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Whatever areas the dog has been in contact with during transportation should be cleaned and disinfected. If the veterinary examination showed no cause for concern about the animal's health, wash the crate with detergent, rinse with a 10 percent bleach solution followed by clear water, and dry carefully. Don't forget to wash all blankets, rugs, towels, and other items that have been in contact with the dog. If you use cedar or wood chips, straw, or newspaper, seal the bedding in a plastic bag for disposal. Spray all carpeting and upholstery in the car with flea spray and then vacuum.
If the veterinarian did find evidence of disease, ask her advice for safe cleanup. Don't forget to clean leashes, water bowls, and other equipment that may have been contaminated. Finally, don't forget to clean yourself and your clothing, including shoes, before handling your own or someone else's pets.
There's always a chance that a dog on the loose has a frantic owner somewhere looking for him. As soon as possible, check for tags on his collar. If he doesn't have a name tag, you may be able to trace the owner through a license number or through a rabies tag number issued by a veterinary hospital.
You should also check for permanent identification. First, look for a tattoo. Dogs are usually tattooed on the belly or the inner thigh, or occasionally on the ear. If the dog is hairy or has dark skin, the tattoo may be difficult to locate. If you find a tattoo, write down the number.
Microchips are implanted under the skin over the withers, the high point at the base of the neck where the shoulder blades meet. But sometimes the chips slip down the neck or leg. If you're scanning a dog for a microchip, be thorough. Tattoo and microchip numbers are usually registered with various organizations.
Microchips are becoming more and more common as a means of permanent identification, so have the dog scanned for a chip if possible. Check with area animal shelters, rescue groups, and veterinarians to find someone with a scanner. Have the operator run the scanner over the dog's withers (the high point at the base of the neck where the shoulder blades stick up), his back, and down his sides to look for a reading. If the dog has a chip and if the scanner reads it, a number will appear on the screen. Unfortunately, not all scanners can read all microchips, although manufacturers are standardizing the technology for mutual readability.
If the dog does not have any identification that you can locate, you will have to resort to other ways of trying to find the owner. You can place a found ad in the local newspaper (they're often free), and post signs around the area where the dog was found. Even if you're running a found ad, be sure to read the lost ads. The Internet has also become an effective means of spreading the word about lost and found dogs, so post to a few canine bulletin boards or discussion lists—especially those for the specific breed, if you know it—and if possible check those same sources for lost notices.
If you place an ad, give out only enough information to avoid irrelevant calls. For instance, include the breed if you know it, or a brief description of the dog: “60+ pound black dog” will screen out calls about lost Westies. If you respond to an ad, ask for information about the lost dog. Make the person claiming the dog identify him to your satisfaction. Certainly, the person should know the sex of the dog, whether he is neutered if a male (or spayed if a female, but that's harder for most laypeople to determine), and other identifying characteristics. Ask to see photos and veterinary records to prove ownership. In the final analysis, the dog will probably “tell” you whether this is its person, but preliminary questions will save you and the person looking for a lost dog a lot of time and disappointment.
If you cannot locate the dog's owner, you'll have to make a decision. If you like the dog and he seems to fit into your life, maybe destiny has found your dog for you. If not, then your best bet is to turn him over to a purebred rescue group, if he's purebred, or to a good shelter. You might try to place him privately. If you do, be sure to screen the adopters carefully.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Dog © 2003 by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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