how to help stray dogs in houston
General Dog Talk,  Houston Shelter Pets,  Rescue

You Found a Stray Dog in Houston – Now What?

You found a stray dog in Houston. You’re about to find out that rescue is hard. Here’s what to do when you find a stray dog and want to help.

The Stray Dog Problem in Houston

“I need a rescue or a foster to take this dog. I’ve called all of the shelters and they are all full. I’ve emailed rescues and no one is responding to me. I’ve had the dog a week and my dog/cat doesn’t like it so I need it to go somewhere ASAP. I have kids and I work so I don’t have the time.”

Welcome to Houston rescue. You’ve just found one of the over one million stray dogs in Houston.

Picking up the stray dog is just the beginning of rescuing them. No rescue in Houston is sitting by the phone just waiting to come get this dog you found. And none of them have empty foster homes at the ready. Every shelter in the Houston area is over capacity.

Now what?

How to Help A Stray Dog in Houston

Here are the steps to take if you find a stray dog in Houston.

  1. Check for a Microchip. A microchip is a tiny device around the size of a grain of rice that can be implanted, usually between the pet’s shoulder blades. Every veterinarian in the Houston area will scan a stray dog or cat for free. There may be no microchip to find. Or the owner may not respond. Their information may be out of date, or they have rehomed the pet. This is when the work begins.
  2. Post in Neighborhood Social Media. Your first assumption is the pet is simply lost in your area. Post on all available social media, including you neighborhood group, groups for lost & found pets, and Next Door. Get proof of ownership for any who respond, i.e. they should have multiple pictures of the pet.
  3. Print and Hang Flyers in your Area. Post an old-fashioned paper flyer at stop signs, local parks, library, and grocery store.
  4. Check Online Lost & Found Sites. Check lost pet sites, including PawBoost. You can also post found animals there.
  5. Contact Your Local Shelter. Here’s the key. All the above should be day one. But don’t wait around for the owner to find you. You need to (a) figure out your municipal shelter and (b) call them. Make an intake appointment for a stray animal. Then take the animal to the shelter or arrange for pick up. Get the animal intake ID number. Add that to all your posts. And start networking for foster and rescue.
  6. Find a Foster/Be a Foster. You can offer to foster for the shelter or foster for a rescue. Tell the shelter up front that you can foster and for how long. They will communicate that to rescue groups.
  7. Find a Rescue. Here’s a list of dog rescue groups in the Houston area. TIP: Ask your social network first to see if anyone you know has a connection with a rescue group. A personal connection to the rescue makes all the difference on getting a dog accepted.

***If you keep a dog more than 7 days, the animal shelter considers you the owner.*** That’s why it’s important that you contact your municipal shelter asap. Owner surrender appointments are booked up 4-8 weeks out. Stray appointments are easier to come by because it’s a matter of public safety.

Understanding Animal Shelters in Houston

There are three types of stray dog resources in the Houston area: Municipal Shelters, Private Shelters and Rescues.

Your municipal shelter is mandated to intake stray animals. However, they have limited space and each shelter operates differently in this regard. They also prioritize stray intake based on the condition of the animal and public safety risks.

You’ve heard the thing about the squeaky wheel? Municipal shelters are managed based on intake numbers and phone calls. Those zip codes with the most documented needs get the most resources. So don’t stop reporting strays. Those phone calls matter.

How do I find my Houston area shelter?

Each area of Houston is zoned to a tax-payer funded, open-intake shelter. Where you take a stray animal depends on the address on your identification.

The biggest confusion is when your area jurisdiction isn’t clear. For example, all of City of Houston is in Harris County. But not all of Harris County is City of Houston.

Wondering, “Am I city or county?” Use this address lookup tool to see whether you are zoned to BARC or Harris County Pets. Look under “Juris” to see if it says City of Houston or Harris County.

Within Harris County, there are other small cities as well, such as City of Humble, or City of Bellaire. These each have their own animal control.

Within Katy, there are sections that are City of Katy Animal Services, Fort Bend County Animal Services and Harris County Pets. Within Humble, there are sections that are City of Humble Animal Control and others that are Harris County Pets. So it’s important to know your jurisdiction.

Do local shelters in Houston kill dogs?

Yes, municipal shelters in Houston area do euthanize dogs. There are over 7,000 adoptable dogs listed online right now in a 50 mile radius of Houston. We have too many dogs and not enough homes.

Stray dogs may be kept everywhere from 3 days to 365 days depending on space, medical condition, behavior, capacity and shelter location.

But here’s the thing.

If you bring a stray dog to a shelter, they will receive vaccinations, deworming, flea medications and a heartworm test. If they need medical help, they will get X-rays, diagnosis and medications.

They will be posted online for a possible owner to find, or for adoption. They will be networked to rescue groups.

The shelter is the best place for a stray dog.

But once you get them in the shelter, your involvement in saving this dog is critical. You can visit the dog at the shelter. You can network the dog from the shelter. Let the shelter know you can foster for rescue. And if the dog ends up on the euthanasia list, you can go adopt the dog or in some cases, foster for the shelter.

I am PRO-SHELTER. It’s the best way to get help from a rescue group, especially if you can foster the dog. Many rescue groups pull only from the shelter.

I’m happy to hear what you think and discuss solutions. Message HoustonDogMom on Facebook

My number one tip for getting a stray dog picked up in Houston? Don’t take no for an answer. Be persistent. But be polite. Take notes. Get the operator’s name and note the time and date of your call, and what number you called from. Offer to bring the animal to them. Call again. And again.

Can’t get a stray intake appointment?

Private animal shelters are another option for stray animals. Their first question will be whether you contacted the shelter in your jurisdiction.

Private shelters are often what people call No-Kill Shelters in Houston. These shelters limit intake to avoid having to euthanize animals for space. But they will still euthanize for behavior or medical issues. And some of these shelters will not take certain breeds, skin conditions or serious injuries.

Here are links to the intake policy and application forms for several private animal shelters in Houston:

Seeing the lack of resources in Houston and the overwhelming need, independent rescue groups have stepped up. They take dogs off the street, and also take dogs from shelters.

Getting a stray dog into the shelter and then advocating on their behalf is the best way to get help from a rescue. Especially if you are able to foster or donate funds.

Getting a dog accepted at a public shelter, THEN getting a rescue to pull it, saves the rescue approximately $230 per dog. (Spay surgery $150, Rabies $30, Core vaccines $30, Microchip $25)

Google is your friend. Google “dog rescue near me” and start reaching out. Use this list of dog rescues in Houston as a starting point. And ask everyone you know who they know in rescue.

Rescue groups need money and fosters to save dogs. Without a committed foster and funds availability the answer will be no.

Injured Stray Dog in Houston

If you found an injured stray dog in Houston, SPCA Ambulance is the only available option for emergency injury for stray dogs.

Call the SPCA Injured Animal Rescue Ambulance at 713-880-HELP (4357).

You can expect to wait for 2-3 hours for pickup due to limited availability (one single vehicle). Cover the animal with a blanket to avoid shock, and wait for the ambulance.

The SPCA will only pick up in true emergency situations. If the injury is not “bad enough” they will not take the animal. Even if they have already arrived on the scene.

You can also take the animal to a vet emergency room, but be prepared. You will need to pay $250 up front to cover the exam services. And that’s just the start. Bills can climb over $1000 quickly. The ER will give you an estimate of the costs. Nothing is free.

If the injury is not severe enough to warrant the SPCA ambulance or an ER, you can take the animal to the local municipal animal shelter. While all local Houston shelters are by appointment only, intake for injured stray animals is mandatory for all public shelters.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

HoustonDogMom Rebecca G. is a Houston-based dog lover and shelter volunteer.