LostPetHelp.com

Lost & Found Animals Tips to Get Your Missing Animal Home

(I write for Examiner.com about reuniting animals and families and animal disaster relief)

Five Ways to Find a Lost Dog

Below you will find a number of services and tips on how to look for your lost dog or cat.

Lost

    How to find a lost dog or catPlease do not be intimidated by all this info. Pick and choose what is best for you.  

    There are three basic steps to be done in this order:
    walk or drive the area,
    put up signs,
    and post online.

    That's it, but I cover these steps in detail below.

    If you believe your animal was stolen, you still need to proceed as if he were lost.  Someone who steals an animal may dump him and then of course he is lost.  People often assume an animal is stolen because they do not see how he could have gotten out.  Finding your animal is missing is very stressful and it is easy to overlook how he could have escaped.

    Stolen animals get noticed the same as lost animals, so posters still work and it makes it hard for someone to claim an animal is theirs if there are posters up.  Lastly saying an animal was stolen may deter someone who wants to return it.  Better to proceed as if the animal were lost, even if you know otherwise. Do NOT offer a reward! Here are complelling reasons not to offer a reward.

    If you have LOST a CAT, Look in every inch of your yard and the house(s) next door.  Cats remain silent if they are ill or hurt.  You need to check the crawl space under your house or shed before you read further.  Look under your vines and any places a sick cat might be tucked away.

    Look for your cat every day for weeks in the yards and garages and sheds around your house. People will tell you to give up, but the chances that you will find your cat in that area is more likely than your cat having been eaten by a coyote (they mostly eat mice) or your finding your cat in the shelter. Look in the shelter, but more importantly, look over and over in your neighborhood and ask your neighbors. If she is an inside cat, you must use a humane trap. Do not give up!

    If you have LOST a DOG or a CAT. It is natural to hop in your car and drive around looking for your lost animal and that is not a good idea if you have a big fast dog.  But for cats or small dogs or elderly/injured dogs, walk from your house (or where the animal was lost) as far as you can and in as many directions as you can. Walk on grass, not pavement.  To really leave a good trail, drag a tee-shirt you have worn or slept with.  Dogs and cats may really be lost, especially if you have moved or were visiting somewhere. If your lost animal crosses your path, he may follow your scent to safety. If you have another dog, walk him as you look, even for a cat.

    If you are in your car and see your dog or cat, call him quietly and open the door.  An animal that is approached will often turn away.  Your first option should be to step away, not toward the animal, and quietly call and coax.  Have a pop top can of smelly food on hand. Even your best friend may be shy after a few days away from home! The last thing you want to do is start yelling with excitement and frighten your alread traumatised animal.

    Put the animal's bedding (or one of your unlaundered tee-shirts) and food and water where the animal was last seen.  Pick up the food and water at night so as not to attract predators such as coyotes. If you have a garage, leave the door partially up at night with these items.  Your dog or cat may be there in the morning!  (The same goes for fence gates.) Shut the door before celebrating as animals are often spooked that have been loose.

    Go out at night when it is quiet, call for your pet, and then listen for any response.   Many animals forage for food between 1-5 AM because they feel safer in the dark. The more timid your pet is, the quieter and more slowly you should walk. Bring food and make a noise that would motivate your pet to come running towards you (tapping on a can or rustling a kibble bag). Go out at dusk and in the early morning for a cat.

    Hang posters/leave flyers and ask everyone, (especially children who always notice animals.) Tell people if they see the dog to call the number on your poster. A poster within 24 hours is usually key to finding a lost animal.  (If your neighborhood has rules against signs, use flyers --see below-- and weigh breaking the rules against getting your pet back.)

    The poster should mostly be a photo of the dog with the words LOST DOG (sometimes people can’t tell if it is a dog or a cat) in huge letters.  The best way to do this is use a large flourescent piece of cardboard with LOST DOG written at the top or bottom and your photo & other info in the middle. Here is are more detailed instructions with a photo. Tag your car so that it becomes a rolling advertisement for your lost animal.

    Use the clearest sharpest photo you have. Use a whole body shot and crop out any people or a distracting background. If you do not have a photo, think if you might have one on your phone or computer or if a family member would have a photo, perhaps from a holiday.  As a last resort, find the photo of a similar dog online and clearly label the photo as "Dog is similar to missing dog." A photo is really key if your poster is going to work.

    Cell and home phone can be in much smaller print as anyone will stop to copy the number if they need it.   Not computer literate?  Call on the nearest teenager for help making the sign!

    I see a lot of really bad posters. You do not know if it is lost or found or a dog or a cat, but the phone number is huge. No one is going to read the details from their car! Keep it simple. If you want to say where the animal was lost or if it needs medicine or when it was lost, put that in small print too. But generally I leave the life story off the poster to let it do its work with simplicty.

    If the poster is for a black cat or a Lab, do not use a photo. Instead, say "LOST BLACK CAT" or "LOST BLACK LAB."

    Protect your poster from the elements! Put small posters in a plastic sleeve with the opening at the bottom sealed with tape to keep rain out.  An option to plastic sleeves it to put posters on phone poles with stretch wrap.  Hardware stores sell big rolls of stretch wrap for packing that will serve this purpose.

    Hand deliver flyers to all the neighbors within several blocks in all directions from where your animal disappeared. (It is illegal to put flyers in mail boxes, unless you leave it with a note for the mail carrier.)  Stick them in the door if no one is home.  If you hear your animal has been spotted, then start again and poster that area.  How far an animal goes depends on health and breed. Most cats and small dogs will stay within a smaller radius, than say a Border Collie frightened by a thunder storm. (Mine went over a six foot fence and did a mile in no time at all; hiding on a stranger's porch and darting in when the door was opened. That was one surprised family!)

    Most animals, if found, will be found in the first 24 hours; so take immediate action to find your precious dog or cat before they are gone from the immediate area.  Don't just think the animal will wander home soon. This does not mean that animals are not found later. Of course they are. It is just that most are found right away and especially when they are looked for immediately.

    Register Your Lost Animal Online

    You will want a photo for many of these sites.

    Make the title of your ad or report very descriptive. Try to get all this info in the subject: Lost Dog - Closest breed - Gender - Where lost

    For example, "Lost Dog - Choc Lab Mix - Female - Lincoln Park"  or "Lost Cat - White Male, gray tail, Bucktown." 

    These services all have FOUND sections. Check all the FOUND sections daily for at least two weeks.

    There are a number of reasons to register your loss online. Someone may be matching lost and fournd reports for your area and locate your animal. Or maybe someone will see your message and post it in a resource you do not know about. Active rescue communities pass information daily on lost and found animals. And your online posting will last far longer than most signs.

    These are in order of effectiveness and all should be utilized. All are free!

  1. PetFinder’s Classified section
  2. Search Lost Pets  (check Found Lost Pets daily)

  3. Notify K-9 Amber Alert
    They send out an e-mail blast on dogs. Cats have a Feline Amber Alert


  4. Post on Pet Harbor


Other Resources

  1. Do not forget neighborhood newsletters or e-blasts.  Even if publication is a few weeks away, go ahead and place an ad.  Better to answer the phone with "We found her a day later!" than wish you had put the ad in if you are still searching.

  2. If you adopted your animal, notify the shelter or rescue.  They may help.  Ask if there is a way to notify all area shelters and call the one's close to you. Tell everyone you talk with to spread the word.

  3. If you have a purebred, notify the nearest breed rescue.  They may hear if your dog or cat is found. (Just Google "breed rescue" and the name of the breed.)
  4. Chipped or Tagged? If the dog or cat is chipped, call the company and make sure your correct data and cell phone is on the info and tell them the animal is missing.  If you did not pay to register your dog, the chip address will be for your vet or for where you got the dog. YOU can still pay and register and should do so immediately.  (Your vet/shelter/breeder may know the chip number if you do not.) 

    If the dog has a rabies tag, call the issuing vet to let them know your dog is missing as they may get a call from the animal's tag and they get posters of lost animals. 

    How to identify and contact the chip maker (there are primarily two): 

    AVID CHIP – chip has 9 numbers,

    1-800-336-2843 ext. 4 (24 Hour) Leave a message if you get the machine. They return calls.

    HOME AGAIN CHIP - 10 letters and numbers

    1-866-738-4324 (24 Hour)  Home Again will send an e-mail out about your lost animal to people who have signed up to be notified in your area.  This is a great service, but you must be registered. Here is everything you ever need to know on chips!

    Actions to take after the first 24 hours

    IF YOU ARE IN SAN ANTONIO:

    Check out  http://www.sapetrescue.com/  for lost pet resources.  Send information on your lost pet to SApetrescue-owner@yahoogroups.com

    List your animal on http://www.sapets.com

    Put a free ad in the San Antonio Express News.  Use your cell phone so readers will not have your name or address.  210-250-2345

    Contact Man & Beast in San Antonio (210)590-7387   They have a free service where they keep records on lost and found animals.  THIS IS A MUST! They keep their records forever.

    IF YOU ARE IN TIMBERWOOD PARK:

    Go to http://TimberwoodPets.com for more information

    You can report lost and found animals in the neighborhood and sign up for an alert system to be notified when animals are lost or sighted.

    Timberwood Park has this policy on pet signs:

    You may post a reasonable number of signs (2-3) in the immediate area of the lost or found pet. They need to look decent and cannot be written on plywood, cardboard etc. They can only remain up for 2 weeks and should be dated with the day they are posted  After 2 weeks, it is the pet owners responsibility to take down the signs.

    You are also allowed to put signs on your own property and in the yards of neighbors who give you permission. 

    Join the Pet Sign group at http://twppets.ning.com/ for information on neighbors who may live near you and who have already given permission. 

    I would advise putting a sign on Timberline and Borgfeld; across the street from Borgfeld.  The owners of the Valero on Borgfeld and Farmco on Blanco may also let you put up a poster.  You are welcome to put a sign up on my fence if you like. I have the fenced in lot next to 26617 S. Glenrose adjacent to the new school.


Found

How to find the owner of a dog or cat you have found.  (Some parts specific to San Antonio, use if applicable)  These are tips, do what works for you. 

I often see very vague ads requesting the owner provide clues to the animals identity for fear someone who is not the owner is going to claim it.  This is actually fairly unlikely.  What is more likely is that even with a great photo, the owner will never find out you have the animal.  The best thing to do is put all your cards on the table, where found, a photo, any collar, etc.  If you are concerned that someone is not the owner, ask them to bring proof.  Tell them you want to see the vet records or family photos.  You have the animal and you do not have to give it up to just anyone.  Of course the best proof is the animal's reaction to her name and to the person claiming her.  Usually with a dog there will be no doubt if the real owner is found -- even years later!

IF you have found an animal but cannot take him in, consider giving him food and water.  Do not leave food and water out at night or you will attract wildlife.  Take him into your garage if possible while you look for an owner.  If you turn the animal over to San Antonio Animal Control, he will almost certainly be killed as they have no room. 

Every PetSmart has a Banfield Animal Hospital in it.  They will scan animals to free to see if there is a chip. ( http://banfield.petsmart.com/ for locations and Banfield’s special hours ) Most veterinarians/shelters/rescues will do a free scan.  Many animals adopted out by rescues within the past couple of years are chipped.  A rescue will usually take back any animal that was once theirs.

AVID – 9 numbers http://www.microchipidsystems.com/

1-800-336-2843 ext. 4 (24 Hour) Leave a message if you get the machine. They return calls.

 HOME AGAIN -  10 letters and numbers http://public.homeagain.com/

1-866-738-4324 (24 Hour)

Ideally an owner will have registered the chip to their current address, but many chips are not registered and then you can only find out information on the vet or shelter who put the chip in.  If you do get that info, the vet or shelter may know who the animal belongs too. If you have the owner's name, another great way to find a person is to look on the internet on sites like zabasearch or facebook.

Walk, hang posters and tell everyone, especially children.  If you can get a poster put near or in a school, that is ideal.  Convenience stores, gas stations, post offices and libraries are good too.  Wherever people congregate locally near you is where you want a poster.

The poster should mostly be a photo of the dog with the words FOUND DOG (sometimes people can’t tell if it is a dog or a cat) in huge letters.  The best way to do this is use a large flourescent piece of cardboard with FOUND DOG written at the top or bottom and your photo & other info in the middle. Here is are more detailed instructions with a photo.


If you do smaller posters without cardboard, p
ut them in plastic sleeves with the opening at the bottom sealed shut with tape to keep rain out.  Duct tape them to poles near stop signs.  Ask if you can put them on bulletin boards in convenience stores and gas stations.

An option to plastic sleeves it to put posters on phone poles with plastic wrap.  Hardware stores sell big rolls of wrap for packing that will serve this purpose.

Hand deliver flyers to all the neighbors within several blocks in all directions from where you found the animal.   (It is illegal to put flyers in mail boxes.)  Stick them in their door if they are not home.

Get on Yahoo Groups and search for area dog rescues and breed rescues (even if it is a different breed.)  Have a cut and paste ready with the details on the animal as described above and your contact info.   Put that in the box about why you want to join.  Say you don’t want to join, but want the word passed on.  Say you can send a photo on request.  (Any teenager can help with producing and uploading a digital photo.)

Call your local pound to ask if anyone is missing a dog of that description and take/fax/e-mail a poster there.

IF YOU ARE IN SAN ANTONIO:

Check out  http://www.sapetrescue.com/  for lost pet resources. 

List your animal on http://www.sapets.com

Contact Man & Beast in San Antonio (210)590-7387   They have a free service where they keep records on lost and found animals.

IF YOU ARE IN TIMBERWOOD PARK:


Go to http://TimberwoodPets.com for more information and to sign up for the Lost & Found Newsletter.

You can report lost and found animals in the neighborhood and sign up for an alert system to be notified when animals are lost or sighted.

Timberwood Park has this policy on pet signs:

You may post a reasonable number of signs (2-3) in the immediate area of the lost or found pet. They need to look decent and cannot be written on plywood, cardboard etc. They can only remain up for 2 weeks and should be dated with the day they are posted  After 2 weeks, it is the pet owners responsibility to take down the signs.

You are also allowed to put signs on your own property and in the yards of neighbors who give you permission. 

Join the Pet Sign group at http://twppets.ning.com/ for information on neighbors who may live near you and who have already given permission. 

I would advise putting a sign on Timberline and Borgfeld; across the street from Borgfeld.  The owners of the Valero on Borgfeld and Farmco on Blanco may also let you put up a poster.  You are welcome to put a sign up on my fence if you like. I have the fenced in lot next to 26617 S. Glenrose adjacent to the new school.

Thank you for caring about someone else's lost pet. 

Animal Hoarding:

"Hoarders don't rescue and Rescues don't hoard!"

I think in some cases hoarders are actually people who hate animals, rather than kindhearted people in over their heads. How else to explain animals who starve to death in their care? I think that animal cruelty is secretly practiced by some under the guise of hoarding. Hoarding is considered the lesser crime. Hoarded animals are often sick and under nourished as well as stressed and ignored. That sounds more like cruelty than kindness. I am not saying no hoarder is ill; I am saying not all hoarders are who they seem.

It is reprehensible that legislation which would enable rescuers to take animals from shelters who are scheduled for death is sometimes challenged because it would supposedly enable hoarders. I say again . . . "Hoarders don't rescue and Rescues don't hoard!"