What To Do If You’ve Found a Pet

Found a lost pet or stray animal? Here’s how to help them find their way home.

Check for Identification

If there’s an ID tag, contact the owner immediately.
If there is no ID tag, consider taking the animal to a local veterinary office or here to AWLA to be scanned for a microchip.

Spread the Word

Call AWLA at 703-931-9241 if you found the animal in Arlington, otherwise, call the shelter in the jurisdiction in which you found the animal to see if a lost report filed matches the description of the animal in your care. Even if you live in Arlington, you must contact the jurisdiction in which the animal was found.

Notify your friends and neighbors. Post fliers around your neighborhood.

If you found the animal in Arlington and cannot keep it, call AWLA to discuss bringing it in. When you arrive, we’ll scan the animal for a microchip.  By Virginia law, stray animals are held for five days (without identification) or 10 days (with identification) to provide owners time to locate lost pets. If an owner doesn’t come forward and the animal has no severe medical or behavior issues, the animal will become available for adoption or transfer. If you are interested in adopting the animal after the stray hold, you will need to follow all of the League’s usual adoption procedures.

Stray Cats

If an outdoor cat is unapproachable and especially if it is eartipped, it is most likely a feral (wild) cat. These cats live outdoors and usually have one or more feeders in the neighborhood. They are not happy or appropriate as house pets. The League can help feral cats with our free trap-neuter-return program for Arlington residents.

A cat found outdoors that is friendly and appears healthy likely belongs to someone in your neighborhood.

  • Cats have a far better chance of reuniting with their owners when they’re left in the area in which they’re found.
  • Less than five percent of stray cats that are brought into shelters are reclaimed by their owners.
  • Whenever a cat comes into a shelter it is at risk of contracting an illness.
  • Healthy strays can contribute to overcrowding and cause shelters to exceed their capacity for care.

For these reasons, the League does not accept healthy and friendly stray cats and will encourage you to leave them where you discovered them. If you see a cat that appears sick or injured (lethargic, limping badly, emaciated or has obvious wounds), please call the League at 703-931-9241.