The City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services estimates that anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 feral and stray dogs and cats roam the streets of Los Angeles at any time. Karma Rescue suggests you use the following steps when finding a stray.

1. Find the Owner

Our first, strongest suggestion is to take the animal to your nearest public shelter (call 888-452-7381 to locate it). Legally, you must take the animal to the shelter for the minimum holding period, or make an attempt to find the owner with flyers, ads, etc. for ten days. The normal reaction we receive when we tell the many members of the public who telephone us each day is, “Oh no, but he or she will be killed there!” Unfortunately, while it is true, it is one of the best ways a dog or cat can be re-paired with its owner. Los Angeles has a terrible overpopulation problem and approximately 70% of all impounded animals are euthanized, but the city and county shelters are the first place an owner will look for their dog or cat. We have seen many animals successfully reunited with their owners because they were taken to the public shelter to be reclaimed by their owners. Even if a dog or cat does not have a collar or appears filthy, it still could very well belong to a desperately searching person. Collars can come off, and many dogs are excellent escape artists and can make their way out of what seems the most secure yard. Moreover, with the new micro-chipping technology, a dog or cat could very well have a microchip that would be scanned immediately upon their entrance into a public shelter.

Please keep in mind that if this was your pet, you would want the kind person who found it to make every effort to find you.

If you decide you still want to rescue and re-home the animal, you can place “First Rights” on the animal. Every stray turned in to a shelter has to be held for five working days to give the owner a chance to reclaim it. After the five-day period, the animal becomes available for adoption. Through the First Rights program, if you show up between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on the first day the animal is available for adoption, you have the right to adopt it.

If you decide against taking the animal to a public shelter, you must place ads in local newspapers and place Found flyers in the area where you found the dog or cat for at least ten days before you can legally claim ownership of the animal and attempt to re-home it. Most newspapers allow you to place found pet ads free of charge. When placing an ad, be careful to give simple descriptions that do not describe too much about the animal, so that you can determine whether or not any callers really do own the dog or cat in question. For example, a good ad would be: “Found large dog, Bundy and Sepulveda. Please call xxx-xxx-xxxx” When someone answers your ad, make sure they can give you an accurate description of the animal. You can ask the caller to produce a photo of the animal, a veterinary reference, or other proof of ownership. Ask the owner for the animal’s name and call it out to see if the animal reacts.

Listed below are the phone numbers for various local newspapers’ classifieds departments:

Los Angeles Times: 800-234-4444Daily News: 818-713-3711; 888-883-7355Pennysaver: 866-640-3900The Recycler: 213-660-8900

Also be sure to scan the lost ads in your local papers and flyers posted in your neighborhood to see if anyone is looking for the animal. Your local animal shelter also keeps logs of lost dog or cat calls and you can view these to see if any animals match your animal’s description.

You can also place an ad on Craigslist!

More people these days are using the site for lost and found animals. Do a Google search for other Lost Pet/Found Animal websites that list lost and found animals.

2. The Animal Has No Owner – What Next?

If you have placed flyers and ads and no one has called you during the 10-day period, you have the option of taking the animal to a public shelter, or trying to re-home it yourself.

If you decide to take it to a shelter, call 888-452-7381 to determine which shelter is closest to where you found the animal. Public shelters are open 24 hours a day to take animals in.

If you decide to find a home for the pet, you can try to call various private rescue groups in your area to see if they might let you sit at their adoption events with the animal in question. You will have to find a place to house the animal in the meantime however. If you cannot house the animal at your home, you have the option of boarding it a low-cost kennel or veterinarian’s office. Some kennels and veterinarian facilities will give you a reduced rate if they know the dog or cat is a rescue looking for a home. Or you can attempt to find a foster home through a friend or relative.

Karma Rescue is routinely asked to take in rescued or re-homed pets. The majority of private rescue groups in Los Angeles deal with a similar situation. Unfortunately, most private groups will not be able to take in the animal, although they can provide you with advice and resources on how to place the animal. If you choose to rescue and re-home an animal, in most cases you will have to find a place to house the animal until you find a new home for it.

3. Finding a Home For the Animal

The first thing to consider before re-homing the animal is whether or the animal is adoptable. Cats who are feral do not make good house pets, and dogs who act aggressively toward people are not good prospects for adoption.If you need assistance in evaluating a dog or cat, please call us at 310-512-7833. The more you know about the animal will help you to find a good home for it as well. Determining whether the dog or cat is good with children, dogs, cats, etc. is very helpful to the adoption process. Does the dog have a type of personality where an experienced owner is optimal? Or can it make a good first-time family dog?

If the animal appears to have medical needs, you should have it examined by a veterinarian as well. You should also have the dog or cat spayed or neutered before it is adopted. For a referral, please visit our Low Cost/Spay Neuter page.

If the animal is a dog, and time and financial resources are available, you might want to consider taking him or her through a basic obedience training class, which will make him or her a more attractive prospect for adoption. Our office can provide you with referrals to trainers in the community.

4. Showing the Animal for Adoption

There are various options for showing the animal. You can place advertisements in local newspapers, on local websites, and show them at local adoption events run by private rescue groups. We and other rescue groups have websites that allow you to place a picture and short description of the animal on their site.

These adoption websites allow private rescues to list pets for adoption:

Veterinary clinicsPet Supply StoresLocal retail and restaurant businessesDog parks (bulletin boards)Bulletin boards at your work placeSome private groups also allow you to sit with your animal at their adoption shows and may even assist you with the adoption process. Please call us for more information.

5. Finding a Good Home

Finding a good home for your animal can take days, weeks, months or even years. Be prepared for a long-term commitment to the animal.

Once you find a prospective home, how do you go about deciding if they are the right one?

Please contact us at info@karmarescue.org for helpful information on how to screen potential applications and draft sample adoption agreements.