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What to do if I find a stray?

Sadly, pets do go wandering sometimes - perhaps they escape, or get lost on a walk; perhaps they’re scared by something and run away. Whatever the reason, what should you do if you find a lost dog or cat?

Informative image: stray dog

Healthy Dogs

As many people know now, a stray dog is legally the responsibility of the local Council - if you find a healthy stray, we can’t help you. Unfortunately, we cannot take responsibility for healthy and uninjured stray dogs - we just don’t have kennel space for them! However, we are lucky in south Devon in that we have our own Dog Warden, who should be your first port of call. You can contact them on 01626 215419 or 01626 215415 in working hours, or 01626 361101 on evenings and at weekends. There’s more information here: The Dog Warden will scan them for a microchip, check for a collar tag or a tattoo, and try to get them back in touch with their owners. If the dog is in immediate danger, we can check for a microchip and try to reunite the dog with its owner, but if we are not able to do so within a couple of hours we will contact the Dog Warden.

Sick or Injured Dogs

If, however, the dog is obviously ill or injured, and they need treatment or first aid, then we will of course see them. However, it is vital that you contact the RSPCA and get a log number before you come down - we need that to begin treatment! The telephone number for the RSPCA for log numbers is 0300 1234 999. We will give them emergency first aid treatment, and then try and trace the owner - again by checking for a microchip, tag or tattoo; plus checking in our Lost and Found book.


However, what do you do if you find a lost cat? The law is much less certain about cats, and sadly there isn’t a Cat Warden. If the cat is healthy, we’re more than happy to check them over for a chip - but again, we cannot admit them. What we would do is take a note of where they were found, enter them in the Found book, and then return it to the place where it was found. Most “stray” cats are more than capable of finding their own way home, although we would normally put a cat-safe waterproof paper collar on them with our phone number, so any future finder knows they’ve already been entered in our books as lost!

For injured or ill cats, the procedure is the same as for a dog - we will of course offer first aid treatment, but you must get an RSPCA log number to allow us to do so.

What if they’re beyond help?

If, tragically, the dog or cat you find is deceased, or has to be put down because of their injuries, we will of course accept them. We will try and locate the owner, and we will keep the body for a week to allow the owner to come forward. If no-one claims them, then we will arrange for them to be respectfully cremated, along with other dogs and cats so they aren’t alone at the end.

So what should I do if I’ve lost my pet?

There are two things you must do - firstly, contact the Dog Warden (for a dog, obviously) and let them know yours is missing. Include their description and microchip number if possible. The Warden will then know to be on the lookout!

Secondly, contact us and other vets in the area. We all keep Lost and Found books, and even if we haven’t had them reported found, we’ll enter their description and your details, so we can try and match them up with any pets who do turn up.

How can I make sure they come back?

The most important thing is to get all your pets - dogs, cats, rabbits, whatever! - microchipped. We scan found animals, so do the Dog Wardens. If they have a microchip with your details up to date then we can return them to you as fast as possible. If you’re not sure how to update your details (if you’ve moved house, for example, since your pet was chipped), contact us and we’ll be able to tell you how.

We aim to return all lost pets to their owners as soon as possible!