Series: Individual Action & Animal Welfare
How to responsibly report a case to rescue groups and shelters - Part 1
By Akshata Modi
The sad truth of our world is that not everyone loves animals. Ask any animal welfare rescuer about the animals who are found bruised, bloodied and emaciated, the litters of puppies rescued from taped-up boxes or from sealed plastic garbage bags thrown into lakes and rivers, and the animals who are abandoned because they “bark too much,” are ageing, or whose family is moving. As KAW works primarily with dogs, we have referred to them through the article – however, much of this information applies to other animals as well.
Things to keep in mind when approaching an injured dog:
It is important to keep in mind your own safety. A dog which is hurt, ill, or abandoned will likely be very anxious and scared. In such a vulnerable state, the dog might not trust you easily. He/she may snap at you out of fear or pain. Before you approach, give the animal enough time to trust you. Be careful in touching or picking up the community dog.
Once you build trust and establish contact, make sure to move him/her to a safe place, because hurt and abandoned dogs are easily attacked by other dogs. Move the community dog away from the road and traffic – distressed animals often panic and run loose on the road, which can be life-threatening.
Reporting a lost or abandoned animal:
Many people decide to find lost dogs a home without putting enough effort into finding their owner. The same happens in the case of stray puppies: People try to find them a home without searching for the family of the puppy. Additionally, in most of these situations, people keep these dogs at home for some time and then bring them to shelters. As very few dogs survive and thrive in shelters, handing over a dog to a shelter should be the absolute last resort – only injured dogs should be taken to shelters for treatment. Further, most shelters are overpopulated, and the chances of a healthy dog catching infections are very high as well.
The wisest decision would involve looking for the dog’s family, and if not found, seeking a family that can commit to taking care of the dog forever. However, it is not the easiest task to connect a dog with a new home; in this case, it is best to contact an animal rescue group for their assistance.
When would you know if a dog is lost or has been abandoned?
- Health of the dog
- Hygiene/fur quality
- How comfortable the dog is with people
- Signs of housetraining
Typically, in a rescue situation, one can distinguish between lost and abandoned dogs based on signs of the amount of care given. If the dog whom you encounter appears to be in good health, has proper hygiene, interacts well with people, and demonstrates signs of housetraining, it’s very likely that he/she is a lost companion animal. On the other hand, if the dog has noticeable health conditions, poor fur quality, and fears interacting with people, it has most likely been abandoned.
What can you do when you spot a lost or abandoned dog?
- Check the dog for any injuries or wounds which need to be treated.
- Secure the dog and inform a local animal rescue group.
- Click a picture of the dog and circulate it on social media and community social groups in order to find his/her family – include the location of the dog, its physical attributes, any behavioural quirks, and health status
- Arrange for a temporary shelter for the dog.
- Ensure that the dog is being given enough food and water.
- Take the dog to a vet for a basic checkup
- If anyone claims ownership, make sure to verify thoroughly.
- If no one contacts you or claims ownership, you can adopt the dog if you are interested and able to do so. If not, you can try to find a home for the dog, or you can seek assistance from an animal rescue group for the same.
Contacting a rescue group vs. contacting a shelter
What is the difference between an animal rescue group and an animal shelter?
An animal rescue group typically assists or coordinates the rescue of injured, ill, or abandoned animals. An animal shelter provides a temporary space for animals to stay and recover; shelters must also have an in-house veterinarian to treat the injuries and illnesses of dogs in need of medical care.
How to responsibly report to a rescue organisation?
Take note of the situation: Get a clear idea of the location, the injury or illness, and what can be done in the moment to help the animal. When reporting the case, make sure you send the exact location, a landmark, and a contact number of someone at the scene
Find out the right person or organisation to report to: A quick Google search can help in these situations. Organisations are listed online along with contact details. Remember that most shelters and rescue groups are overburdened, so try to reach out to 3-4 to ensure you receive help. It’s best to call a rescue organisation or individual directly, rather than reaching out through social media or a text message; rescue situations require urgent attention and care, so it’s advisable to contact someone as quickly as possible.
Do not delay or waste time: Your first step to help a dog should not be sent a message to an organisation on social media, as you do not know the regularity with which they check their messages online. Posting online in a volunteer animal welfare group may lead to positive results as it helps you engage with the local community. If action needs to be taken to save a life, and you are at the scene, then make the decision to rescue the animal and find how you can help.
Do an initial vet visit if possible or call a paravet: Taking the dog to a vet helps the rescue organisation understand the extent of the problem the dog is experiencing and also allows for preliminary treatment to be done, to ease the animal’s discomfort if nothing else. A plan of action is only possible once the condition of the animal is known. If the animal is not allowing you to take it to a vet, call a paravet for an on-site visit.
Stay on ground: If you have called an ambulance or are trying to arrange for the dog to be picked up, ensure you stay on location. Coordinating the pickup of a dog while not being present means the dog can move from its original place. The people coming to pick them up may not be able to locate the dog in time to provide it with the necessary treatment.
Follow up: Find out who the point of contact at the organisation would be, and ensure you do follow ups regularly. Check if organisational policy allows for visits to the animal undergoing treatment. There are many dogs in shelters across Delhi, and doing regular follow up allows you to keep track of their positive progress.
Post recovery: If the dog is fit to be released post recovery, ensure the dog is returned to its original territory. Leaving a dog in an unfamiliar territory can be extremely dangerous as dogs are territorial by nature and are unlikely to be accepting of a newcomer.