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What should you do when you find a stray animal?

On the internet you can find several rescue guidelines from different animal rescue volunteers around the world but, unfortunately, there is no single standard for these kind of guidelines. Hereafter, this article explores the issue based on the experience of several rescuers and foster parents that have faced this situation while living in China.

The first thing that you must keep in mind when you face the situation of finding one or several kittens/ puppies abandoned is: “Do not panic!” Indeed, you need to face the situation without getting stressed. If the kitten or puppy desperately needs help, the worst thing that you can do is to get nervous. You need to be objective and evaluate the situation according to the following points:

1. Does the animal look sick and/or suffering from starvation and/or sickness? Check if the animal is ok or not, and pay attention to the surroundings (if the animal is healthy and well fed maybe he belongs to somebody living nearby). If the animal belongs to somebody (even though it has no collar) you do not need to intervene. However, if the animal looks sick and/or starving, please take him/her to the nearest veterinary hospital so he/she can get the right medical treatment immediately (you can call the Shanghai Call Center phone number – 962288 – and ask in English, Chinese or other languages for the closest veterinary hospital to your current location).

2. If the animal is clearly a stray (regardless of the fact that he/she might look ok) you have to take him/her to the Vet as soon as possible. Hopefully within 24 hours since you found it. Some stray animals might look fine, but they might have a health problem that needs immediate attention. The Vet must check the following: (1) Worms; (2) Teeth: for decay and damage; (3) Take temperature; (4) Check ears for mites and infections; (5) Check skin for fleas, infestations or diseases; (6) Scan for a computer chip; (7) Trim nails if necessary; (8) Check body for any lumps; (9) Check eyes; (10) Check heart.

3. If the animal you found is very tiny and has his/her eyes closed, you must take it to the doctor immediately and follow the medical instructions given to you. In most cases you will be ask to bottle feed the animal. If you have problems with bottle feeding because of your job schedule or other personal duties that prevent you from doing so, please contact an animal rescue group immediately to get some assistance and/or guidance. Nevertheless, at this point it is important for you to bear in mind the overwhelming amount of animals that many animal rescue groups have, as well as the constrains in the resources available to help rescuers (please see point 5 for further information on this).

4. In most cases the Vet will tell you that you must keep the animal under observation at your home for 7 days (some hospitals refuse to take stray animals for observation in their medical facilities while some others do). In the case of cats, this is explained by the fact that diseases like Cat Flu and/or Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV) have a 7 days incubation period, during which an infected cat can spread the disease to other cats. Hereafter, if you take a stray animal to your home, keep this one separated from any animals you already have (also wash your hands before touching your own animals after having touched the new stray one). Observe the animal for a week and see if it adjusts well to its new home, whether it is eating and using the
litter box, and if shows any signs of being sick (lethargy, vomit, diarrhea, etc). If everything goes well, the animal can be vaccinated when the doctor says so. If the animal shows any signs of being sick during the first 7 days under observation, you must take it to the Veterinary hospital immediately. The doctor will check the animal again and will tell you how to proceed.

5. Most animal rescue groups in Shanghai do not have a shelter, so they depend on the help of rescuers and foster parents to take care of kittens, cats, puppies and dogs until they are adopted. Hereafter, you must keep in mind that, once you rescue an animal you must be a “temporary” foster parent for that animal until he/she can be placed with a foster parent from any of the animal rescue groups with presence in Shanghai. Are you willing to adjust your lifestyle accordingly for a short or long period of time?

Again at this point it is important to stress that you should not panic! To rescue and to give a second chance to an animal in need is a wonderful thing, but you need to be aware that, in order to do it right, you must help the animal by yourself for a few days or longer… You cannot rescue an animal and “dump” him/her immediately to one animal rescue group.

Organizations such as JAR (Jaiya’s Animal Rescue) and others have many animals under their care and have very limited resources (since they depend on donations), so you must help the animal while these organizations coordinate their efforts to help you and your rescued animal. Consequently, rescuers must be responsible for the animal they choose to pick up and rescue.

6. Under JAR regulation, all rescued animals must be dewormed, deflead, have “at least” their first vaccination and have a social temperament (and good character) in order to be available for adoption. This regulation is pretty much the same across all animal rescue groups. Hereafter, you must bear in mind that the best gift that you can give to your rescued animal is its health (treatments and vaccinations) before being adopted.  JAR and other animal rescue groups will try to help you with medical costs if they have resources available. At the same time, they will look for foster parents and/or adoptive parents using very strict guidelines, making sure that your rescued animal will be safe and happy in his new life.

7. Even though your rescued animal cannot speak, in his/her heart he/she will appreciate every single thing that you can do for him/her.

Note: This article was reviewed by Dr. Stephanie Goltz from PetsHome Veterinary Hospital before its publication in order to ensure accuracy on its veterinary content.
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Link to Shanghaiist:
http://shanghaiist.com/2010/08/18/ask_shanghaiist_what_should_you_do.php

Link on blog:
https://jarshanghai.wordpress.com/information/what-should-you-do-when-you-find-a-stray-animal

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