Lost pets and what to do if you find one

Do you know what to do if you find a stray dog or cat? Do you know there are laws to follow if you do find a stray pet?

Lost pets are extremely common in Rutherford County and pretty much everywhere else in the world for that matter! Lack of licensing laws and leash laws may be to blame. These laws would hold folks accountable for pets at large and would encourage owners to keep control of their animals at all times.

There are many reasons why pets may become lost. Many residents just allow their pet to run free not even attempting to keep him under control. While others may try their hardest to keep their pet fenced in or confined and yet he still gets out. Accidents happen too. A neighbor may have come by and accidentally left the door open and kitty got out or the mail man didn’t close the gate all the way and doggie took off.

There are many good, caring folks in this county that if they find a dog or cat, they want to do what is right and help find the owner. The best case scenario is, the animal is wearing a collar with ID and rabies tag on it. This makes the process so much easier! You call the number and the owner comes and gets their pet. Sounds easy, right?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way and steps will need to be taken to help locate the owners. There are right ways to go about this and there are wrong ways to go about this! Reality is, folks may just not know what to do!

In Rutherford County, a problem trend has developed. Residents are finding pets, taking them into their home and attempting to find the owner on their own, never notifying Animal Control. Then after they can’t find them, do they then surrender to Animal Control. Most folks check the shelter first if their pet is lost and those first few days are critical!

If a pet is found, the first thing you should do is take him to Animal Control. There they will scan the animal for a microchip. If one is not found, they will take photos and record him into their system. At this point, and only at this point, can the 72 hour stray hold period begin. This hold period is the law and it gives folks the chance to find their pet without the chance of him being adopted away from them.

All stray animals have a 72 hour hold and only Animal Control can start it!

The pet can stay with Animal Control or if the finder would like to foster the pet during the 72 hour hold, he may be given the option to do so. The finder now has a chance to do something incredibly responsible; to try to locate the owner on their own time.

The finder has many options: 

  • Make and post flyers: Hang in laundromats, vet hospitals, local rescues, pet store, post office etc. Anywhere there may be a bulletin board!
  • Talk with your neighbors. Ask around town. Pass out a few more flyers.
  • Make a yard sign with the dog or cat’s picture on it. There is a good chance the owner may be driving around trying to find him!
  • Get on Social Media. Post on your wall. Share on the lost and found pet pages. This county is full of animal lovers! They will share it!

After the 72 hour hold period is over, the finder will again have a conversation with Animal Control. If an owner has not come forward, two things can happen. Either the pet is given back to Animal Control and put up for adoption to the public or the finder can adopt him.

The best and most responsible thing you can do for your pet is to have a pet ID tag made for your furry friend. You can order one on Ebay for $2.50! Have your pet current on rabies vaccination and keep his rabies tag on his collar! This is actually the law!!

Another option is to have your pet implanted with a microchip. There are several places to get this done:

  • Your local veterinarian.
  • Tractor Supply has a veterinarian come in every Sunday from 9:30-11.
  • Local animal rescues may offer it as an option with spay and neuter services or at vaccination clinics.

Please be responsible with your furry friend! Keep them confined or on a leash at all times. Keep a collar on him, with proper identification and his rabies tag. Have him microchipped. A little money spent now, will save you tons of heartache later!


Animal Control Services

578 Laurel Hill Dr.

Rutherfordton, NC 28139

Animal Shelter: (828) 287-6025

Animal Control Enforcement: (828) 286-2911