New guidance is to be drawn up around how people should deal with abandoned dogs.
Police, the RSPCA and Preston Council are working on advice for people on what to do to avoid “confusion” around how to help them.
The guidelines, due to be published in October, come as one woman faced hours of uncertainty, after finding a dog outside a city supermarket.
Claire Kilbane untied a dog from outside Morrisons in Riversway, believing it to be abandoned, but it was left for hours in her car when neither the RSPCA nor the dog warden could take it.
Claire, from Ashton, was going shopping when she saw the dog, which staff said had been left at least two hours before.
She offered to put the Jack Russell in a cage in her car and take it to the RSPCA in Ribbleton, but was told there was a waiting list and the dog couldn’t be taken.
Claire, 43, said: “The person I spoke to at the RSPCA said the dog warden should have collected it.
“But the warden said ‘We can’t take the dog’ and he said, because it was tied up, they can’t take them unless they are loose and roaming around.”
Eventually the RSPCA took it to a foster home.
Andy Robbins, of the RSPCA, said the charity would only deal with dogs which had been injured or neglected.
He said: “The local authority dog warden has the duty to deal with stray dogs, the RSPCA doesn’t deal with strays.”
Cabinet member for planning and regulation, Coun John Swindells, said: “Preston Council, Lancashire Police and the RSPCA are currently working on guidance that will explain what people should do if they think a dog has been abandoned, is a stray or if it is causing a nuisance.”