advance and when you plan …

Bring your phone

Take your phone with you to the handover so that you can make contact with friends, family or the dog warden if you need to. 

Trust your instincts

If something about the reunion doesn’t feel right then it’s best for both you and the dog that you contact the local dog warden and so that they can take responsibility for the handover

Act quickly to help reunite the dog with their owner

If you find a dog that appears to be a stray, it’s important to act swiftly to help them get back to their owner, if they have one.

If you can’t locate the owner quickly (ie by using the collar ID) then it’s best to let your local dog warden know as soon as possible. They have the best chance of reuniting the dog with their owner. 

Stray Dogs and the Law

It is a legal requirement to comply with The Control of Dogs Acts and report any stray dog to the dog warden. Unfortunately, Dogs Trust has no authority to keep stray dogs under The Control of Dogs Acts 1986 and 1992 the full responsibility for dog control and licensing services is placed on local authorities. Under these Acts, local authorities have the power to appoint dog wardens, to provide shelters for stray and other dogs, to impose on-the-spot fines for a number of offences and to bring cases to court.

If no identification is found for a stray dog, the Local Authority must then keep the dog for five days. After that time, the Local Authority then either rehomes the dog through local welfare organisations, rehomes the dogs themselves or sadly destroys the dogs if no suitable home can be found.

We take in and rehome dogs from local authority dog pounds all over Ireland following their statutory five-day stay in the pound if they have not been rehomed or reclaimed – this function is the core of our work in the Dogs Trust Dublin Rehoming Centre; as helping vulnerable dogs is our number one priority Dogs Trust has no legal authority to deal with stray dogs. For this reason, we cannot usually take in stray or abandoned dogs, and we simply do not have the kennel space to do so.

In the event of a stray dog being injured, unwell, very young or very vulnerable, Dogs Trust where possible will work the local authority to ensure these dogs receive the veterinary attention and care they require in our Rehoming Centre. If a member of the public has found a stray dog we are obliged to ask them to notify their local dog pound so that the dog can be reclaimed, however, we do ask dog wardens and pound staff to contact us if there are vulnerable dogs in their care or dogs that have not been reclaimed or rehomed from the pound after their statutory 5 days.

However, it is a legal requirement to comply with The Control of Dogs Acts and report any stray dog to the dog warden.

The law states that “any person, other than a dog warden or a member of the Garda Síochána, who finds and takes possession of a stray dog shall, forthwith—

(a) return the dog to its owner, or

(b) deliver the dog to a dog warden, or

(c) detain the dog and give notice in writing containing a description of the dog, the address of the place where it was found, and the address of the place where it is detained to the member in charge at the nearest Garda Station to the place where the dog was found, or to a dog warden.

Where a person has found a stray dog and has retained possession of the dog for a year after the date on which he gave the notice and the dog has not been claimed by its owner within that year, such person shall become the owner of the dog and the title of the former owner to the dog shall be extinguished.”

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