In the last week there has been a lot of news about a dog that was found in Hant's county named George. He was found by a couple of very compassionate people who took him into their home and he had very obviously been seriously abused by some terribly awful people. He had life threatening injuries to his body that could only be explained as having been done by long standing abuse. I'm not going to post the pictures that have been circulating facebook because they're just too raw. Suffice it to say they are severe.
The finders took him in last Wednesday, and they had the best of intentions but there were a few things that weren't done right away so I think it needs to get out there what needs to be done if you find a stray dog or you think a dog's been abandoned in Nova Scotia - or you find a dog that's been lost so that he can get back to his loving owners.
In 2010 I wrote a post called "Think Lost, not Stray" - at that time there was a movement in the States to start thinking about lost dogs as not stray dogs - but just dogs who were lost and trying to find their way home - it was a new concept and one that was growing. And then in 2011 - I wrote a post called "Reuniting Lost Dogs with their Owners could be a Paradigm Shift in the Humane Movement" - and it was about the newly formed group "Nova Scotia Lost Dogs Network" here in Nova Scotia and how they were reuniting lost dogs with their owners.
Since then NSLDN has reunited literally thousands of dogs with their owners, (they have over 21,000 members) - saving the shelter system from having to take them on and saving tax payers untold amounts of money from having to house and try to figure out who the dogs belong to. It truly has been a paradigm shift in the humane movement. In 2008 the NS SPCA said that 75% of the dogs they took in were stray dogs - I don't imagine they'd say that statistic still holds true today.
So what should you do when you find a stray dog in Nova Scotia?
A couple things, and a couple things you should know -
#1 is that you don't own the stray dog that you've just found. Finders are not keepers. Really, the original owner is still the owner - and it is your local animal control is the interim owner - the dog may have a microchip in him that can bring the dog home immediately - and there's no way you can know that.
#2 If the dog has been severely abused like the dog George was - the NS SPCA should be contacted immediately along with your local Animal Control and the NSLDN - because the dog is not only a dog - but he is also the lone piece of evidence in an animal cruelty case and he needs to be properly and completely documented in his current condition that you found him in - if he isn't the whole cruelty case could be completely compromised and any chance a conviction of animal cruelty for the original owner could be totally lost.
In the case of poor George - according to Facebook posts - the NS SPCA was not contacted until Saturday - so there 4 days that went before George's condition wasn't properly documented - which is a huge time lag.
So there are a few things you should do when you find a stray dog - you've either seen it, or you've been able to catch it - you call your local animal control to come pick him up, and you contact the Nova Scotia Lost Dog Network so they can put the word out that he's been found - the owners may have already contacted them to say that their dog has been lost and they will come directly to your house to pick him up and bypass Animal Control altogether.
And if the dog shows signs of obvious abuse - also contact the NS SPCA so that they can liaise with the Animal Control department to start a case file on the dog.
If you decide that you love this dog you've just found - if the owner is never found - you can apply either to the Animal Control department or the SPCA - wherever he ultimately ends up - to adopt the dog - and then he's rightfully yours to own.
I run a dog rescue here in Nova Scotia - I rescue dogs that have been chained up their whole lives and I've received several emails from people who believe that their neighbours have abandoned their dogs after they've moved away - and they want me to come get the dog immediately - but I have told them I can't do that - because to just come get the dog is theft - I have always had to investigate further, and there's always been a story behind it.
Either the owners have been coming to feed the dog everyday and ultimately came and gotten the dog - or in one case the owner thought that the dog had been fed by someone, and when they found out the dog wasn't being fed - they agreed to let me have the dog - but it was with the owners agreement (who was living out west) that I took the dog - I would never just go and take a dog that looked abandoned without trying to find out why he was there - unless of course it was in the middle of the woods - and then I would call the proper authorities - because that would be a case for the SPCA because that is cruelty.
So hopefully this clears things up a bit about what to do if you find a stray dog - the best case scenario is that he's going to have a microchip in him and he'll be able to get home immediately - and if not, the next best thing is that he's already listed as being lost on NSLDN - but you should contact your local Animal Control department so that if his owners are looking for him they'll be able to find him there - and if he's obviously been abused - that is a case that the NS SPCA should be contacted about so that when his owners are found they can be charged with animal cruelty.
That is how things should be done so that justice is done for the dog and the dog can find his way home.