Whether you live in the city or country, odds are good that you will one day encounter an animal in need of help. If you feel confident and compelled to render aid, that’s a start! However, you must also know how to minimize future damage to an injured or abandoned animal, give him/her the best chance of survival — and keep yourself and others safe.
Without this knowledge, a rescue attempt can quickly disintegrate into a disaster. Consider for instance, the following real-life scenario.
On a Saturday evening while driving home, a young woman glanced out the car window and saw a small, gray cat laying on her side, trying to move. The young woman asked the driver to pull over, and without thinking picked up the cat. After returning to the car to assess the cat’s injuries, the young woman noticed the absence of an identification collar, and from the animal’s skeletal body assumed she was dealing with a stray. Without thinking, the young woman released her hold on the frail cat and the terrified cat bit her. Sadly, the cat did not survive and due to the bite, the woman had to endure a series of precautionary rabies vaccines. Ironically, because of the bite, even if the cat had survived, it would have been destroyed so that the brain tissue could be tested for rabies.
When helping an injured animal:
Keep an animal rescue kit in your vehicle.
The kit should contain a “taxi-style” animal carrier, a “slip lead” style leash, plenty of thick towels, dog treats, thick leather gloves, and eye protection.
Avoid touching an animal with your bare hands, and if you must lift the animal, secure him or her in a crate as soon as possible.
Assess the situation. Does the animal really need help?
Many wild animal mothers, such as deer and rabbits, leave their young unattended for hours at a time while they search for food. Other times, you may see an animal with an old injury such as a missing tail or eye. These animals are not in need of human interference and should be left alone.
Determine whether it is safe to stop and render assistance.
Before acting, stop and assess the situation. Do not attempt to rescue an animal if doing so would put yourself or others in danger. If collecting the animal would expose others to harm or require a dangerous maneuver on a roadway, do not attempt to rescue the animal yourself.
Know where you will take the animal.
If the animal is…
…an injured domestic companion animal, your best option is likely a 24-hour vet clinic.
…a stray but uninjured dog or cat, take the animal to your local animal shelter to be scanned for a microchip.
…an injured wild animal, many veterinarians will not provide treatment. In this case, your best option is a wildlife rehabilitation center.
Call animal control for advice.
Animal control may be able to resolve the incident without any further involvement from you. Animal control is also your best option if you are unable to attempt the rescue yourself.
Know about Rabies.
The only way to test for rabies is to test the brain tissue of a dead mammal. To avoid harm to both yourself and the animal, avoid being bitten. Unless there is proof that the animal is current on rabies vaccine, any mammal who bites you must be destroyed.
Always REMEMBER your safety comes first!