In the United States, approximately 6–8 million homeless animals enter shelters annually. But we know that there are many more homeless pets in Florida and across the country that never make it to a shelter. So how can you help a stray animal when you see one?
Unfortunately, there is some confusion surrounding what to do if you find a stray animal. Many well-intentioned people begin feeding stray cats or dogs they find near their homes or places of work. But doing so is not always the best thing for the animal. Learn what you can do to help the next time you spot a stray.
Check for ID & Notify Your Community
First, check to see if the animal has an identification tag with a name or contact information. Always use caution when approaching a stray animal and speak calmly. If you don’t see any identification, or if the tag only provides the pet’s name, alert your neighbors in case someone has lost a pet in the area.
Capture & Contain the Animal to Take It to a Local Shelter
Your impulse to take a stray animal to a shelter is the right one. Just make sure to use a humane trap that can’t harm the animal. It’s also important to check traps often so that the stray does not fall prey to another animal. And remember to be careful and use a gentle voice near the animal. Stray cats and dogs are not used to captivity and may be easily scared or angered.
It may be tempting to keep the animal as your own pet, but remember that stray animals are not domesticated and can be harmful to humans in other ways than just aggressive behavior. Homeless pets in Florida, or in any state for that matter, pick up all kinds of diseases that can be transmitted to people and often get parasites, like ticks, worms and fleas that you could inadvertently pass to your own pets
Do Not Feed a Stray Unless You Plan to Take It to a Shelter
Aside from the fact that strays carry diseases and parasites that can be harmful to you and your pets, there is another reason that feeding stray cats and dogs may do more harm than good.
Cats and dogs have strong survival instincts and some can adapt quite successfully. But to do so, they need to learn to find shelter and food on their own. If you repeatedly feed a stray animal, they will opt for the easy dinner instead of fending for themselves, making them weaker over time. They may even sleep nearby to wait on your meals, rather than seeking shelter that will protect them from the elements or other wild animals.
Stray animals can also be abused by neighbors who aren’t feeding them and don’t want them around. Additionally, they become more likely to be hit by a car if their next meal is near traffic. And feeding stray cats in particular may cause them to mark their territory nearby, resulting in the smell of strong urine on your property.
The bottom line? If you do not plan to safely capture the animal and take it to a local shelter, it is best not to feed them so they can stay strong and survive in the wild on their own.
Want to Do More to Fight Pet Overpopulation?
Humanely capturing stray animals and transporting them to shelters is great work as long as you’re careful and smart about it. And there are plenty of other stray animals you might see besides cats and dogs. If you see a dangerous animal or a less common domesticated animal that may not fare well in the wild, please call the relevant authorities or animal control.
There’s another way you can help reduce the number of homeless pets in Florida. You can support Florida Animal Friend’s mission to help save the lives of countless unwanted cats and dogs by supporting organizations that offer free or low-cost spay and neuter services across Florida. Purchase one of our Florida license plates or donate today.