Stray Pet Policy
The term ‘stray’ refers to domestic animals who have been separated from their owners, either unable to find their way home or willfully roaming away from home. It may also refer to domestic animals who have been abandoned by their owners and have been left to fend for themselves. Below are the guidelines on what to do if a stray animal has been found in Isabella County. If you have been caring for the animal for more than a few weeks, please go to this page for further instruction.
If you have found a stray cat in Isabella County, the best option is to check for the following:
#1 Does the cat have an ear tip? An ear tip - where the top left portion of the ear has been removed while the cat was being spayed/neutered - is a sign of a healthy and cared for cat. These cats are free-roaming in the community and may or may not be socialized. They often have multiple caregivers and do not need human intervention. If the cat is feral (unsocialized and won't approach humans) but not yet ear tipped, we recommend utilizing the Trap-Neuter-Return method. Feral cats cannot be socialized and must live in a safe outdoor environment.
#2 Does the cat have a collar? Friendly cats with collars are typically owned cats who are allowed to go outside. If the cat is in a potentially unsafe situation, move the cat a safe distance away but do not remove them altogether from their neighborhood. Removal from their familiar surroundings will result in them being unable to find their way back home, doing more damage than good.
#3 Does the cat appear to be injured or sick? Sick or injured cats may react aggressively out of fear, so it is best to use caution when approaching them. If you have found an injured or sick cat in Isabella County, call us for further assistance. We will assess the situation and determine if an immediate intake is required. If it is outside of our regular business hours you can call a local veterinary office for advice or keep the cat comfortable until we reopen.
#4 Are there newborn kittens? Don't kit-nap the kittens! Wait and watch patiently for a mother cat to return or call us for advice before intervening. Their best chance for survival is being left in their current environment with their mother. If intervention is required we will provide you with advice on bottle feeding or assistance in finding a foster home. Although, finding a foster to provide round-the-clock feedings is no easy task, and no match to what their mother could have provided. For further reading check out Best Friends advice on caring for abandoned kittens.
If you don’t notice any of the identifiers listed above, the next step is to ask around the area to determine if anyone has seen the cat before or knows who cares for it. Neighbors often unknowingly share cats who go back and forth between houses. If you wish to house the cat either temporarily or long term, it’s important to call us and report the cat as found. We will be able to assist with scanning the cat for a microchip and checking lost reports.
What if I’m not looking to keep the cat I’ve found?
Our facility, like many others across the country, has moved to a managed admission system for cats. It allows for cats who need the most help to obtain immediate shelter while also allowing us to coordinate the flow of cats into our facility to ensure we are providing the best care possible with our current resources. For those who have found healthy cats and do not wish to keep them long term, they are placed on a waiting list to bring the cat(s) to our facility and we will provide advice on alternatives to try in the meantime. This system has empowered community members to take an active role in keeping healthy cats out of the shelter by reuniting lost pets with their owners, participating in TNR, avoiding unnecessary intervention, fostering, and finding adopters for homeless cats.
If you have found a healthy stray cat, please call HATS at (989) 775-0830 and we can place you on the waiting list. If you are unable to keep the cat with you and do not have family members or friends who are able to assist, please place the cat back in its environment when it is safe to do so.
It is often assumed that an animal shelter is the best place for any animal. The reality is that there are better options for healthy cats. Cats who have adapted to outdoor living can continue doing so successfully. A simple spay/neuter surgery, food supply, and an inexpensive shelter could be all that a cat in this situation may need - especially if they are unsocialized or feral.
If you have found a stray dog in Isabella County, the best option is to bring the dog to our facility in order to make sure it can have access to appropriate food, shelter, and medical treatment. While many stray dogs were lost just hours ago and their owners are currently searching for them, some have been running for a long time and may need veterinary attention.
Please call ahead to make sure we are open and available for an intake. If it is outside of regular business hours you may choose to keep the animal safe until we reopen or call Central Dispatch at (989) 773-1000 for assistance.
If you wish to house the dog you have found while searching for the owners, it’s important to report the dog as found to HATS and Isabella County Animal Control. We will be able to assist with scanning the dog for a microchip and checking lost reports.
What if I'm not comfortable approaching the animal?
We never suggest putting yourself or others in a potentially dangerous situation. If you have found a stray dog and are uncomfortable approaching it for any reason, please contact Isabella County Central Dispatch at (989) 773-1000 to report the current location and status of the dog.