SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

What to do if you find an animal?

If you find a sick or injured animal please contact your local SPCA Centre immediately so that we can advise you of the best steps to take.

What is an animal emergency?

It is considered an ‘animal emergency’ if an animal is suffering and in obvious pain and distress due to:

  • Serious injury.
  • Trapped in a life-threatening situation.
  • Experienced an act of cruelty in which the animal requires immediate assistance.
  • Serious illness and the animal needs immediate assistance.

In the event of an animal emergency…

When you find an animal, that is not your own, in distress or in need of help you should:

  • Make sure that any actions you take are done so safely. If driving, please take the time to park carefully and do not put yourself or anyone else in danger.
  • Do not approach the animal straight away.
  • Observe the animal for signs of injury or illness, then approach it carefully. The animal will likely be scared or hurt and will try to run away, bite or scratch you.
  • Remove any immediate threat. This might involve moving the animal off the road, out of a swimming pool, or away from other animals (e.g. cats, dogs, birds).
  • Contact your local SPCA Centre. We may ask you to transport the injured/sick animal to the nearest veterinary clinic. When you call, we will need to know the following:
    • Details of the type of animal.
    • Symptoms of injury or illness.
    • Address of where the incident took place.
    • Your name and contact details.
  • In all emergency situations, we kindly request that you stay with the animal until support arrives and follow any requests made by the SPCA Field Officer or Inspector. We really appreciate your support of this service!

If the animal you have found is not sick or injured please read the advice below.

Scan for a microchip

Take the animal to your local vets and ask them to scan it for a microchip. If the animal is microchipped they will be able to quickly reunite it with its owner.

Ask the neighbours

Knocking on the door and asking neighbours if they own the animal or if they know who does can speed up the process of reuniting the animal with its owner.

Post on Lostpet.co.nz (previously Pets on the Net)

Check the ‘lost’ listings and create a ‘found’ listing at www.lostpet.co.nz. This is a national database and the key website we recommend everyone uses.

Create a flyer

Make a flyer with a clear picture, description and your contact details. Distribute it locally via notice boards, mailboxes, neighbours, community centres etc.

We have a flyer template for download to make things easier.

Use social media

Embrace the power of social media to spread the word and try to find the owners. There are plenty of lost and found pages on Facebook that can be used, and Neighbourly is also a great way to find an animal’s owners.

Check Trade Me

Look on the Trade Me Lost & Found section to see if anyone is looking for their lost pet. You can also advertise your found animal on here for free.

Specific advice for…


Cats often have quite large home ranges and commonly roam around the neighbourhood. If you find a healthy cat that you suspect could be a stray, first confirm that the cat is unowned. A number of useful methods to identify if a cat has an owner are described in the general section above.

One of the most useful tools for finding out if a cat has an owner is the “paper collar”. You can download a paper collar print out here.

Write your details on the collar and put the collar on the cat. If the cat is owned, the owner is likely to see the cat within 48 hours and hopefully will get in touch with you to reassure you that the cat is owned.

Until you have confirmed that the cat does not have an owner, we recommend that you do not feed the cat. The cat may be on a specific diet for health problems such as diabetes or allergies and feeding could put its health at risk. Like us cats will still eat what’s tasty even if it isn’t good for their health!

If you have confirmed that cat does not already have an owner and would like to take on responsibility for the cat, please contact your local SPCA for advice. You will need to get the cat desexed and microchipped.

If the cat is injured or appears to be in ill health, please contact SPCA immediately.


If you have found a stray dog, please contact your local council. If the animal is registered, then they’ll be able to quickly reunite the dog with its owner. You may also want to visit your your local council animal shelter and check their lost board. You can also try to identify the owner the recommended methods described in the general section above.

Farmed animals

If you find livestock in a public place, such as a road or reserve or trespassing on your land, please contact your local council.


If you have found a bird please contact your local Bird Rescue who will be able to give you further advice on what to do.

If there is no specialist rescue agency then take the bird to the nearest veterinary clinic as any bird that you can catch is likely to be either tame and lost or experiencing some difficulty.

We have a step-by-step guide on what to do when you find an injured bird or fledgeling here.


If you find a sick or injured wild animal most vets will examine it free of charge and refer it to an appropriate rescue facility. The Department of Conservation will be able to point you in the direction of wildlife rescues in your area.

If you are unable to transport the animal safely to a rescue organisation, please be sure to get a precise location and contact the relevant organisation so it can be rescued.

If the wild animal does not appear sick or injured, but is in danger (e.g. on/near a road), if it is safe to do so, you can attempt to relocate it to a safer place. Please take care when approaching a wild animal; the animal may be scared and may hurt you.

If the wild animal is not sick, injured or in danger, our advice is to leave it alone. We recommend that you monitor the animal for at least 24 hours. Remember, the parents of young and baby animals are often not very far away. Removing a wild animal from its natural habitat can often do more harm than good.

If you have spotted a sick or injured marine mammal, or a displaced or distressed protected native animal contact the Department of Conservation on 0800 302 408.

If you have tried all of the suggestions listed but were unable to get help or find the animal’s owner, please get in touch with your local SPCA Centre.

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