Lost and Found Pets

What to do if you have lost a pet
If your pet is missing, first look all around your home and yard. There are many stories of pets being accidentally locked in garages, sheds, etc. and the owners think they are missing. A scared pet may be found under your house or porch, or hiding in the bushes. Remember, a frightened pet won’t act the same way as a confident pet. Here is a link to an interesting description of how lost pets might behave – it could help you to find your pet. http://missingpetpartnership.org/recovery-lostdog.php

Visit all your neighbors and tell them your pet is missing – and ask if they have seen anything. If they don’t know what your pet looks like, be sure to have a photo. Walk through your neighborhood calling for your pet and talk to everyone you meet about your missing pet. If more people know that your pet is missing, they can help you look for it. Exhaustively search your local area before expanding to a broader area. You can print business cards with your missing pet’s description and your phone number to hand out to people when you talk to them so when they see your pet they will have your information handy.

Make lost pet flyers and post them all around your neighborhood – start with a three mile radius and expand if you don’t find your pet. If you have a large dog, it could have traveled farther than a small dog or cat so you would need to post in a larger area. You may want to put a cell phone number on your flyers as you will be out looking for your pet and not sitting at home by the phone.

This website can help you make a flyer: www.lostdogsearch.com

This site has GREAT tips on how to recover a lost dog by using giant, florescent posters:


Post your pet as missing on:

If the missing pet is a dog, post it on http://www.dogdetective.com too.

You don’t know where the person who finds your pet will look so you need to post in these locations or more – there are literally more than two dozen lost pet websites but these are the primary ones in our area. Be sure to post a photo with your lost pet ads if you have one as a picture truly is worth a thousand words when it comes to identifying a pet. And be sure to regularly check the found pet listings also.

Not everyone who finds your pet may be computer literate so you should also place a lost pet advertisement in your local paper.

Visit area shelters at least every three days to look for your pet. This is very important as they can euthanize or adopt out your pet after 72 hours!

Contact area veterinarians to alert them that your pet is missing. Many people take found pets to veterinarians to see if they have a microchip. Be sure to tell the vets that you will authorize treatment if your pet is brought in and is injured.

If your pet is microchipped: most shelters around here say they scan pets — but they aren’t required to do so. Don’t rely on the microchip getting your dog back – even if the shelter scans, it is possible for microchips to migrate from the area they were implanted which could cause the shelter to miss it – or they could use a scanner that is incompatible with your pet’s chip and won’t pick it up. You should also let the microchip company and your pet’s vet know that your pet is missing. Sometimes people who want to keep your pet will try to update the owner contact information to their name and address. You want the microchip company to know that is not OK.

If you have done all this and still have not found your pet, you may want to hire someone who can track your pet with dogs – here are a couple sites with tracking resources:


Don’t give up on finding your pet. Where ever they are, they are waiting for you to come get them and take them home. Keep looking. There are lots of stories about pets making their way home months or even years later.

Once you find your pet, delete the lost pet ads, remove all the signs you posted, thank everyone who helped you and if your pet is not already microchipped, get one implanted. They aren’t a guarantee you will get your pet back, but they can help!


How to Prevent Lost Pets
Most pets are lost from their owner’s yard or car. It is extremely important that you do the following:

Regularly check your fence for loose boards, holes, and any other spaces that may allow your pet to get out. And if you are traveling in a vehicle with a pet, never open a door until you are sure the pet has been secured and can’t get out.

Always make sure your pet is wearing a collar and tags. I have heard of several dogs being lost right after a bath – no collar, no tags. Dogs get excited after a bath and run around and can become lost. As soon as the bath is over, be sure the collar and tags are back on before the dog gets a chance to go outside.

Never allow your pet to be outside without you unless in a securely fenced yard. Ask your neighbors to call you immediately if they ever see your pet outside of your fenced yard without you.

Many pets are lost after a family move or when they are adopted and go to their new home. Be especially vigilant at this time. If you have a new pet, take several photos right away so if you do lose your pet you will have them. And if the pet is young, take new photos regularly so you will have a current photo if needed.


In case your pet is ever lost, make sure it has been microchipped. If your pet is found by someone they can take them to any vet and have them scanned for a chip at no cost. And if they end up in a shelter, most scan for chips and you’ll be notified. Be sure to update your contact information with the microchip company and also at www.24petwatch.com. This site lets you register your chip and contact information regardless of brand of chip.

Some pet owners pay for a chip to be installed and then never contact the microchip company to transfer the ownership of the pet from their vet office. Then if their pet is ever lost, the vet office must search their records to determine in whose pet a chip was implanted. This delays your pet’s return to you.

It is also very important that you update your contact information with the chip company if you move or change your phone number.

Unfortunately, microchips probably won’t help you get your pet back if someone intends to keep them as their own. Most vets say they don’t regularly scan their patients. Those that do usually only include the chip number in the patient’s file. They don’t verify ownership. When you talk to your vet about chipping your animals you should tell them you think they should be scanning all patients and verifying ownership. If enough of us say that, perhaps they will start doing it!

The Difference Between Lost Dogs & Cats

We regularly see cats running loose so don’t realize they may be lost. Maybe someone needs to invent a special patterned collar that would identify a cat that should not be outside?

Dogs are different. When we see them we know they shouldn’t be running loose without their human. If you see a dog running around not on a leash, you should assume it is lost. Take the time to try to catch it (I carry dog treats in my car for this purpose) and return it to the owner listed on the tag on the collar or take it to a vet to be scanned for a chip. If you can, keep it while you place ads and post flyers to find the owner. You should also notify the area shelters that you have found the dog so if the owner checks with them they will be able to contact you for the dog. If you can’t keep the dog, take it to a shelter. It’ll be much easier for the owner to find it at a shelter than if it is still running loose.


What to do if your pet has been stolen
Steps to take immediately when your dog has been stolen:

  1. File a Police Report ~ Do not let the police refuse to take a stolen pet report. This is the only way police can act on the matter. Be careful of any kind of pet scams.
  2. Check the “Dogs For Sale” ads on Craigslist or Little Nickel as many dogs are sold.
  3. Search your property thoroughly – many dogs are found accidentally locked in garages etc.
  4. Walk the neighborhood, talk to everybody you see and be sure & leave your phone number.
  5. Post flyers and posters with dog photo on it & offer a reward. Post flyers within a minimum of a 3-mile radius of where your dog was last seen. Thirty five percent of lost dogs are found over ten miles from their home.
  6. Contact your neighborhood association or block watch.
  7. Place strong-scented articles outside your home.
  8. Call local veterinarian offices during the day. After 5 PM, call veterinarian emergency clinics.
  9. Visit your local Animal Control, humane societies, and animal shelters.
  10. Find out if your pet has been injured on the road. Call the city, county, and state road crews, DOT, and Animal Control daily to see if they have found your dog.
  11. Place an ad in your local newspaper. Check the newspaper found ads every single day.
  12. Call every radio and TV station including public radio and TV and cable stations. Ask them to run an announcements about your missing pet.
  13. Write Letters to your local paper, and let the public know that pet theft happened in your area, and warn people to watch their pets carefully and to report any suspicious vehicles or people to the local law enforcement agency.
  14. Never give up hope!

Watch Out for Bunchers:

  • A Buncher is a person, licensed by the USDA, who can gather dogs from “random sources”. This includes “free to good home” ads in the papers, and community bulletin boards. They take dogs from shelters, and they have been known to gather from the streets and even from yards.
  • Bunchers have been known to steal dogs from vehicles, parked outside the corner grocery store, while the owner shops. It can happen within minutes!
  • Bunchers then sell your dog to Class B dealers, who then sell your dog to research facilities, other dealers, pet shops, at auctions, and to breeders ~ including puppy mills . They will not use dogs that are tattooed, but may not discover your dog is tattooed right away. They have also been known to cut a tattooed ear off of a dog in order to sell the dog. It is illegal for research facilities to use dogs that are tattooed, so you MUST contact any and all research facilities in your state, and even surrounding streets.

If you offer a Reward:

DO NOT specify an amount
DO NOT give anyone a reward without having the dog in your possession first!!

Expand Your Search Area if you don’t find your dog:

Dogs can travel amazing amount of distance in a short period of time. One dog traveled 25 miles from home in only three days! Another one of our members found her Chihuahua 50 miles from home. At the minimum – start your search within a 3 mile radius of where you last saw your dog, then go to 10, 25, 50. etc. Keep expanding your search area until you find your dog. Remember that 35% of lost dogs are found over ten miles from home.


How to Catch a Lost Pet

You may find it helpful to review this website which discusses lost pet behavior:


Leave food and water out in the same exact place at the same exact time every day.

When leaving the food and water, call the dog’s name (if known) several times and follow it constantly with: “Good Dog!” in a very happy tone. If you don’t know the dog’s name, call it something else (puppy, doggie, baby) and be consistent with what you call it every day. Whether you see him around or not he may be watching and would hear you even if he doesn’t come out just yet.

If you can determine the owners, obtain an object with their scent on it. Good examples are
an old t-shirt, glove, sock or shoe they have worn which smell like them. Leave the scented object next to the food.

When you see the dog, you will want to appear non-threatening while talking to it in a soft, calm voice. Get into a submissive position. Get on your knees or sit down. Keep your eyes cast down and smile while turning your head away at a 45 degree angle so the dog will only see one side of your face. This will make you seem less threatening to the dog.

When the dog approaches, turn your body slightly away from him even more – almost as if you are playing slightly hard to get. Make your movements slow and subtle and continue to talk to him in a low soft voice, saying ‘good dog!’

Keep your hands in your lap with palms up and if you have a treat, hold it there for the dog. Do not grab at him. Let him come to you. This may take a while, possibly multiple tries over a few days. Remember, this dog may have been on its own a while so may not trust strangers.

If he seems responsive to a command, tell him: “Sit.” If you can get him to obey a command, like sit, then tell him “good dog!” and then tell him “Come.”

Remember to consistently provide verbal praise, make no fast moves, keep your body and eyes submissive, and use a low voice, soft and firm.

You should have the dog in less than a week.