Dear Homeward Bound: What’s the best way to deal with strays?

Dear Homeward Bound,
My friend and I were talking about what to do if you see a stray animal in your neighborhood. I think you should just leave him alone because he probably lives somewhere close. My friends thinks you should pick up the animal and take him to the shelter right away. What’s the best thing to do?
Dear Curious,
I’m glad you that you and your friend are talking about how to best help animals! I think the best course of action is somewhere in between leaving the animal alone and taking him or her directly to a shelter.
Try to find out if the animal lives in the neighborhood. You can do this by looking to see if he has a collar and tags and if you can see a phone number you can call it. If you can’t get close enough to him, you can knock on nearby doors to see if you can find the owner or find out where he lives. You can post to local social media about seeing the animal and asking if anyone knows who owns him.
You can call your local animal shelter, your town offices, and, if there is one, a nearby veterinarian clinic and let them know that you think you may have spotted a stray animal in case they have any reports of lost animals.
You can watch the animal’s behavior … if she seems comfortable and seems to know where she is going — sniffing around, lying in a yard, or sitting on a sidewalk, it is more likely the animal lives nearby. If she is acting nervous and running around, stopping and starting, or seems to be hiding, then it is more likely she is lost or disoriented and in need of human help.
If you do decide to pick up the animal, be careful and think about your safety. Keeping a slip leash (the kind that is used at veterinarian offices that just loops over the head) and/or a towel or small animal carrier in your car with some treats is useful too. After you have taken the animal to your local shelter, it can also be useful to post again to local social media about where you took the animal.
Thanks for caring about animals!
Jessica Danyow
Homeward Bound

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