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  • Oct
  • 19

How to Handle an Animal Emergency

Posted by at 11:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

seagullThe following tips will help you be ready for most common animal emergencies. 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 dial 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; might end up in a dangerous situation; might be abused or killed by cruel people; or might 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.

Be Prepared!

Create an animal emergency kit to keep in your car while you travel. Your kit should include the following:

  • Cat carrier, cardboard or plastic
  • Nylon leash
  • Towel
  • Pop-top can of smelly cat food and dog snacks
  • Gauze bandage to stop bleeding or to use as a muzzle
  • Contact information for the local humane society, a wildlife rescue or rehabilitation center, trusted veterinarians, and 24-hour emergency veterinary services.

We have created a PETA Rescue Kit, containing a cardboard carrier, a nylon lead, a towel, and a “Be an Angel for Animals” packet full of information to help prepare you for emergencies.

Approaching an Animal in Need

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 stress and more injury, remember the four rules of approach:

1.      Move slowly and quietly, and stay as low to the ground as you can.

2.      Avoid eye contact, which can be taken as a challenge. Keep your head down.

3.      Talk very softly to dogs and cats; be quiet around wildlife.

4.      Try to take with you on that first approach whatever you might need to use so that you won’t have to go back for something and approach a second time.

Non-Wildlife Emergencies

If you spot a stray animal near a busy road, position your car between the dog 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 dog 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 dog 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. Be insistent.

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 pen and paper ready to document details, such as license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions. Call your local animal shelter, animal control, SPCA, or the 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 Trapping Company (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 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. Put up signs within a two-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.

Wildlife Emergencies

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. As the weather begins to warm up for many of us, 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 only attend to their young 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.

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.

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  • Maria M says:

    Thank you for having this information on PETA website. At times, I have not known what to do, in respect to being able to confirm if an injured cat is alive. Last night on my way home, I saw a cat that was in middle of road that must have been hit by a car. I went to the cat and put my hand near his heart but i did not feel anything however, the cat was still warm. Another driver pulled over and also thought the cat was dead. I however, was in need of information like this to really be sure for the next time I run into this situation. I will be ordering your rescue kit as soon as it is available!Thank you dear PETA!

  • Sherif Hamdy says:

    Hi Jenni,

    Sorry to hear about your raccoon story.

    We recommend giving us a call in the future if you hit a wall with a cop or other officials. You can also call animal control and the game warden.

    If in a different situation you feel like you can handle the animal yourself you can scoop him/her up with an open umbrella and spirit him/her to animal control for quick euthanasia.

  • Jenni says:

    Last weekend I came upon an obviously ill raccoon wondering in the road, so I stopped. I called 911 and waited, waiving traffic around as the raccoon curled up and took a nap in the road. I was traveling with a friend so I had no supplies on me to be able to move the raccoon. After over an hour an officer finally arrived, and told me I had to leave immediately. I begged him to find a way to move the raccoon so that he would at least die naturally on the side of the road and not be hit by a car and possibly suffer more. The officer threatened to issue my friend a ticket for parking on the side of the road and arrest me if I did not move and leave the creature in the middle of the road. I found an old hook-handled umbrella and begged the officer to let me try and move the raccoon off of the road. The officer refused. I wanted to stay and risk arrest but my friend insisted we leave. I cried terribly, knowing the raccoon would likely get hit by a car as night fell. What should I have done?

  • Marcia says:

    I have been carrying a rescue kit (towels, plastic sheets, gauze, leash) plus a carrier in my car. One day I saw a squirrel in the street who seemed more stunned than injured. There was a wire overhead, and I suspect she fell off. I was able to pick her up and get her to my veterinarian. He was so good about it. He x-rayed her, gave her a steroid shot, keep her in the clinic (buying food and bedding) until she was no longer stiff and sore.

    I found a squirrel rehab person through the state Fish and Wild Life Department who said she would gladly care for her. Upon discharge, I picked up the squirrel and she went to rehab, where she did fine! The staff of the veterinary clinic lined up to say “goodbye,” when she left, and the doctor declared she was “his first squirrel.”

  • Elizabeth says:

    What an awesome blog – great advice! I think this is the best blog I’ve ever read! I drive for a living and see many horrible situations – dogs on highways, in the back of pick ups, locked in cars, chained up, etc. I always call the police who then transfer me to animal control but they never follow up despite the fact I ask them to and provide my contact information. I always stay with the animal until animal control or the owner arrives but now I have more contact numbers to call and feel more empowered! I have printed this and will put it in my car – I am also copying it for my friends. Thanks! – Elizabeth

  • dlyn says:

    Adding a pair of gloves to your incar rescue kit would be most beneficial in protecting against possible injury from an injured animal.

  • Diane says:

    Here in San Diego, California, we have Project Wildlife, which is a wonderful organization. They have specialists around the county ready to help. I have taken them several baby crows that fell from the nest and weren’t doing well, hummingbirds and a songbird (wrenched from the claws of my neighbor’s cat…the bird survived!). I have found that with hummingbirds, it is pretty basic and Project Wildlife usually only gives them nectar and rest. I now keep syringes in a kitchen drawer, ready to fill with nectar, and I will leave an injured hummingbird resting in a coffee filter on the patio table, then I feed him several times before he usually flies off. Am I wrong to do that? When I was driving them across town to Project Wildlife, sometimes they didn’t survive the ride. It is kind of a 50/50 thing with hummingbirds.

  • Cherie says:

    A suggestion on equipment: the Tomahawk traps are a little loud and powerful. I prefer Tru-Catch traps without that mean paddle that can slam on a tail or paw. I know a person who trapped a cat and the paddle slammed on his tail, and he later suffered a fatal blood clot from that simple injury. The lightweight Tru-Catch is about $60 at http://www.animal-care.com, company called Aces, and sometimes it’s on sale.

  • Jennafhur says:

    Thank you very much for posting this!! I always thought of making sure I have a first aid kit and towel in my car with me, but I am now going to put together my own animal emergency kit and carry around phone numbers that may come in handy one day. Thanks again for this extremely useful information!

  • judy makowski says:

    I’m new at this computer stuff so I didn’t know what to put in the third field. Being a lisenced rehabber I found your article very interesting and to the point. I alwsays carry those things in my car “just in case”. I too have copied all the #’s you have given hoping I will never have an occassion to use them. Please keep posting this information for people who might not know what to do. That also includes rehabbers as well. We can sometimes get so entangled with our own animals and specialties that we don’t remember some things as quickly as we would like too.

  • Bunnylove says:

    Hello Ingrid,

    This is very useful important info! I didn’t know about touching the corner of the animal’s eye to see if the animal was dead. While reading this info, I entered all of the numbers in my cell phone’s contact list that I will need in case I come across any injured animal, including the local numbers I can call in case I witness an animal being abused, or neglected. I also ordered Peta’s rescue kit and will put it in my car when it arrives — along with the other items you suggested to put in with the kit. I have always wanted to be well equipped to help an injured animal and now I feel I am! :} 🙂 Please keep posting this information.Thank you so much Ingrid!

  • Pamela says:

    Dear Ingrid,
    Thank you for this important information. I do not have a car and sometimes walk along a scenic water channel near my home. I am always afraid of coming across an abandoned animal (it is an almost perfect place to “dump”) and I do not own a cell phone.
    Thank you for the corner of eye touch, that will be very useful, and for reminding us not to touch baby animals. Just because they are alone does not mean that they are orphaned and you don’t want to disturb a nesting area and leave your scent.

  • Leah Jones says:

    Hi Ingrid,
    Very good idea to have a emergency animal pack in the car – I usually have extras of my own dogs, but will pop the cat carrier in and leave it there. I live in country Queensland in Australia, and have to admit that I’m terrified of finding an injured kangaroo on the road. Everyone here knows one should check a marsupial’s pouch if the adult is dead, there is often a baby inside which can be rescued unless in the foetal-type stage which they are born in. However . . . . . . adult roos and Wallabies and possums can be utterly ferocious if approached by humans, especially if hurt. Their claws are long and very strong, and they will fight like mad if one touches them. The big roos will easily kill a largish dog, and can do great harm to a person. I always carry my mobile phone, but sadly, there would be very few people who would come to help should such an occasion arise. Distance is the problem here – I’m 55 Kms. from a shop, let alone the Parks and Wildlife people. My lovely vet would come – if he were available. I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind a gun, (and have the vaguest idea of how to use one, which I don’t), because rather than banking on rescue I would rather put one of these lovely creatures out of their misery. I hate to write this, but out here people actually aim at the smaller creatures in their cars, and don’t care if they kill them or not. On my way into town I often stop to pull some poor dead snake or rabbit or little wallaby or bird off the road, so that the crows won’t be killed as well when they feed on the road-kill. I’m not sure why I wrote this, it’s hardly helpful, but I suppose I wanted to point out that some of us who really care about animals aren’t in a position to help some of them in an emergency. However, the cat carrier is going in the car – one never knows, after all.
    Regards, Leah from Down Under.

  • David says:

    Hi Ingrid,

    Thanks for all this great information! I am going to print out this blog and keep it in my glove box in the car, along with the phone numbers for my local animal shelter, sheriff and vet offices. During a spur-of-the-moment emergency, it is always hard to remember everything. I have a leash and towel in the car, but not the carrier or treats, great ideas. And you are right, never pass by an animal in need. Even one that looks dead could still be alive. That tip about touching the eye is one I never heard of, but will be useful for sure.

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