Found a Stray?

There are many scenarios in which you may encounter a stray animal. Sometimes the animal is actually not a stray at all, but maybe a dog or cat that wandered too far from its home. Other times it may be a 'community cat' that is just passing through (and doesn't actually need help), and there are other times the animal needs to be turned over to a rescue for care. Here are some general tips and helpful things to know:
Pinellas County has a special program for "community cats". If you notice the cat's ear is clipped then it is a "TNVR" cat - meaning it has been trapped, neutered, vaccinated, and released. Unless the cat is causing problems, then the best thing to do is just let the cat be. If you have a cat, it is best to get them altered (spayed/neutered) early to prevent community cats from being attracted to your residence. Learn more about Meow Now and the TNVR program.
Never put yourself or your pet in harms way. If you deem it is necessary to contain the animal for its own safety, then assess whether the animal is friendly enough that you feel safe interacting with it. Remember that strays may carry parasites (e.g ringworm, fleas) that you don't want to come into contact with your own pet or soft surfaces, like carpet. Make sure to keep your pet separated from the stray and contain the stray in an area that can be easily sterilized (e.g. a bathroom).
Look for tags and injuries. If the animal is friendly you can check to see if they have a collar with contact information. It may be as simple as contacting the person listed. Keep an eye out for any visible injuries, you'll want to provide that information to whoever ultimately picks up the animal. If the animal appears to be abused, you'll want to take the animal straight to the authorities rather than back to the potential abuser.
If the animal is young: Chances are the mom is not very far away, and there are likely siblings. You may be able to find a rescue organization equipped to take mom and babies, or for cats contact Meow Now! to get TNVR assistance. Cats can have kittens as young as 4 months old, so you'll want to make sure they are altered as soon as possible (it is safe for kittens to be spayed/neutered once they weigh more than 2 lbs).
Make fliers. If you end up taking the animal to the shelter, consider making fliers (with a photo of the animal) and posting them within a 2 mile radius of where you found the animal. Include a photo and the information for where you took the animal. Shelters will often assign an ID number to every animal - ask for this information and include it on the flier to make it easier for the owner to find the animal.
The best case scenarios are either to let the animal pass through (because they are TNVR), or help reunite the animal with its family. If you take the animal to a public shelter there is a chance it will be euthanized.

Many rescues (like us) operate with limited resources and focus our efforts on saving animals that are scheduled for euthanasia at public shelters...but it never hurts to for no-kill shelters and rescues in your area and see if any of them are able to take the animal. You may want to consider making a donation to the organization to help cover the cost of caring for the animal.