Plan A - Can you locate the owner?
Don't assume anything about a dog's past. Scars, injuries or a dirty appearance do not indicate that a dog has been abused. Your foundling may have been lost for some time and could belong to a worried sick owner who's been looking everywhere for him.
1. No collar or tags? Ask your veterinarian or local shelter to scan him for a microchip.
2. Post flyers everywhere, including a large sign on your lawn and taped to the back of your car.
3. Go online and post a notice on Craigslist, FACEBOOK and your neighborhood message board.
4. Check lost dog postings at your local shelters. IMPORTANT: You may be obligated to file a 'Found Dog' report with Animal Control, which means you can't legally keep the dog or give him to someone until your city allows it!
5. Place a 'Found Dog' ad in your local classifieds section and a large sign on your lawn to attract the notice of your neighbors.
6. Remember to ask the neighborhood kids if they've seen this dog before. Kids are famous for noticing things that adults miss!
What if I can't find the owners?
Plan B - Try to find a new permanent home or foster home for the dog yourself.
Plan C - Take the dog to your local animal shelter.
Plan B - Finding a new home for your stray dog
Most rescue organizations including One Love Pit Bull Foundation run full and will likely not be able to absorb your foundling. To share the burden of so many dogs in need, some Good Samaritans foster themselves or ask friends and family to help while they network for a new home. This is an adventure in itself - not something to take on unless you feel up to the big challenge of volunteering your time as an independent dog rescuer. But the rewards of helping a lost soul find his way to a new permanent and responsible home can be immeasurable.
Your Legal Obligations: Your shelter will tell you how long you have to wait for a dog's original home to find him after you file found dog report. In many places, it's a minimum of three days. If you still can't find the owners after trying everything, you can legally keep the dog as yours. Or if that's not possible...
How to keep a homeless dog safe while you look for her home
To keep him from getting lost again, you'll need to think about a secure set-up. Dog runs, mesh fences (http://www.unchainyourdog.org/FenceMesh.htm) or dog crates can keep him safely confined when you aren't near to supervise. Craigslist Pet's Section usually has ads for inexpensive used dog crates. You may need to reinforce a wire crate with cable ties so your foster dog doesn't nose his way out.
Some dogs can be very determined when they want to get somewhere, so just locking a loose dog in a room is inviting damage. Again, use the crate or consider boarding him. Can't afford to board? Try fundraising with a garage sale, dog wash or BBQ to raise funds for some temporary housing. Some boarding facilities offer a rescue discount. Ask your own vet for kennel recommendations or possibly a reduced rate for boarding at the clinic. Remember to place new ID tags on the pup. Some pet food stores offer on-the-spot pet tags.
How do I know what kind of home to look for? Good question!
Unless you're very familiar with dogs, have your homeless dog looked over by a qualified individual (dog trainer, shelter or rescue worker, etc.) who can help you determine if the dog has any special needs. The next question is: What kind of home would be right? Can he be placed with other animals? Is he high energy or low key? Can he go into a beginner's home or only a very experienced home?
IMPORTANT: Animal-directed aggression can be managed with the help of a trainer, but sketchy behavior towards people is a red flag and requires a very specific kind of professional help. Please don't adopt out a dog with extreme behavior problems.
Is he healthy?
Life on the streets can be hard on a dog. Have your foundling checked by a veterinarian to determine if she needs any special care beyond vaccinations.
IMPORTANT: You'll want to have the dog spayed or neutered BEFORE sending him to a new home. Intact dogs may attract homes that want to exploit them for breeding purposes.
How can I make my foster more adoptable?
2. Give the dog his shots. Resources throughout Arizona are listed HERE.
3. Consider basic obedience classes. A well-trained dog makes adoption into a new home much easier and it helps YOU live with her while you are fostering. Some trainers may reduce their fees for you. They can also guide you in the process of socializing your dog with other animals.
4. We also recommend microchipping your foster dog.
5. And, of course, make sure she is clean, well groomed and well behaved when meeting potential families.
Advertising: Where? How?
There are a few key ways to advertise your pit bull. First, learn everything you can about the dog so you can help potential adopters know if he's a good match for their lifestyle. Some of your info can come from the dog's evaluation. Much will come from observing as you spend time with him.
Important information to include in your ad
1. Dog's approximate age, sex, health and neutered status.
2. Has he been seen by someone who works with dogs?
3. His energy level: Mellow? Energetic? Little of both?
4. His behavior with other animals.
5. Has he had any training? Is he crate trained? House trained?
6. Post one or more great photos and follow up with updates. Videos are especially popular. For HOT TIPS on getting the word out about your dog. Link HERE.
Potential adopters will want to know: Where did he come from? How is he with small kids? Can he live with cats? What (if anything) scares him? What is his known medical history? Any bad habits? Be honest! What are his best qualities? What does he like to do?
How do I know if an interested home is right for my foster dog?
It's okay to be selective about who adopts your foundling. Someone may be perfectly nice, but this doesn't mean they're the right match for this particular dog's personality. Ask good questions: motivated families welcome get-to-know-you discussions. Visit the home and meet the whole household. We strongly encourage helping potential adopters review their rental agreeement for any restrictions that could cause problems for the dog at a later date. It's fine for both of you to sleep on the decision, to meet more than once and to follow up with any nagging doubts. You've put a lot of effort into saving your dog and you want his next home to be permanent.
How long will it take to find a good home?
Because you're waiting for the RIGHT family rather than the first one that responds, attracting a good match can take a few weeks or more, or less! The advice: Be patient definitely applies to dog rescue work.
Plan C - When you have to take a dog to a shelter
It happens to the best of us. Not every found dog can stay in our homes while we look for a permanent home. Landlords may dictate, neighbors may complain, some dogs may be too much to handle or may not be able to co-exist with our pets. If you decide to surrender your homeless dog, please look for a shelter that will offer her the best chance of being evaluated fairly and adopted responsibly. Please note that there is no such thing as a "no kill" shelter for pit bull type dogs. Local SPCAs and Humane Societies typically commit to dogs for the longterm, but most accep a very limited number of pit bull type dogs each year. If you need to surrender to an animal control facility, your dog will only be accepted by the facility in the city where your dog was found. City run shelters are required by law to accept all strays found within city limits, regardless of the available space. When they're extremely full, chances of your dog being euthanized sooner are much greater. Ask the shelter if they're full before surrendering. They may tell you it would be better to return with the animal after the weekend when adoptions may open a few kennels. You may also try contacting local rescue groups to check for availability. You can find a list HERE.
How can I help a surrendered dog get adopted?
Even if you have to surrender your found pit bull, you can get the word out about him by advertising him as needing an emergency foster or home. Take a good photo of her before being surrendered and learn as much as you can about her so you can advertise her and describe her to others, including local rescue groups. Work fast! You may wish to request that the shelter contact you on the last day before the dog is put to sleep. Some will do this, some will not.
THANK YOU for helping your dog friend find a safer place to rest her head. We understand how frustrating and difficult it can be to find positive solutions to a homeless dog's plight. So much of our inspiration comes from folks like you who are so willing to go that extra mile for a pit bull sweetheart in need!
Credit: Bad Rap