The following tips will help you be ready for most common animal emergencies. This blog post is a bit long, but it has all the info that you’ll need to help an animal in need!
If you are ever unsure of what to do, please call PETA for help—at any time of the day or night—at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
In any animal emergency, the most important thing to do is remain calm and not leave the animal unattended. Please don’t assume that someone else will help. If you leave, the animal might never be found, end up in a dangerous situation, be abused or killed by cruel people, or die from his or her injuries or from exposure to the elements.
If you must leave the animal momentarily, ask a trustworthy person to stay while you are gone, and return as soon as possible.
Create an animal emergency kit to keep in your car. Your kit should include the following:
Animals, whether wild or domestic, are usually afraid of human intervention when they are hurt or dying. To avoid being bitten or causing the animal more distress and injury, remember the four rules of approach:
If you spot a stray animal near a busy road, position your car between the animal and traffic. Turn off the car, close the door quietly, and take your leash, cat food or treats, towel, and gauze with you in case the animal is injured. If the animal runs, stop and kneel down or walk in the opposite direction. Be patient—it might take awhile for the animal to muster up the courage to come near. Try to herd the animal toward a residential area, ideally into a fenced yard, where you can close the gate and prevent escape. Call the nearest animal shelter, animal control, or the police, and ask for help.
If the animal appears to be dead, gently touch the edge of the eye to check for an eye reflex. If the eye blinks, the animal is alive. Stop any bleeding by applying direct pressure with a clean towel or bandage. Then apply a bandage. Rush the animal to the nearest veterinarian, emergency animal clinic, or animal shelter. If you go to a veterinarian, be aware that you might be expected to pay for the animal’s care.
If you see someone abuse an animal, have a pen and paper ready to document details, such as a license plate number and vehicle description. Call your local animal shelter, animal control, SPCA, or police immediately. If they do not respond quickly, call PETA. Try to get evidence (take photos or video), find witnesses, and provide authorities with a written description of the abuse that you witnessed. You can also go to your local magistrate or police commissioner and file a formal complaint. For more detailed instructions, click here.
If you see a chained dog, your best chance of making a difference in the dog’s life is to befriend his or her guardians and help them make positive changes for their dog. Of course, dogs who are deprived of adequate shelter or are injured, ill, or in poor physical condition must be reported to the proper agency right away. Some jurisdictions have chaining restrictions or bans. Research your local laws, and notify authorities if you believe that violations are present. For detailed information on how to help chained dogs, click here.
If you find a stray dog, cat, or other animal companion, coax the animal to you. If he or she won’t come, start putting out food to get him or her into the habit of visiting. Borrow a humane box trap from your local animal shelter, or purchase one from Tomahawk Live Trap (1-800-27-ATRAP). If the animal is wearing tags, call the guardian listed on the tags and insist on taking the animal home yourself so that you can ascertain what his or her living conditions are. Ask some questions, such as “How did Fido get out?” If the animal has no identification, file a “found” report at area animal shelters (animals can wander many miles). Don’t be afraid to take the animal to a well-run animal shelter. That’s usually the first place that people look for a lost animal. Place a classified ad in your local newspaper. Put up signs within a 2-mile radius that say, “Found Cat. Call _____.” Don’t give any details. Let callers give you details—this weeds out people who are trying to acquire animals under false pretenses to sell to laboratories or dogfighting rings.
If you find a baby wild animal who’s alone or without a parent, don’t step in when it’s best to step aside. In the spring, baby animals will be a common sight, but if they aren’t hurt or in immediate danger, they usually don’t need help. Mom is probably gathering food nearby. Observe from afar to confirm that the mother is in fact caring for her young. Some mammal mothers such as deer and rabbits will attend to their young only at dusk and dawn.
Please stop to help if you find an injured animal. If the animal cannot be moved or safely contained, cover him or her with a towel or blanket so that he or she will stay calm until help arrives, and call 911. If the animal can be safely moved, place him or her in a covered box or carrier, and put the box in a dark, quiet place. Make sure that the animal doesn’t get too hot or cold and can breathe inside the box. Don’t feed the animal or offer him or her water. Contact an animal control or state wildlife agency or a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
Remember that it is not always fair to put a wild animal through the trauma of being handled by humans and suffering the pain of surgery and recovery in an alien environment, especially when so many do not pull through. Those who do are doomed either to live in a cage in captivity for the rest of their lives or to be released with a physical disadvantage as they attempt to fend for themselves again in the wild. Paying for euthanasia at the veterinary office or heading for the animal shelter is probably the best option, but do stay with the animal to ensure immediate relief of his or her suffering.
If you do end up with orphaned young birds or mammals, make them comfortable just as you would if they were injured animals. But do not attempt to care for the animals yourself! Please call your local animal control agency or wildlife rehabilitation center, and transport the baby animals for care immediately.
NOTE: Most birds are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). If you or anyone else is caught attempting to care for a federally protected bird without a rehabilitation permit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could charge you with MBTA violations. Fines for violating the MBTA are substantial! It’s also illegal to possess wildlife without a license in most states because these animals require expert handling and care, so please contact an animal control agency or wildlife rehabilitation center and transport the animals for care immediately.
Thanks for helping animals in need!