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It’s inevitable: if you walk, run, ride your bicycle, or even drive through our neighborhoods: sooner or later, you spot a dog with no owner in sight.

Sometimes that dog will approach or follow you (or even show up on your front porch!), seemingly asking for help. Picking up this type of dog and securing her in your yard or home is hard to resist, as it seems like she’d be easy to help!

A dog that does not come to you willingly is another matter. Even a friendly dog may act defensively and lash out if she’s injured and in pain.

If you decide that an unapproachable dog is hurt, Animal Care Services (accessed by calling 311) will come to pick up an injured animal relatively quickly and get them the care they need. This is not an inevitable death sentence for a dog, as many fear: many rescue organizations, large and small, pull unclaimed animals from ACS on a regular basis.

Lost dog sitting in the road

The large, well-known local shelters are inundated with requests to take animals. Most do intake on specified days only, and on a space-available basis. These include Humane Society of San Antonio, Animal Defense League, and the city’s Animal Care Services. ACS will post the dog on their website as an adoptable animal without your surrendering him or her to the shelter.

Individuals can post available dogs on Adopt a Pet, a public website that also accepts posts from shelters and rescues.

The many excellent smaller rescue organizations are generally foster-based, meaning that they can only take in animals for which they have a foster parent available. If you, the finder, or someone you know are willing and able to be the foster, that will greatly improve a dog’s chances of adoption.

There have been many successful rescues of dogs found in our neighborhoods. Some have a quick resolution and others take a lot of time. All are worth the time and effort to make a difference for the dogs and the people who adopt them!

Try to find the owner

If you’re very lucky, you’ll recognize the dog and know where he lives or even know his owners. You can then return him.

In the next best scenario, the dog is wearing a collar with an ID tag with the owner’s phone number. You call the number, the owner is overjoyed and comes to pick up the dog.

In the third (and almost-as-good scenario), you have the dog scanned for a microchip, one is present, and the chip is registered with the owner’s current contact information. Several neighborhood organizations, including The Cannoli Fund and Footbridge Foundation, have microchip readers and are often available to scan found animals. Vet practices as well as big box pet stores will also scan an animal free of charge.

Enter the number into the universal microchip website, which will tell you how to contact the service with which the chip is registered. Typically, that service will then take your contact information, which they transmit to the dog’s owner, who then contacts you.

If the dog has neither an ID tag nor a microchip, but has a rabies tag with the vet clinic’s information on it, it is sometimes possible to locate the owner by calling that clinic.

Also be sure to look around the neighborhood for lost dog flyers and post your own found dog flyers (you can create one here). Everyone is not on the internet! Many experts recommend giving a general description of the dog, rather than using a photo, because of the rare case in which a person tries to claim a dog not their own. The owner would know what color collar the dog was wearing or that she has brown spots on her tummy. Another way of verifying ownership is asking to see photos of the dog on the owner’s phone. What animal owner doesn’t have at least a few shots of their pet?

There are many websites where people post lost as well as found dogs (see links below). You can post in these spots and you should check back daily. Also post that you have found a dog in neighborhood groups on Facebook and Nextdoor and on your personal page.

If you can't find the owner

If you strike out after trying all of these ways to find the owner, you have several options. Keep the dog. Find someone to adopt the dog. Find a rescue organization or shelter to take the dog.

If you live or work in King William or Lavaca, or if you found a dog in those neighborhoods, The Cannoli Fund will cover appropriate veterinary and spay/neuter expenses for the dog if you keep him or find him a home among your family or friends.

Nancy Diehl serves on the board and is a co-founder of the Cannoli Fund, a local non-profit that cares for dogs and cats in need of help in the King William and Lavaca neighborhoods.

It’s inevitable: if you walk, run, ride your bicycle, or drive through our neighborhood, sooner or later, you spot a dog with no owner.

What to do when you find a dog

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