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If I find my cat or dog in a critical state, when it's seemingly about to die, and I call 911 and tell them "dying cat" or "dying dog", is this correct/acceptable behaviour? Or would it be considered a waste of their time and maybe they would even become angry and hang up on me and send me a punishment bill for abusing their emergency telephone number which is only for people?

I don't have a telephone number to a vet ready, nor even really a telephone ready to call anyone with (but that's another story), so if this happened (which I pray it never does), I would likely call my country's version of the US "911" when I finally get to a phone.

I fear that I will just "freeze" in such emergency situations, so I want to try to prepare myself by at least asking about this before it actually happens.

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    What would you expect the 911 center to do if you called them? – James Jenkins Apr 23 at 16:08
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    I would likely call my country's version of the US "911" Ho, wait, are you or aren't you in the US? Emergency services' policy does change between countries, so this is an important detail. – Mast Apr 24 at 6:28
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    Some countries have a specific number for animal response teams. In the Netherlands, this is 144 (where the emergency number (our equivalent of 911) is 112). – Mast Apr 24 at 6:32
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    "I don't have a telephone number to a vet ready." You obviously care about your pet's health. Keep this number on hand, whether stored in your phone or on a piece of paper in your wallet. – WaterMolecule Apr 24 at 13:51
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    I think "what to do if I find an injured animal" is perfectly on-topic for "pets" even if it's asked from a particular perspective. What I can add to the question is that in North America, at the municipal level (city, town), there may be animal services that will respond to injured animals, whether a pet or wildlife. But this is very highly dependent on the locality, so the answer to the poster needs to be: research this locally. – CCTO Apr 24 at 17:12
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Do not call 911 for a medical emergency involving treatment for pets.

Emergency responders are generally not trained or equipped for veterinary medicine, so they will not be able to help you. However, there are some situations that involve animals that would still be considered a situation for calling emergency services, such as:

  • An animal attacking or trying to attack humans
  • An animal is being a traffic hazard
  • Animal cruelty in progress

What would happen if I called them anyways?

At least in the United States, it would probably be the case that they would simply redirect you to a non-emergency line (in many areas of the United States, this is 311), as long as you didn't do this repeatedly or with obvious malicious intent. Many people mistakenly contact 911 for situations that are not considered true emergencies by emergency services, and as long as the intent isn't malicious, it's generally considered to be more harmful to punish people who call 911 because they didn't know what else to do than to spend the time handling these calls. Emergency responders do not want people to possibly not call 911 in a real emergency because they are afraid they might be misjudging the situation and will end up getting punished for it.

But of course, emergency lines are handled regionally, so this is not necessarily a guarantee in your area, nor should you call counting on them to help you contact the correct services when you know your situation is almost certainly not the type of emergency handled by 911 services. As part of basic emergency preparation, you should familiarize yourself on the policies in your area, and try your best to only ever call any service for those situations it's meant for.

So what should you do if your pet has a medical emergency?

The simple answer is, call your vet.

You should prepare for the possibility of your pet having a sudden medical emergency by having the contact info of a 24-hour veterinary clinic, and any other local pet emergency services, such as the ASPCA's poisoning hotline, prepared before an emergency happens. Keep this information in your phone contacts if you have one, or keep it written down in a place you know you can find immediately even under stress. The common location is posted on the refrigerator door.

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    And if all else fails, talk to an operator (dial '0' in the US) and ask them for the number of an emergency vet clinic. – bta Apr 24 at 1:50
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    Better check that dial 0 for operator even works on your phone. On mine I just get a pre-recorded messge. – Billy C. Apr 24 at 4:21
  • " by having the contact info of a 24-hour veterinary clinic" < especially this! When my parent's cat got ill i was so happy the number to the clinic open on Sunday night was pinned to the wall. – Ivana Apr 24 at 15:09
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I don't know whether it would be illegal, I'm not a lawyer and I'm not giving you legal advice, but as for just calling once and asking for help - personally I don't think so. It's completely natural that a person in fear and distress is not always acting rationally and just asking for help.

However, the issue is that paramedics are professionally trained for medical emergencies of people, not animals - they would have to be veterinarians to legally practice medicine on animals. That means calling 911 would almost surely be a waste of both your and their time. For example I recall reading about someone in the USA who actually called 911 for their dog and after telling their issue they just redirected him to different, non-emergency 311 line. So calling 911 for an animal would not get you any direct help from them as far as I know.

And I can't tell if your country has a similar department. But even if there isn't any government managed service, there still could be a private-run form functioning if you are prepared for bills. For example in the UK there are plenty of veterinarian emergency hotlines - and a service like that would actually be the appropriate way to deal with pet emergency, not 911.

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