Finding a Lost Pet - Where to Start

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Finding lost pets...

  Although finding a lost animal often seems to depend on luck, it is luck you can help make. There are no guarantees, but there are things people who find their pets do that make a difference. 

1) Knock on doors and talk to people in the neighborhood. 

Most people walk the streets around their home and call their pet. People who knock on their neighbor's doors and ask if anyone has seen their pet instead of just calling are more likely to find it. 
Start handing out fliers in the immediate area, a mile or two for dogs, a five to ten house radius for cats, in any direction.

2) Hand out fliers with your pet's picture on them and your phone number.

Fliers need only have a clear photo of the animal and a telephone number that someone will answer or that is hooked to an answering machine. 

3) Update the microchip registry information

Call or go to the web page of the chip registry for your pet's microchip. Have them flag the registration noting your pet is lost.

While you are there make sure the registry has correct contact info for you, your vet, and the secondary contact, especially phone numbers.

If you neglected to register the chip after it was implanted, do it immediately. There is no time limit. You can do it on the website or usually over the phone. You don't need to "renew" a registration every year as some registries try to suggest, but do update the information.  

4) Go to all local shelters and government agencies charged with picking up stray and lost animals and look for yourself, at least every other day.

Calling the animal control department or shelter on the phone is not very effective. Your pet  may not yet be listed in the records at the front desk, and the way you describe your pet may not be the way a shelter describes your dog. Any animal may become dirty,  matted and neglected looking very quickly, and  You must visit the shelter, even if your pet was wearing tags when it was lost. 

You will need to go to the shelters at least every other day. Few shelters can keep animals for more than 72 hours. Sometimes it takes more than a few days for a pet to be picked up and brought to a shelter. 

It's important to visit all the shelters within 20 miles of where your pet was lost.  In many areas stray animals are picked up by a government agency which holds them for a period and then turns them over to a shelter. If someone took your pet in for a few days hoping you would knock on their door and ask about it, they might later drop your pet off at the shelter that's most convenient for them, rather the one that's closest. 

Combining some of these things is most effective.

Knocking on doors and handing out copies of your flier to your neighbors and to the staff at all the local shelters is the most effective way of looking for your lost pet. 

What to do next... 

Unfortunately, the next most successful way of finding a lost animal is through checking the with the highway departments and the shelters' dead lists. Even if your pet is wearing tags and the highway maintenance department is supposed to send a list to animal control, you should check with them directly. 

There are usually several departments that cover roads in your area. You'll need to check city or town, county and state roads departments, as well as the animal control agencies. Pictures or a copy of your flier should be left with each department. Again, calling is seldom successful, and actually visiting the department is the best way. You should check back once a week. 

Post fliers in the area. While not as effective as going door to door and talking to people, posted fliers do help prevent people assuming your pet was 'dumped' and is up for grabs.

Put ads on Craigslist, on Facebook, and in the local paper, and in the papers in surrounding areas. Some people only look in the newspaper to locate an animal's owner. Advertising in the paper can also be important to establish you were actively looking for your pet in case someone were to claim it you meant to give it up or didn't want it. 

Ask businesses that people who live in the area are likely to use to put up a copy of your flier. This includes gas stations, fast food restaurants, taverns and convenience and grocery stores. Ask if you can put a copy of your flier up in the pet food aisle. If someone picks up your animal and holds it for a few days hoping you will find them just as your pet did, they will need food. 

Contact local rescue organizations and give them copies of your flier. People who are afraid animals will be euthanized if they turn them over to the shelter might contact a rescue, and rescue people often go through local shelters looking for animals they can help place in new homes. Ask the shelters if they know of anyone doing rescue in the area, even if they don't work with them. 

Give copies of your flier to veterinarians, groomers, trainers and pet stores and ask them to put them up. 

Give copies of your flier to people who walk their dogs in the area. They're more likely to spot animals than most people. If you go to the parks early, you may find people who regularly walk their dogs together as an informal group. Dogs on leash notice and want to investigate all kinds of things, even strange birds, lizards and turtles. 

  [Advice Specific to Cats][Back to Main Index] updated April 21, 1999 © copyright, 1999 MPN