In lieu of the recent shut down of our local humane society, I'm writing this blog to help you figure out what to do with those "unwanted animals."
If the dog/cat is an animal you found:
Approach the animal cautiously. Watch their body language. Most lost animals are scared, but welcome human comforts. Try to coax them to come to you and into a safe zone - like a kennel or a fence. Check for ID tags. If the animal has one, call the number listed. Otherwise, call your local animal control office. If they are available, they can tell you if they have any reports of that particular animal missing and scan for a microchip. If they are unavailable, take the animal to your local vet to be scanned for a microchip and so they can compare the animal to lost ads. If the animal does not have a microchip and does not match any of their lost ads, leave your name, number and a description of the animal in case the owners call. Call any other vets in the area, along with local shelters to let them know what you have found.
(Normally, you would probably turn the animal over to the shelter; however, our shelter is currently closed due to an outbreak of canine distemper, so we're exploring the other options.)
Do you have room to care for another animal? If you can, think about fostering the animal until you can locate his/her owners. You can post ads on www.craigslist.org or other neighborhood sites, as well as post flyers around your neighborhood. If you can't locate the owners, think about fostering until you can find the animal a good home.
If you don't have room or have animals that wouldn't take to a newcomer, ask friends if they would be interested in fostering. You can also check with local rescues to see if they can take the animal in.
If the dog/cat is one that YOU are saying goodbye to:
Consider keeping the animal. Think about the reasons you got the animal in the first place - what has changed? Is it because you're moving? Consider finding a place to move that will accept your animals or speak to your landlord. Is it for financial reasons? Consider letting a friend help you out financially or by keeping the animal for a little while until you can get back on your feet. If you absolutely HAVE to say goodbye, ask around your neighborhood and your friends to try to locate a good new home for your animal. If you post to www.craigslist.org, think twice before you say "free to good home." You don't have to charge an adoption fee for you dog, but saying free can attract a lot of people that you don't want getting your animal.
A final word: Follow your heart. :)