what to do with a dog I found

Have you found a dog thats been wondering ownerless? Here is some useful information on what to do and who to contact.



It is quite common in France to see a wandering dog. Many dogs are very capable of returning home without intervention and it can be tricky to know if you are picking up a stray or if you are interrupting the morning constitutional of a dog who walks himself. If the dog is moving cheerfully and purposefully, it probably knows where it is. If the dog is slow, approaches you, seems lethargic, distressed or injured, or is out late at night or on a busy road, it is worth intervening. A stray dog ​is not necessarily a friendly dog. It is therefore better to take some precautions before rushing on it. Please bear in mind that you are under no obligation to try and catch a dog. There are two scenarios, the dog who is obviously friendly and comes to you spontaneously and the dog who does not come. In the case of the dog friendly, talk to him but he will generally let you approach him to put a leash or collar around his neck and even get into your car without any worries. If a dog stays on the spot and does not come to you, you have to be extra careful. If it fear that's holding him back, talk to him, try again, sit down, wait and be patient. In general, he ends up getting caught. You just have to pay attention to the place where you are in order not to put yourself or the dog in danger (on a busy road for example). The animal must be allowed to flee. If he feels trapped , he can become aggressive caused by fear due to not being able to escape the pressure. Be aware that the dog might snap at you when he feels cornered and is firghtened. 


If you are having any trouble catching a stray dog, but you are sure the dog isn’t likely to find its own way home easily or safely, there are options you can take. 

  • Your first port of call for any animal found straying on public land is to contact the mairie of the commune. Only the maire or his staff have the power to seize or order the seizure of a stray animal. Usually, once notified of a stray, they will send out an employee of the commune who is charged with the apprehension of stray animals. Sometimes they will contact the pound (fourrière) for assistance, or may ask the chasse association or a local vet. Once the animal is picked up, the maire calls the local pound who have responsibility for stray animals and the animal will pass to the local pound.


  • If you managed to get the dog check if the dog has a collar tag and call the owner if so. If he has no collar dog find out what his situation is. Has he been lost, is he just wondering or has he been abandoned. There are two methods used for indentification; tattoo or microchip. The tattoo is visible either inside the ear or on the thight but the most common methond of identification is the microchip which is invisible and can only be read by a microchip reader. (a collar might indicate that the animal is carrying a microchip) 


  • Your obligation is to take it to the closest vet or the mairie of the commune in which the animal was found or contact a animal rescue association. This system is a well-established one and most mairies will not look surprised if you turn up with a dog. Some have special holding areas or kennels particularly designed to keep the dog safe for the short period before the pound arrive to pick up the dog. The maire may also know to whom the dog belongs and may reunite the animal with their owner.

In France, it is forbidden to keep at home an animal found on public roads. Nothing says that it dosn't belong to anyone and you would be considered as potentially a repository of a stolen animal … 

At the pound, the staff will try every available method to find the owner of the dog.  They also have access to national databases and other sites - tools that are much further reaching than those of your local vet.

Please bear in mind that sticking a found dog on Facebook will no doubt be a useless undertaking for many older French people and just because a dog isn’t on Chien Perdu doesn’t mean it does not have owners looking for it, albeit in more ‘old-fashioned’ ways. 

It is also worth bearing in mind that if you find a dog who is very skinny, it is not necessarily mistreated. It may be old, ill or have been so scared of people that the only way it has allowed itself to come in close enough proximity to be caught is because it is so weak. A healthy, well- nourished dog may hide for weeks and only seek contact or be found when they are too weak to run away. It is also worth remembering that the dog may have travelled a very long way in pursuit of a deer or another dog and can turn up in a pitiful state when lost. Do not keep the dog yourself: this is theft. 

You can also be of great assistance by running a publicity campaign online and in your local area to help the pound relocate an owner. Check on Chien Perdu, PetAlert for your department and Pattes en Cavalles on Facebook. 


What to do if I would like to adopt an animal I have found 


For many reasons, people form an emotional bond with stray animals but please remember that the animal does not belong to you, even if unidentified or if paperwork is out of date. Just because the dog is not chipped does not mean there is not a family looking for it and many ‘unidentified’ dogs find their home again. Another reason the dog must pass through the authorities is to enforce the laws about animal identification and they can impose a fine on anyone who allows their dog to stray or who has not tattooed or chipped their dog, or kept their records up to date. A final reason is that the pound is the liaison with the state veterinary services who keep an eye on disease. All stray animalsmust be checked by a vet after 90 days of their arrival in an animal shelter to ensure they have not shown signs of contagious diseases like rabies. 


What happens at the pound? 


  • First, the pound checks for owners. They may also be in touch with a large number of other associations and agencies who can help to trace owners or find homes. 

  • Then the pound are responsible for checking the health of an animal. 

  • The animal has a minimum stay of 8 days whilst efforts are made to trace owners. During this time, if you have become attached to the animal, you may ask that their time is spent with you instead of at the pound. You can also make it known that you would like to adopt the animal if its current owners are not found. 

  • After their time in the pound, there are a number of things that can happen. Please remember that departments are under no legal obligation to re-home strays or to have an animal shelter that can rehome animals. Some ‘animal shelters’ are extended pounds who can keep dogs alive until they run out of space. This could be as short as one day or as long as ten years. Some have a relationship with a refuge/SPA (société protectrice animaux) or associations who will attempt to re-home the animal. Some refuges have a policy of euthanasia. Others do not. If you are worried about what will happen once the dog has spent its eight obligatory days in the pound, please ask the pound. This varies from department to department. Do not assume, however, that it is instant euthanasia or that the staff in pounds where euthanasia is a sad necessity are happy to carry out this work. 

  • If the animal passes into a refuge or to an association, its chip details will be re-registered, or it will be chipped for the first time. It will also be vaccinated. Its 90-day health monitoring will continue. If the dog is adopted in this time, its new owners become responsible for the 90-day health visit. If the dog is still at the refuge or association, their staff are responsible for this health check-up.


In the pound, the dog may accumulate fees and fines for their owners. Firstly there is a fine for allowing an animal to stray. Secondly, each day there is a fee for their upkeep. Finally, there is a fine for having a non-identified animal. For this reason, a stray can quickly accumulate many fines and fees and an owner may choose to surrender the animal rather than pay. Some owners are never found. In these cases, the dog passes over to an animal shelter or association, where one exists. Animal shelters and associations have their own policies and practices for rehoming. Please remember that animal shelters (refuges/SPA), rescue associations and pounds (fourrières) are legally different entities, even though there is often a strong bond between them and a collaborative approach to the animals in their care. Some pounds, refuges and associations are on the same site which makes it confusing. Although refuge staff can be helpful and redirect you, please understand that there is not much use in contacting your local refuge and that you need to be in touch with the maire.