Staff arrived at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare early Friday morning to find an enclosure containing two kittens who had been abandoned outside the shelter sometime during the night. While bringing stray animals to a shelter is certainly a good deed, there are certain steps we recommend following to ensure we are all helping stray pets in the best way possible.
When you find a stray pet, check first for identification and contact the owner if possible. Owner information can be found on an ID tag or by having a nearby veterinarian or shelter scan the pet’s microchip. You may also try to find the owner by checking lost and found pet Facebook pages, websites, and community bulletin boards, and posting about the found pet.
If an owner does come forward, it’s a good idea to ask for proof of ownership. This can be as easy as asking for a photo of the pet or asking the individual to identify the pet’s markings. By doing so, you ensure the animal is returned to the rightful owner.
No luck finding the owner? Bring the animal to the appropriate animal shelter during open hours. When you bring the animal to the shelter, you’ll provide the location where he or she was found which can help with locating the owner and ensure the animal is entering the correct shelter. For strays found within the City of Aiken, please bring the animal to the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. For strays found in Aiken County outside the City of Aiken, please bring the animal to the Aiken County Animal Shelter. The animal will be safe at the shelter, and there’s a good chance the owner is looking at the shelter for their pet. In fact, in 2018 125 stray pets brought to the the SPCA Albrecht Center were successfully reunited with their owners.
It may be necessary to contact Animal Control for assistance if the shelter is closed for the day, if the animal appears dangerous, or if you are having difficulty catching the animal. For City of Aiken strays, call Aiken Public Safety at (803) 642-7620. For Aiken County strays, call Aiken County Animal Control at (803) 642-1537. The Animal Control Officer will transport the pet to the appropriate shelter.
Let’s talk about cats for a moment. Sometimes it can be hard to determine if a cat is actually a lost pet as cats living outdoors may be owned pets or may be part of a community cat colony. If you notice a cat with an ear-tip (where the tip of the left ear has been surgically removed) it indicates that the cat has already been through a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program and should be left alone. These cats have already been spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and are returned to their outdoor homes where they will have the best outcome. They should not be brought to a shelter unless they appear sick or injured.
If you see a stray cat outdoors who does not have an ear-tip, you can trap the cat and bring him to a shelter or veterinarian to be scanned for a microchip as there is a chance he’s someone’s beloved pet. It’s a good idea to use a humane trap for safety reasons, but you may use a cat carrier if the cat is friendly and sociable.
If the cat has no identification and is not already altered, please have the cat go through a TNR program. There are simply not enough homes to adopt the millions of kittens born every year, and TNR gives these cats a chance to live their lives outdoors while preventing more kittens from being born. For more information about the SPCA Veterinary Care Center’s Trap-Neuter-Return program, please visit us at spcavetcare.org/tnr.
With your help, we can make sure stray animals are reunited with their owners or brought to the safety of shelters to be rehomed. We can also tackle the larger issue of the pet overpopulation and homelessness through spay and neuter of owned pets as well as TNR of community cats. We appreciate community members stepping up to help and following the guidelines outlined above so we can most effectively help animals in need.
Jessica Gladkowski is the Director of Community Relations at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. Jessica received her Bachelor of Arts in Japanese from The University of Vermont, and over the next several years she traveled around Asia where she taught English and immersed herself in different cultures. Jessica is inspired to combine her passion for helping animals, teaching, and serving a diverse community through a career in animal welfare. Jessica lives in Aiken with her husband David and their rescue dogs Django and Ollie.