We’ve all encountered injured and stray animals while traveling, but we don’t always know the best way to help them. The most important thing is to do something. If you ever encounter an injured animal, whatever you do, do not leave the animal unattended. Your response can truly mean the difference between life and death.
Keep an emergency animal rescue kit in your car at all times. It should include a small animal carrier, a nylon slip leash, a towel, pop-top cans of cat and dog food, treats, a full bottle of water, a bowl, gauze to stop bleeding or use as a muzzle, bandages, and information about the local humane society, trusted veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation organizations, animal control, and the local 24-hour emergency veterinary service. A pre-assembled starter rescue kit with a cardboard carrier, a nylon leash, a towel, and an emergency information packet is available through the PETA Catalog.
Even the gentlest animal can become fearful when hurt or dying, so approach the animal slowly and quietly, preferably crouched as low to the ground as you can. Keep your head down and avoid eye contact, which some animals may take as a challenge, adding to their stress. Speak in soft, soothing tones, and if you’re trying to help a wild animal, don’t speak at all (doing so might frighten him or her). Gather up a towel, a leash, and any other supplies that you think you might need from your emergency kit before you get out of the car in order to avoid having to approach the animal twice.
If the animal is lying beside the road and appears to be dead, gently touch the outer edge of the eye with a towel. If the eye blinks, the animal is alive. Stop any bleeding by applying direct pressure with a towel or bandage. Rush the animal to the nearest emergency veterinarian, animal clinic, animal shelter, or wildlife rehabilitator. It is possible that you may be asked to pay for treatment, but most decent places have Good Samaritan policies and will not charge when the animal is a rescue.
If the animal is too large to be moved, cover him or her with a towel or blanket; this can help keep the animal calm until assistance arrives. Call a wildlife rehabilitator or animal control agency immediately. Don’t hesitate to call 911. Remember that in many cases, it is not in an animal’s best interest to put him or her through the terror, pain, and stress of rehabilitation in a frightening, unfamiliar environment, especially when he or she may not pull through. If an animal is severely injured, you may need to ask animal control to euthanize the animal immediately to end his or her suffering.
If you see a stray cat or dog near a busy road, position your car between the animal and traffic, turn off the engine, quietly close the door, and take your leash, food, and anything else you need with you. If the animal runs, kneel down or walk slowly in the opposite direction so as not to threaten him or her. Be patient: It may take a while for the animal to feel safe enough to approach you. If you are able to coax the animal into your car, take him or her to a reputable shelter or to a veterinarian if the animal appears injured. If not, try to guide the animal toward a residential area where there may be a fenced yard in which you can secure the animal. Call an animal shelter, animal control, or the police, insist that an official come to the animal’s aid, and stay until the animal is safe.
In any animal emergency, if you are unsure of what to do and need help, you can call PETA day or night at 757-622-7382, extension 2.