Should you house stray animals? How to help lost dogs and cats in Charlotte

Finding a stray dog, cat or another animal can pull at your heartstrings and leave you scrambling to figure out how to reunite it with its family.

If you’re willing and able, there are steps you can take to help care for the pet while searching for its owner in the Charlotte area. And even if you can’t keep the animal in your home, there are still steps you can take to help it to safety.

Here’s what to know about feeding stray dogs and cats and what to do if you find a missing pet in Charlotte:

Should you feed stray animals?

Feeding stray animals can help them when done properly but can also pose safety risks, experts say, so it’s important to be cautious when deciding to do so.

“A strange, frightened, and possibly sick or injured animal can behave unpredictably,” the Humane Society of the United States notes.

As such, you should avoid sudden movements and try to use a calm and soothing voice, the group recommends. You should also consider wearing gloves when trying to feed strays and wash your hands after being around them, the dog food company Pedigree adds.

“Throwing or leaving food behind unattended, to feed stray dogs is an irresponsible act,” the National Parks Board advises, because that can lead to public health issues.

Instead, the group recommends supervising the stray animals while they eat.

If you’re going to take on the responsibility of regularly feeding an animal, the group suggests doing so “at regular times and at a regular location” and selecting a location that’s “away from human and vehicle traffic” and “ away from areas where dogs may start guarding their feeding ground.”

Who to call about stray animals in Charlotte

If you find a missing pet and they don’t have an ID tag, Charlotte’s Animal Care and Control team recommends getting the animal checked for a microchip.

You can take the animal to a local veterinarian to get checked or use one of the microchip checkpoint sites throughout Mecklenburg County. Charlotte residents can also call 311 “to request an officer come to your home to scan the lost pet for a microchip.”

If you can’t find the pet’s owner through an ID tag or microchip, you should file a found pet report with Animal Care and Control online or by calling 311.

“Be sure to post the pet on all your social media channels, including Next Door,” Animal Care and Control states.

There are also multiple Facebook groups for sharing information on found pets in Charlotte.

If you can’t keep the pet in your house, “bring it to CMPD Animal Care & Control at 8315 Byrum Dr. Charlotte NC 28217” anytime from “11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday,” the agency’s website states.

You can also call 311 “to request an officer come to your home to pick up the lost pet.”

After 14 days, per Animal Care and Control, you can decide to keep the pet, “re-home it with someone you know,” give up the pet to an animal rescue group or bring the pet to the city shelter.

“Original owners retain the right to reclaim their pets from new owners, even if their attempt to reunite with their pet occurs after 14 days,” Animal Care and Control notes. “Any disputes over ownership between a new and original owner is a civil matter to be settled legally.”