This is an excellent question, and one that isn’t as simple to answer as you may think.
Whether a dog is a stray or not sometimes depends on the laws in your particular area.
In Ferry County, only the city of Republic has a leash law.
If you are within Republic city limits, and spot an unaccompanied dog off leash, that dog is a stray dog. If you find a stray dog in the city limits, you should:
1. Check the dog for a collar and ID or licensing tags; the city also has a dog licensing law, so all dogs that live within city limits should have a license tag on their collars.
2. If there is a collar with tags, but no identification that provides the owner’s contact info, you can find the owner’s info by calling City Hall with the dog license tag information, OR by calling the veterinarian listed on the dog’s rabies tag and providing the rabies tag number.
3. If there is no identification, you may want to try using social networking to find the dog’s owner. Facebook groups like Ferry County Exchange, 99166, or Lost/Stolen/Found Animals often have rapid success at returning the dog to its owner quickly. Even if the owner is not on Facebook, their friends, relatives, or neighbors may be, and can recognize the dog and contact the owner. If you are not on Facebook, you can send a picture of the dog to Forget Me Not (info at forgetmenotshelter dot org) and we will be happy to post on Facebook for you.
4. If all attempts to locate the owner fail, you can contact Republic Police Department to impound the stray; they will take it to Konz Veterinary, which has an impound contract with the city, where it will be held for 3 days to give the owner a chance to find it.
If you are outside Republic city limits, things are a little bit murkier due to the lack of leash or licensing laws.
If the dog seems to be moving with purpose along the road, and he is not creating an overly dangerous situation for drivers in the area, there is a good chance he is not a stray dog, but is simply a local country dog off on his daily explorations, possibly heading home. If you don’t see the dog in the same place a second time, he has probably gone home. It is not illegal for a dog in Ferry County to wander to his heart’s content, as long as he is not chasing livestock or causing accidents.
If the dog is wandering aimlessly in one set area along a road, looking nervous or appearing to be waiting for someone, then she may be lost – a “stray” dog – and in need of some assistance finding her way home.
If the dog is found on your property and doesn’t leave within a couple of hours, it is also safe to assume he is a stray dog.
When finding a stray dog within the county, and there is no collar with ID, the best procedure is:
1. Bring the dog to a safe place with you if you are able to do so. If you cannot bring the dog with you, make a note of exactly where the dog is (mile markers, cross streets, nearby houses or landmarks) so someone would be able to find the location. Take photos if you can.
2. Call the shelter 509-775-2308 or email info at forgetmenotshelter dot org to report the stray. Email reaches the volunteers faster than phone calls, but either method will work. If you email, please include a couple of photos of the dog if you are able. When the shelter receives photos by email, we can start searching for the dog’s owner immediately, and sometimes can connect you with the owner directly, which eliminates the need to have law enforcement impound the dog, or to have the dog brought to Forget Me Not.
3. If the owner can’t be found quickly, the Forget Me Not volunteers will arrange an appointment for you to bring the dog in to the shelter; we will also take care of notifying the Ferry County Sheriff so they can impound the stray, we will check the dog for a microchip, and we will do flyers and online ads to try to locate the dog’s owner.
Please only pick up the dog if you are able to hang onto her until arrangements can be made for her to come into the shelter. Forget Me Not is primarily staffed by volunteers, and has no set operating hours; we will need to find a volunteer who can make an appointment with you to go to the shelter and do intake on the dog, so it can sometimes take 24-48 hours from the time you pick up the dog to the time it comes to the shelter. If you cannot care for the dog for up to 48 hours, please just take photos, make a precise notation of the exact location of the dog, and call or email the shelter with the information so we can post the dog’s photo and location online and either find her owner, or find a volunteer in the community who can pick her up and bring her to the shelter by appointment.
NEVER pick up a stray dog and just decide to keep it. That is considered theft of property, which *is* illegal. Even if a stray dog is emaciated, injured, or appears to have been beaten or neglected, you don’t know the full story. It could be a child’s beloved pet that was lost 2 months ago on a stop for gas in Republic, and has been wandering all this time hoping to find its family again. Generally, if the dog is neglected or abused, the owner will not want to pick it up from the shelter and pay the impound fees/go on record as the owner. If the dog is a beloved pet that has been missing, the owner generally gets to the shelter as fast as humanly possible, and there is a joyful, tearful reunion.
If the owner is not located, or doesn’t pick up their dog, Forget Me Not will then place the stray up for adoption, after making sure it is spayed/neutered, microchipped, treated for any parasites, and up to date on its vaccinations. You can then apply to adopt the dog back and become the dog’s new (and forever) legal owner.