November 13th is World Kindness Day. To help promote this for the animal kingdom, I have decided to post a helpful guide on what to do if you find an injured, abandoned, or lost animal and a quick checklist for your very own animal rescue kit!
How many times have you seen a stray or injured animal along the roadside and driven by like everyone else? Do you think something like, “Somebody else will help it.” The truth is that most people will simply drive by thinking the same thing. If you won’t help that animal, than who will? It is important to remember that lost, abandoned, and injured animals often cannot fend for themselves. You should also keep in mind that that animal might be somebody’s pet. Wouldn’t you want somebody to stop and help if it was your cat or dog? So, I beg you to stop and help an animal in need next time you see one, in the spirit of world kindness.
Prepare an animal rescue kit for your car! Why not be prepared ahead of time. I promise it will eventually come in handy. You should keep these things in your car at all times.
- Cell phone
- Phone number for local animal control
- Phone number for local animal protective league/ASPCA, etc.
- Phone number for local shelter/rescue (such as your local Humane Society)
- Phone number and directions to nearest 24 emergency vet
- Cat carrier or cardboard box (cheap cardboard cat carriers can be purchased at many places)
- Collars (a small one for cats & one for dogs that adjusts to a wide range of sizes-can be inexpensively purchased at discount stores or during sales)
- Leash (one heavy enough to hold a dog, but don’t be afraid to use it on cats!)
- Heavy blanket and towels (can use old towels from home)
- Bottle of clean water
- Bowls (inexpensive plastic bowls that can be used for food/water)
- Strong-smelling foods, such as canned tuna or dried liver
- Animal first aid kit (can make your own- gauze rolls, adhesive/first aid tape, hydrogen peroxide, antiseptic cream, tweezers, scissors)
If you see an injured domestic animal…
These are steps you can take even if you don’t have any of the above materials. Although, it is smart to at least program the animal control, emergency vet, protective league, and shelter phone numbers into your cell phone or write them down.
- Ensure your own safety. -Be sure you can safely get to the animal without injuring yourself. If in a car, pull off the road and put on your hazard lights. Do not rush the animal or touch it right away. Move slowly to make sure the animal is not going to bite or hurt you. Do not risk being bit. Remember, an animal may snap at you, but this does not mean it is aggressive or does not want/need help.
- Ensure the safety of the animal. –Do not swiftly approach the animal. If in a car, exit the car slowly and do not slam the door. A scared animal can act in unpredictable ways. It could get scared and bolt onto a busy road or into a wooded area where you cannot help it. Also, so not administer anything to the animal if it is injured and you are not sure what is wrong with it. Only move an injured animal if you must do so to prevent it from being further injured.
- If possible, restrain the animal. – Create a barrier with something to try to keep the animal confined. If the animal is uninjured and is friendly, try to persuade it into your car where it will at least be safe from running off and being hit. This is where a leash, collars, carriers, or a box would come in handy.
- Speak softly to the animal. – Speak calmly while approaching the animal. Make sure the animal can see you at all times. Try to entice the animal with strong smelling food if you have any with you. Do not feed the animal chocolate, as it is toxic to many animals.
- Try to lure the animal into your car. – If you’re in a car when you spot the animal, try to lure it into your car with food or simply by calling it. Many lost dogs will hop into a car if invited! You should only do this if you are sure someone will be there to get the animal relatively soon. It is not advised that you drive in the car with an unfamiliar animal because they may become frantic and injure you or themselves. If you can restrain the animal or put it in a carrier, it is probably safe to drive with it. Animal control can take a LONG time to show up, and sometimes injured animals don’t have that long and require immediate care.
- Call the local police/animal control/animal protective league. – You will have to research what groups physically come pick up animals in your area. I recommend an animal protective league if possible. Contact animal control even if you are taking the animal into your care that way they can see if it is a pet that has been reported missing.
- Take the animal to the nearest shelter/rescue/emergency vet. – If an animal is severely sick or injured, you should take it to the vet immediately, if possible. This is if you can constrain the animal or if he/she is in no condition to move. Be warned that a vet will often expect you to pay the medical bills. Many vets offer a Good Samaritan discount. Check with vets in your area to see if any allow you to bring injured animals in for free. If the animal cannot be saved, most vets will humanely euthanize the animal for free. If you cannot get to the vet, take the animal to the nearest shelter.
- Understand the limits of the local animal control agency. – If an animal is injured, many animal agencies don’t have the funds and resources to treat that animal. The animal will be euthanized to prevent it from suffering any longer. Also, animal control can take many hours to respond to a call. If it is possible for you to take it to a vet or a local Humane Society where the animal might have better chances, please do so. If there is nothing you can do, please do not let the animal suffer. Call your local animal control agency to come get the animal and in the meantime cover the animal up with a blanket, towel, or whatever you might have and stay with it.
If you see an injured/orphaned/in danger wild animal…
- First, decide whether you should help or not. There are many cases in which a wild animal will not survive without human intervention. In other cases, human involvement could make the situation even worse.
If an animal is injured, immediate action should be taken, but remember, an injured animal is prone to aggression. So seeking the help of a professional – animal control or a wildlife rehabilitator – is ideal in these situations. If you absolutely must handle an injured animal, do so using extreme caution and take protective measures, such as wearing thick leather gloves.
In the case of a baby animal that appears to be alone, do not act immediately unless the baby is obviously injured or in immediate danger from predation, traffic, etc. Many wild animals allow their young to roam relatively freely, while mom or dad looks on from a distance.
If a wild mother is injured or killed and cannot care for her young, the babies will often leave the nest or den in seek of food. Crying and vocalizing is a common behavior in young wild animals who are hungry and who are without the care of their mother. This is a case where immediate intervention is necessary.
If a baby bird or squirrel has fallen from the nest in a tree or other tall structure, there’s a good chance the animal is injured. If the mother does not retrieve the baby within an hour or two, humans should intervene. Intervention should occur sooner if the baby is obviously injured or crying.
As a general rule, young animals are less likely to act aggressively toward humans. Adults are often more prone to acting in an aggressive manner. And an injured animal – even an animal who is normally docile – can exhibit signs of aggression when injured. All wild animals should be handled with caution.
If you decide to intervene and care for a wild orphan, contacting a wildlife rehabilitation facility is the first priority, as many orphans are in need of veterinary attention and specialized care if they are to survive. If no rehabilitators are available in your area, contact veterinarians to seek assistance for your orphan. Many veterinarians can also provide referrals to veterinarians who specialize in wildlife.
An injured wild animal must be placed in a secure cage or box to help prevent further injury to the animal and its human caretakers. Get the animal to a qualified veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator immediately and limit direct contact with the animal in order to avoid unnecessary stress and fear.
Where to Find Help
It is recommended that you research who to contact in a wildlife animal situation and keep that contact info with you. There are many qualified individuals who can help an injured animal in need. Consider seeking help from one of the following agencies:
· A local Animal Control Officer (usually affiliated with the local fire or police department)
· The Animal Rescue League or other similar animal welfare organization
· A State Wildlife Agency (in the U.S.)
· A Veterinary School or University in your area
· A local veterinarian (if they are not equipped to assist you, most can refer you to someone else who is qualified to handle a wildlife emergency)