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You've found a dog - Here's what to do

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

UPDATED: 14 December 2022

There seems to be this thought process amongst the general public that, if they find a dog, their main objective is to help the owner not get a fine. No. The main objective is to get the dog back to its owner as soon as possible. Safely.

Not the next day. As soon as possible. How do you do this when the dog may not have any identification on them? Easy. Take them to your closest, open Vet for microchip scanning. If you can't transport the dog to a vet, maybe a friend can do it, maybe a neighbour and, as a last resort - call your local council. If you CAN'T get them to a vet, call your local council. All councils have an after hours number to report lost pets.


According to the Victorian Department of Agriculture when you find a stray cat or dog

this is what is required of you:

"What do to if you've found a lost, stray or injured animal:

  • If the cat or dog is injured — take it straight to the closest vet.

  • Otherwise, contact your local council. Ask to be put through to the 'animal management' or 'local laws' section.

  • Your council will instruct you on what to do next (whether they will collect the animal, whether you need to bring it into the pound, or whether it needs to be trapped).

  • Council will check the animal for identification — either a collar and registration tag, or a microchip. If identified, council will be able to reunite the animal with its owner.

  • If council cannot identify the owner, it keeps the animal for a period of time to give the owner a chance to reclaim it.

  • If the animal is not owned or reclaimed, and you wish to adopt it, your council can advise you on how to go about this.

Legal requirement as of the 1st of October 2022

Dept of Agriculture has updated the legal requirements - take a read here and here is an excerpt taken from their Frequently asked questions

Where can I take a lost Pet?

As soon as reasonably possible after finding a lost or stray cat or dog, you must take the animal to:

  • the local council in which it was found or allow a council authorised officer to collect the pet from you; or

  • a local vet that agrees to accept lost pets (providing a pet reunification service is voluntary for vets); or

  • a registered animal shelter; or

  • a person or business that has an 84Y agreement with the council in which the pet was found

If I find a pet in my community, can I take it to a local vet?

Yes, if the local vet agrees to accept lost pets. Reuniting pets is voluntary for vets. It is recommended you contact the clinic before dropping off the pet, to make sure they can accept it.

If I've found a pet, why can't I just put a lost pet alert out on Social Media to find the owner?

It is important lost pets get home to their lawful owner. To protect the pet’s welfare and the rights of its owner, the law requires lost pets to be reunited according to specified processes. There are instances where pets have been claimed through social media by the wrong people. This is a distressing outcome for the pet owner and a poor welfare outcome for the pet.

Local councils, shelters and participating vets all have the expertise and equipment to care for and reunite lost pets


So, picture this: Beloved dog escapes and is found early evening by a lovely member of the public. Because it is after hours, that saviour thinks the best thing is to keep it over night and (maybe) go to a vet in the morning.

As an owner, I find this quite devastating because, I don't know that my dog is safe and well. I will be looking and calling out ALL night, scouring the streets for my dog. Meanwhile, they may be safe and happy but how do I know that:

a) they are not dead

b) that they have not been stolen and

c) that they are not fretting?

I don't. So, as a finder, it is good practice to put yourself in the distraught dog owners mindset. Oh, but we don't want the owners to pay a huge fine you say. Truthfully, it is not the responsibility of the dog finder to worry about this. You have kept it safe. You have no more responsibility than this. Maybe the dog is a serial escapee? The owner needs to be made accountable if this is the case.

Take a read of a great blog post previously posted here entitled "What I don't want you to do if you find my dog" it lays out reasons about what NOT to do. ie don't feed the dog, be careful with the dog around other people - you don't know its background, its triggers etc Lastly, I ask that you share this post and the What I don't want you to do if you find my dog post to any posts on FB that you see when dogs are found. Education is the key to family reunions!

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