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If you find a stray dog, take him to an animal shelter. It’s the first place his family may look. By: Jim & Rachel McArthur

When you find a stray dog, you can’t assume he’s yours to keep.

Follow the proper procedures, even if the dog is in bad condition. It’s possible he was trapped somewhere or has been looking for his people for several days, weeks and sometimes even months.

1. See If He’s Microchipped

Take him to a veterinarian’s office or animal shelter and have him scanned for a microchip. If the dog has one, the vet or shelter will attempt to contact the family.

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Sadly, many people don’t register or update their pet’s microchip information, so this step may not yield much success.

2. Take Him to the Animal Shelter

If you can’t find his family through microchipping, take the lost pet immediately to the animal shelter closest to the area in which you found him.

If someone has lost their dog and can’t find him, the shelter is the first place they’ll look. Linus, one of my former foster dogs, escaped from his yard, and his family went to the shelter less than a half-hour after he ran away. The good news? Someone had already turned him in.

After a shelter holds a lost pet for 3 or 4 days and the pet’s family doesn’t show up, you can adopt him for a fee, but the price will include a spay/neuter, vaccinations and a microchip.

3. Make a “Found Dog” Flyer

Before going to the shelter, take a photo of the dog to put on a flyer.

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Include the date, the area in which you found him and your phone number. Hold back a few facts, if possible, so you can make sure anyone who contacts you is the pet’s real family.

Post these flyers throughout your neighborhood as well as on your front or garage door. If the family is driving around the neighborhood, they’ll see the sign and inquire within.

Watch this beautiful dog reunite with her family after going missing for 22 months:

4. Canvass the Neighborhood

Given that I’m the local Crazy Dog Lady, it usually falls to me to figure out where stray pups belong in my area. If you’re anything like me, you know the name, breed, family’s name and residence of almost all the dogs in the neighborhood.

If you’re a normal person, try to find someone like me near you. Walk around and look for “Beware of Dog” signs, which usually indicate the resident is a dog person (and, with any luck, a nice one). Someone might have information on the dog you found.

Take a flyer with you, too.

5. Make Sure Your Pet Has Identification

Prevent this scenario from happening to you and your pup by getting him microchipped and registering his information with the microchip company. If you move, update the information.

Even if your pet is chipped, make sure he always wears a collar with a tag that includes his name, your phone number and your street address.

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