Lost and Found Pets
Have you lost or found a pet?
Here is some helpful information if you have lost or found a pet, plus additional steps you can take to help protect your pet from being lost in the future.
What To Do If Your Pet Is Missing
Despite our best efforts to make things safe for our pets, sometimes accidents happen. Your roommate might have carelessly left a window open that the cat discovered, or the hole in the fence you thought you fixed might have given way in the face of an eager dog. Whatever the situation, the important thing is to find your pet—and when your pet is back, rectifying the circumstances that allowed the escape.
- Immediately contact your local animal control agency to report your missing dog or cat. All stray animals picked up within a city’s limits go to the city or county shelter where they are held for about a week (this varies by community) to allow owners to find and reclaim. It is helpful to visit the shelter in person and to look at all of the recently picked up strays and to continue to check back regularly. If you live near a border between cities, it is important that you report your lost pet to both cities’ animal control agencies. While a large dog might be able to stray farther, most cats and smaller dogs tend to stay close to home. Pets are often found within the same city where they were lost.
- When you complete the “lost report” at Animal Control, provide as much detail as you can in describing your missing dog or cat, including: age, gender, spayed or neutered, where your pet was last seen (e.g., your address if you last saw him in your home), whether your pet was wearing a collar and/or ID, and any other identifying characteristics, like scars or unusual markings. Photos are essential-despite all the details you give, one person’s “Siamese Mix” might be easily described as someone else’s “Lynx Point” or “Snowshoe,” and identifying different dog breeds can also be subjective.
- Make flyers with the all-important photographs of your missing pet and post them in your neighborhood. If a neighbor catches a glimpse of your missing pet, or if someone has found him and taken him in, then they will know whom to call.
- Post online. If your neighborhood has message or bulletin boards or if you have a NextDoor account, post the photo and animal description for your neighbors to view. You can also spread the word on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, and to sites like Pet Habor and craigslist.
What To Do If You Find A Pet
- Immediately contact your local animal control agency. If you are in a position to care for the pet, you can file a “found report” with your local animal control agency. That way, when the owner looks for Fluffy or Fido at Animal Control, they will have a record of the animal there. The shelter will most likely handle the return of the animal to the owner for you and will call you to let you know that they’ve made an owner match and need the animal returned to them so they can reunite him (or “redeem” him) with his owner. Even if you would really love to keep the dog or cat as your own, you must do the responsible thing and report the animal to give his owner the chance to find him. Imagine if you were the one frantically looking for your lost pet.
- If you have any concerns about abuse or neglect based on the animal’s condition when you found him, please discuss these concerns with Animal Control, but please don’t use these concerns as grounds for not reporting that you found the animal. Animal Control is affiliated with the local police department and responsible for handling complaints of animal abuse or neglect. If the animal is in questionable condition and is claimed by an owner, Animal Control is the appropriate party to discuss any concerns regarding the animal’s welfare.
- Create flyers with a photo of the animal, date and location found, and a phone number where you can be reached. You should select a few identifying characteristics picked out (black and white whiskers, freckles on their nose, a white star on his chest, etc.) that an owner should be able to describe to verify that this is in fact their pet.
- You can post the found animal’s photo and description online on neighborhood message boards, social media sites, bulletin boards and NextDoor.com.
Steps To Protect Your Pet Against Being Lost
Here are some measures pet owners can take to minimize the risk of losing a pet.
- Microchip your dog or cat. A microchip is a device, no bigger than a grain of rice, inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades of dogs and cats. This device emits a signal, which when scanned, retrieves a registration number unique to a pet and its home, with contact information for the person who registered the animal. It’s important to have your contact info up to date at all times, otherwise the chip isn’t very effective if it’s registered to your old address and phone number. All animal shelter and vet clinics can scan for microchips (animal control agencies that pick up strays scan each animal upon intake.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
- No, it doesn’t hurt them.
- No, they don’t emit audible sound waves, set off metal detectors, or pick up satellite TV! (Even if these questions did not occur to you, they have all been asked before!)
- No, you can’t feel the chip and neither can they. Not bad for a device that can save your dog or cat’s life!
- No, it does not track the GPS location of your pet.
- Have a collar with an ID tag on your pet at all times with your current phone number on it. Cats and some dogs are, unfortunately, masters at wriggling out of collars when they don’t want to keep them on, so microchipping is an important second way to identify your pet.
- Have tags on your dog and a current license. The tag is proof of rabies vaccination for adult dogs and often has the name of the vet clinic that performed the shot, the clinic’s phone number and an ID number for the dog. Someone who found the dog could then contact your vet clinic to let you know they’ve found your dog. The dog license is a form of doggy ID given by the city where your dog lives. IF someone found your dog and contacted your city shelter and/or police department, then by giving them the license info (an ID number assigned to your dog), this is another way that your dog can be traced back to you.
- Keep cats indoors only. It’s much safer for them. If confined to the great indoors, they can’t fight with other cats, be exposed to illness from other cats, be harmed by wildlife, hit by cars, or be stolen. Cats are not wild animals who need to be outside. They’re pretty domestic and the quality of their indoor-only life is what you make it. They’ll love the indoors if you give them lots of play time, a nice scratching post, a fun window perch and interactive toys—like food dispensing balls they can bat around!