Who hasn't happened to run into a homeless dog or cat? It is certainly not difficult: there are millions of them. Over 2, 600, 000 cats and 150, 000 dogs (Ministry of Health, 2008) would be homeless. If cats are not talking about social problems - if not in the countryside, as predators of small farmed animals - for dogs the argument is different because they can become wild and become a danger to humans, as unfortunately we are reminded periodically the chronicle. In addition, where land abandoned by agriculture and pastoralism abound, they can also endanger the survival of wolves (see The army of treacherous people). Outside the big cities it is therefore quite easy to meet them: how should we behave? How to intervene if they appear injured or sick? What to do on the roadside or - worse! - of the motorway?
If the animal is in danger or represents a danger, the first thing to do is to call the police (police, police, carabinieri, depending on where you are). If you can manage the situation, you can take the animal to the vet, especially if it is injured.
IF YOU FIND A DOG
# Approach the animal calmly. Do not walk directly towards him: the dog could interpret this gesture as a threat, be frightened and run away or become aggressive. You are crouched and pay attention to his signals: bared teeth, growls, bristly hair must warn you. In the most difficult cases, if the dog is very fearful and suspicious, it is better not to approach the kennel experts, the ASL or one of the many animal protection associations present throughout Italy. If, on the other hand, you let it get closer you can refresh it with a little water and food. Food is often also a great way to "make friends" and make the animal understand that we don't want to hurt them.
# Then call the Local Police, or the veterinary service of the ASL, or the Animal Protection Agency (ENPA) or one of the voluntary associations that deal with abandoned and informal animals of the discovery. Once they have recovered, the dog will be brought into the kennel and will remain under observation for about 10 days. At the end of which, if the rightful owner is not found, it will be available for adoption.
# Check that you do not have the tattoo, looking inside the thigh or inside the ear (it is often difficult to see due to the hair, so better leave it to the veterinarian).
# Do you want to take it home temporarily? First of all it is good to have it checked by the veterinarian, even if he appears to be in good health. The veterinarian, in addition to visiting it and making sure that the animal is not sick or has no parasites, can also verify the presence of the identification tattoo or microchip (with a special reader) and possibly go back to the owner, or give you all the information necessary for its care.
# If he is visibly injured, perhaps due to an accident, do not give him any medication (the drugs are good for us, not always good for the animals) or food or water, and take him to the vet immediately. To avoid worsening any trauma or fracture, place it on something rigid that acts as a stretcher.
# If it is a cat that has been lost or abandoned and is used to contact with humans, you should not have great difficulty approaching it. If he is really shy, try to offer him some food. If it is a stray cat or a very frightened cat, it might be very difficult to catch it. In this case it is better to turn to one of the numerous animal protection associations (see box), which have the necessary skills and equipment to recover it without excessive trauma.
# When you approach him, you can call a volunteer association that will take care of him; or take it to the vet, who will check his health and give you directions on how to take care of him.
The abandonment concerns something like 100, 000 dogs and 50, 000 cats a year. The phenomenon reaches its peak in June, July and August: 60, 000 dropouts in three months, or 20, 000 per month, 700 per day, 30 per hour, 1 every two minutes.
# While dogs, by law, have an identifiable owner (or should have it, since they have to register), for cats there is still no registry office and therefore, even if it is lost - and it has not been abandoned - it is almost impossible to trace back to its owner. Try to put signs around the area where you found it or hear the local vet.
# If you decide to take it home, before getting it into contact with other animals you can have at home, consult your vet. He will make sure that he has no communicable diseases and will advise you on the best way to insert it, avoiding traumas to him and to the other pets.
Abandonment of animals is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment up to one year in prison and a fine of up to 10, 000 euros. If the abandoned animal causes an accident, the owner is responsible for it and can also be called to account for manslaughter. According to statistics over the last 10 years, 45, 000 were seriously injured by lost, abandoned or stray animals, with 4, 000 injured and 200 dead. If you are witnessing an abandonment, it is advisable to take any useful reference to identify the guilty party (for example the license plate number) and make a complaint.
IF YOU FIND A PUPPY
# Puppy and cat puppies are much more delicate than adults and any sign of discomfort, such as vomiting or diarrhea, should alert. But even if they have no obvious symptoms, puppies can be suffering from some disease. So if you find one and decide to adopt it the first thing to do is take it to the vet, who in the case of a dog will also check if there is a master.
# Do not let it immediately come into contact with other domestic animals, even temporarily: the baby could in fact be a carrier of pests or dangerous diseases even for an adult animal.
# Also avoid having a bath : better to take it to a vet first, which will give you the best advice to take care of it.