Stray Dog Rescue: How to Help Your Community
Some communities have an abundance of stray dogs, also known as street dogs, which can lead to a variety of problems from infectious disease transmission and dog bites to pet overpopulation. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are about 70 million stray animals in the U.S. Out of this 70 million, only about seven million make it to shelters. Approximately half are dogs and the other half are cats. It is estimated that 20% of these animals are euthanized annually and another 10% that were lost are eventually are reunited with their owners.
What Does Stray Dog Rescue Mean?
The term stray dog rescue can mean different things to different people. The word “rescue” means to save someone or something from a dangerous or distressing situation. Stray dog rescue means you are working to help save stray dogs.
Some people interpret the term stray dog rescue to mean a formal rescue group or organization. Stray dog rescue groups are common in many communities and can be organized by a shelter or privately run by local individuals or groups.
The term “stray dog rescue” to some means a specific local organization. To others, the term “stray dog rescue” means the act of doing something to help a stray.
Dangers of Stray Dogs
There are many dangers to stray dogs. They can carry parasitic infections, diseases such as distemper and rabies, or have behavioral problems such as aggression that increase the risk of bites or attacks to other dogs and humans. They also can increase the pet overpopulation since most strays are intact male and female dogs.
Diseases and Problems Common in Stray Dogs
Stray dogs commonly have health issues. The most common problems include the following:
- Canine distemper is a contagious virus common in strays and unvaccinated dogs.
- Canine parvovirus, also known as parvo or parvoviral enteritis, is a common infectious disease in unvaccinated dogs. Common symptoms include lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea with blood. Parvo is prevented with appropriate vaccinations.
- Fleas are a common problem in stray dogs. A flea is a small, brown, wingless insect that uses specialized mouthparts to pierce the skin and siphon blood. When a flea bites a dog, they inject some saliva as they take a blood meal. Some dogs can be allergic causing flea allergy dermatitis. Fleas commonly are spread to other dogs and cats.
- Gastrointestinal parasites, commonly referred to as worms, are very common in stray dogs. Common worms include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.
- Heartworm disease is a deadly disease spread by infected mosquitoes. This can cause heart failure in dogs.
- Kennel cough and canine influenza (also known as canine flu or the dog flu) are common respiratory bugs that are spread from dog to dog through the air.
- Digestive issues are common in strays. Malnutrition can develop due to inadequate and poor quality nutrition. Stray dogs commonly eat spoiled food, garbage, or hunt for their meals. This can cause problems such as gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and diarrhea) or gastrointestinal foreign bodies (ingestion of something that is not digestible).
- Mange or other skin parasites are common in stray dogs.
- Ticks are arachnids that can attach to a dog to seek a blood meal. They can transmit diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
- Trauma is common in stray dogs. This can be caused by being hit by a car, animal attacks, and/or lacerations just to name a few.
Stray Dog Rescue: 3 Ways to Help Your Community
If you are interested in stray dog rescue, you need to determine what you want to do. After careful research, your decision will ultimately depend on your interest, time, and support. Below are ideas on how you can support stray dog rescue.
Communities With Stray Dog Rescue Groups
If you live in a community with a formal stray dog rescue group, you can talk to them and determine what they need for support. They may need volunteers to foster dogs, help to capture stray dogs, marketing support, money to help support feeding and care of the stray dogs, or help to fundraise.
Do Your Own Thing
You may want not want to commit to a local group or develop your own stray dog rescue and just do your own thing. Anything you can do to help the stray dog can be an amazing help.
Communities Without Stray Dog Rescue Groups
Some people develop their own stray dog rescue group. You can research the needs of your community by talking to your local shelter, veterinarians and any other humane society in the area. They can help you determine the needs and problems or they may be able to help you with ideas or join your team.
How to Create Your Own Dog Rescue Group
Rescuing dogs can be not only an important and needed venture but also rewarding. Starting a dog rescue can be gratifying but also time-consuming, expensive, frustrating, tiring, and emotionally exhausting. At times it can appear that there are many more dogs that need help than you have the time and resources to provide. Some rescue situations are downright sad. These points are made not to upset you but to make you aware of what is involved in stray dog rescue.
When you consider starting a stray dog rescue, consider the following points.
- Do Your Research. Talk to other successful rescue groups, veterinarians, dog trainers, shelters, pounds, and anyone else in your area that cares for dogs and supports stray dog rescue. How many strays are in your area? What are the primary stray dog rescue needs? Learn from those doing it well and learn about any mistakes they may have made. If there isn’t anyone in your area – research other cities. Find out who is doing it well and talk to them.
- Create a List of Contacts. As you do your research, make notes that include who you talked to, what you talked about, hints, tips, mistakes, ideas and their detailed contact information. Some of your contacts may be helpful in the future as you grow this project, have problems, or need volunteers.
- Create a Mission Statement. As you consider creating a stray dog rescue, consider your goals, visions, and plans. Discuss this with others as you work on your strategy. Create a mission statement for your stray dog rescue.
- Decision Time.
- At some point, you will need to decide the function of your rescue. Depending on your goals, you will need to decide if the stray dogs will go to foster homes or you will create/build a shelter. Creating a shelter can be rewarding but has challenges including building costs or rent, ongoing utility costs, regulatory requirements, codes, and inspections. It is important to know exactly what is involved as you develop your stray dog rescue plan. Just as having a physical shelter has its challenges, having homes for foster dogs also has challenges. Some stray dogs can have behavioral problems and not interact well with other dogs in the foster home. This can be a big problem. Bites and fights can occur.
- Do you have a vet to support the stray dogs when you need additional care or have problems? What vet will support you? Will they give you a discount? How will they schedule the dogs you see? What are they willing to do and not do? How do they handle emergencies?
- How will you adopt out the dogs you rescue? What are the requirements? How will you educate the new dog owner?
- How will you deal with suspected abuse of a stray? Is there a local dog warden? Who can help you in this situation?
- Dealing with Paperwork. Once you decide on your plan, the next step will be to file for a tax-exempt status 501 (c) 3. An attorney or accountant can help you with this. The 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt status will allow you to collect funds and help protect your new stray dog rescue organization.
- Find Volunteers. You will need help to promote your services, fundraise, capture, foster, feed, walk, and care for stray dogs. It is important that your volunteers support your mission statement and vision.
- Acquire Funding. Once you are set up, fundraising in the next task. You will need money to support your efforts including food, medical care for the dogs, and money to support a shelter if you choose that option. Raising funds is critical. You can also apply for grants.
- Start Small. As you start your rescue, start small and go bigger. You don’t want to start big then have problems finding foster homes, funding and other issues.
- Network. Get to know anyone and everyone that has anything to do with dogs. Add them to your contact list. This is a great way to let people in your area know about your shelter. Take advantage of social media to help you with your mission.
Where You Can Take a Stray Dog
If you find a stray dog, it is important to consider what you will do with it or where you can take it. This will vary with your location. You can call your closest animal shelter to determine the best option for you. You can also check with your closest veterinarian for advice.
Should You Adopt a Stray Dog?
When you find a dog, it can be tempting to adopt or keep the dog. Taking in a stray is a personal decision. However, there are some important things to consider including making sure the dog isn’t lost or doesn’t always already have a home. Taking in a Stray Dog: What You Should Know.
What to Do if You Find a Stray Dog
Some stray dogs are abandoned while others are feral. Feral dogs have had little contact with humans and can bite on protective instincts.
Here are certain techniques for capturing a stray dog so that you can find them the help they need.
Learn more about How to Catch Stray Dogs So You Can Take Them to a Shelter.
What You Can Do to Help Stray Dog Rescue in Your Community
The best thing to do for a stray dog is to capture them, provide medical care that includes spay or neuter procedures, vaccines and finding the stray a home. However, this can be impossible in some situations. Additional ways to help stray dog rescue:
- Volunteer at your local humane society or shelter. Spend time with stray dogs to help them have positive moments with people and potentially make them more adoptable.
- Donate money to the local pound to help support spays, neuters, medications, and treatments.
- Provide winter shelter. Learn about Building a Winter Dog House for Stray Dog.
- Support microchipping. Many dogs that get lost end up in shelters. It may be as many as 20%. Some studies suggest that anywhere from 10% to 50% of these lost dogs make their way back home. Collars, tags and microchipping.