(From Humane Society of the United States) You’re driving your car when you see a dog or cat on the side of the road. With a sinking feeling, you realize they are alone. What should you do?
This is a wrenching scenario for all who care about animals. After all, what if your own pet were standing there? Use our guidelines for providing safe and effective help.
Don’t cause an accident
You can’t help an animal if you become injured in the process. Look in your rear-view mirror before braking, turn on your signal, pull your car completely off the road, turn off the ignition, set the parking brake, and put on the hazard lights. If you have emergency flares, prepare to use them.
Catch them safely
A strange, frightened, and possibly sick or injured animal can behave unpredictably. A sudden move on your part, even opening your car door, can spook them and cause them to bolt—possibly right onto the highway. If the animal looks or acts threatening, or if you feel uneasy about the situation, stay in your car.
If possible, restrain the animal. Create a barrier or use a carrier, leash, piece of cloth, or length of rope to keep the animal in the area. Signal approaching vehicles to slow down if you cannot confine the animal, or divert traffic around them if they appear to be injured and is still on the roadway.
Use caution when approaching the animal. Should you succeed in getting close enough to capture them, you stand a good chance of being scratched or bitten.
When moving toward the animal, speak calmly to reassure them. Make sure they can see you at all times as you approach, and perhaps entice them to come to you by offering a strong-smelling food such as canned tuna or dried liver.
Lure them into your car
If you are certain you can get help from animal control very soon, try to lure the animal into your car with food, close the door and wait for help. In most cases it isn’t a good idea to attempt to drive somewhere with a strange dog unrestrained in your car; they may become frantic or aggressive. Cats may do the same, as well as lodge themselves under the car seat, and it can be dangerous trying to extract them.
Call for backup
If you’re not able to safely restrain the animal, call the local animal control agency (in rural areas, call the police). Do so whether or not the animal is injured, and whether or not they are wearing an identification tag. Leave your phone number with the dispatcher, and try to get an estimate of how long it may take someone to respond. If possible, stay on the scene to keep an eye on the dog or cat until help arrives. Make sure you report to authorities precisely where the animal is by using road names, mile markers or landmarks.