The animal kingdom includes wild animals and domesticated pets. Human compassion often does not distinguish between "wild" and "domestic" if an animal is hurt, lost or in need. It's human nature to want to help an animal that is suffering, whether the animal lives in its natural environment or inside a home as a companion.
How to approach an animal in need depends on whether that animal is wild or domesticated. The Humane Society of the United States notes that it's important to be sensible and not risk personal safety when approaching a wounded animal.
Animals that are stressed or injured can become defensive and aggressive. Even if you are intending to help them, the animal may not understand this. As a result, it's always best to seek the advice and assistance of a professional wildlife/animal control organization before approaching or touching a wild animal. Professional wildlife rehabbers understand what various species of animals need, what is appropriate behavior and how they can be assisted and returned to their natural environments as soon as possible. Even well-meaning individuals without such knowledge may end up doing more harm than good.
Veterinarians also may be able to house and stabilize an injured or sick wild animal for a small period of time before it can be transferred to a proper facility.
It can be challenging to determine whether baby animals have been abandoned or they are lost and need help. Visit www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/injured_orphaned_wildlife.html to learn more about helping baby animals.
Stray or injured pets
Always put your safety first when approaching a lost or injured pet. Again, even docile pets may act out of sorts if in pain or frightened. If the pet acts or even looks threatening, do not approach it and animal control instead. Otherwise, exercise caution and approach the animal slowly while speaking in a reassuring tone.
Some people take animals home before attempting to find their owners, while others drive directly to a local animal shelter or veterinarian. Either option can work if the authorities are notified promptly.
The Red Bank Veterinary Hospital says lost animals have a greater chance of being reunited with their owners if they are kept in the county in which they were found. Always contact your local police department and animal control officer if you find a lost or injured pet. Also, spread the word on social media if you think that might be effective.
Helping animals in need is rewarding, but it must be done safely and smartly.