Not sure what to do if you come across a lost or stray animal? Here are some important things to know:

Safety First

When you find a lost or stray animal it is important to consider the safety of the animal, as well as your safety and the safety of others.

The animal may be scared, injured, feral or rabid. If the animal poses a threat to your safety do not approach it, rather, call a local animal shelter or animal control. If possible, stay at the scene until they arrive.

If the animal is friendly, carefully approach them. Speak calmly and make sure he or she can see you at all times. If you believe you can take the animal with you, try to direct them into your vehicle.

 Please note: it can be dangerous to attempt to drive somewhere with an unfamiliar and unsecured animal in your car, as they may become frantic or aggressive. Be very cautious and call or consult a shelter if you are not comfortable with the situation. In the case that you are not able to safely secure the animal while transporting them, contact your local animal shelter or animal control for assistance. Please stay with the animal until they arrive. Try to keep the animal from leaving the area by creating a barrier or using a carrier, leash, etc. Finding a lost or stray animal near traffic can be especially dangerous. Try not to spook the animal, as this may cause them to dart into oncoming traffic.

If you’re in a vehicle

If you notice a lost or stray animal while in your vehicle it is important to stay calm. Pull over safely, in order to avoid causing an accident or scaring the animal into traffic. If you aren’t able to pull over safely, take note of the location so that you can return or alert animal control to the area once you are able to safely pull over. You may be asked to describe the animal, the location and the time at which you saw the animal.

Once the animal is safely secure

Once the animal is safely secured, you can either take him or her to your home or to an animal shelter. If you take the animal to a shelter please ensure that it is a no kill shelter. If you decide to take the animal home, be sure to contact your local animal control office or shelter. It is important to let the appropriate agency know that you have the animal and to provide a description, in case the owner contacts them. Having the animal scanned for a microchip at your local veterinarian or shelter will also help you find the owner. Please note: be sure to keep identification tags or collars in case any questions should arise later.

Before bringing the new rescue home, make sure that you are able to keep your other animals separate. It can be dangerous to introduce the new animal to your pets right away, as he or she could be sick or fearful and become aggressive towards your animals. It is also a good idea to have the animal checked out by a veterinarian.

If you plan on keeping the animal, in the case that the owner is not found, it is important that you check your local laws and contact your local animal control agency, Humane Society or SPCA. Even if you are unable to find the animal’s family, this does not necessarily mean that you become his or her new owner. Particular requirements may need to be fulfilled. This includes a holding period during which you must attempt to locate the animal’s family.

How to find the animal’s family

“Found Pet” flyers posted in the area where the animal was found are often helpful in locating an animal’s family. Notices posted at your local veterinary hospitals and on websites such as Petfinder and social media are also useful.

Other resources

For more information on helping lost or stray animals or reuniting an animal with his or her family, please check out the following sites:

SPCA / Humane Society Canada

British Columbia – BC SPCA

Alberta – Alberta SPCA

Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan SPCA

Manitoba – Brandon Humane Society

Ontario – Ontario SPCA and Humane Society

Quebec – SPCA of Western QuebecMontréal SPCA

New Brunswick – New Brunswick SPCA

Nova Scotia – Nova Scotia SPCA

Prince Edward Island – PEI Humane Society

Newfoundland and Labrador – SPCA St. John’sNewfoundland and Labrador Humane Society

Nunavut – Iqaluit Humane Society

Northwest Territories – NWT SPCAYellowknife Humane Society

Yukon – Humane Society Yukon

SPCA / Humane Society US


Humane Society



Alley Cat Allies

The Shelter Pet Project

Image by Nakae