Your heart skips. Your stomach drops. Panic sets in. You begin shouting your pet’s name as you get short of breath. You are already running through a million scenarios of what is happening to your beloved pet—until you find your dog or cat lying on the couch you’re sure you already checked.
However, that scenario does not always end with such quick relief. According to the APPA’s 2011/2012 National Pet Owners Survey, more than 20 million pets go missing every year.
The same APPA survey also shows that one out of every three pets will get lost at some point during his or her lifetime. Here is what you should do to prevent your animal companion from becoming one of those statistics.
• Get your pet microchipped. This is usually done when your pet is spayed or neutered. If not, be sure to inquire about this easy procedure at your vet’s office. If someone finds your pet, shelters, rescues, animal control centers, and vets can scan the microchip to bring up your contact information.
• Have your vet scan the microchip at each checkup to make sure that it is in the right spot and that the information is up to date and correct.
• Have pictures of your pet either printed out or saved digitally so you can make fliers without wasting valuable searching time.
• Replace and update your pet’s ID collar tag. Some tags become difficult to read due to wear and tear. You should have two phone numbers on the tag, and at least one should have voicemail enabled.
• Have contact information printed directly on collar. Tags can fall off and information can be difficult for a person to read if the animal is wary of strangers.
• Secure fences and gates. Dogs can dig underneath fences and can escape through unlatched gates. Make sure your yard is enclosed to prevent your outside cat from escaping.
Next: Steps to take if your pet gets lost
What to Do if
Your Pet Gets Lost
Here are some key resources to help with your search:
• Stay positive––if you keep at it and take these steps, you have a good chance of recovering your pet one way or the other. Remind yourself that 90 percent of pets are returned safe and sound.
• Call all surrounding police departments, veterinary clinics, emergency animal care clinics, animal control centers, humane societies, shelters, and rescues. Nearly a third of all lost pets are found more than 10 miles away from home, so alerting a wide circle is important. Give them your pet’s name, breed, size, color, sex, and where she was last seen. Email or post photos, make sure they have your contact info, and call daily for updates. Don’t rely on them to call you.
• Alert your local park district. Dogs and cats will often wander to parks or open fields. If there is an alert out amongst park district workers, the chance of your pet being found increases.
• Create “LOST PET” fliers that you can post around the neighborhood, at shelters, businesses, or hand out as mailers. The more eyes and ears you can alert about your lost pet increases your chances of being reunited. (Download our one-stop “LOST PET” flier template online at TailsInc.com/TailsTips.)
• Create an ad that can be placed in the local newspapers and websites (such as Craigslist). This should be short and to the point with necessary information for identifying your pet and contacting you. These usually run between $5-$30, and sometimes you can add a photo.
• Check lists of animals on the websites of shelters, rescues, and other animal welfare agencies. You cannot always depend on people to remember your pet even if you’ve taken the previous steps, so looking through the lists of found pets should be a daily task.
• Check lists of deceased animals that have been found by shelters, rescues, and other animal welfare agencies. While this may be the last place you want to check, if your pet is on that list, it is important for your own well being that you know.
• Make sure that you are diligently checking your voicemail and/or email. You want to be notified immediately if your pet has been found.
• Walk and drive around your neighborhood and places you visit with your pet. Your pet may follow the path you take on your walk or find somewhere familiar. Bring a toy to squeak or a bag of treats to shake. Use words that bring your pet home besides just her name.
• Take breaks to allow yourself to recuperate and process the information you have.
Next: What to do if you find a lost pet
When You Find A Lost Pet
The majority of lost pets are found by people other than their caretakers. If you happen to come across a lost pet, here are the steps you should take:
• Get the animal to safety. If the animal has wandered into the street, try to get him/her off the road without putting yourself in harm’s way.
• Think “Lost,” not “Stray.” Don’t assume that the animal has been abandoned. The chance is that there is a family out there looking for their beloved pet. If it is a cat, it may be feral.
• Look for ID tags. If the animal has a collar with contact information on it, try to get a look at the tag and then call the phone number. A pet license can be traced by animal control.
• Notify the authorities. If there are no tags or you cannot get close enough to the animal, call animal control or one of your local humane shelters. These places can scan the animal for a microchip and then contact the caretaker.
• If you don’t keep the animal yourself while you look, do keep up-to-date on the animal’s status once you drop him off with animal care and control or a shelter. If the animal does not have a caretaker, is not claimed, and may possibly be put down, you will want to know. Let them know if you are potentially interested in adopting the animal if that is the case. You can also foster the animal until the caretaker is found.
• Place an ad in the “Found Pets” section of your newspaper. You should do this for at least two weeks. The notice should contain your contact information and identifying information about the animal.
• Create a “FOUND PET” flier that you can post around the neighborhood, at local businesses and shelters. (Don’t forget that you can visit TailsInc.com/TailsTips to download an easy “FOUND PET” flier template.)
• Check the “LOST PET” sections in local newspapers and websites of local animal welfare agencies. This should be done every day.
• If someone contacts you to claim the pet, ask for verifying information from them. Contact information for the person’s veterinarian will allow you to confirm that the person is indeed the caretaker of the animal.
Selected by Laura Drucker, TAILS Editor