I can think of only a few things more traumatic than searching for a lost pet. The trauma is most likely a two-way street, as awful for the lost pet as it is for the frantic owner. A lost dog is not a lost cause, however, and the chances of being reunited are pretty good, as least according to the 2012 ASPCA study.
As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I encourage you to take action immediately, should you find your inquisitive canine missing. Be sure to enlist the help of family and friends to ensure as much ground can be covered in the shortest amount of time as possible. The Humane Society of the United States offers tips to finding pets, and here are some I would find useful.
Comb the neighborhood. With a picture of your dog, walk, bike, or drive through familiar routes and to favorite places. Is there a particular dumpster your dog loves to sniff on the morning walk? Check there. Call for your dog with an inviting tone. Sweet talk your dog by squeezing a favored squeak toy, shaking a tempting box of treats or another container that emits a sound your dog is familiar with. Ask your mail-person, neighbors, and delivery people if they have seen your dog? Give your contact information should they find your pet.
Notify the authorities. Contact every shelter within 60 miles of your home. (Or within the distance your inquisitive canine could likely travel on their own). File a report and visit the shelter, if possible. Many shelters post found animals online, but often shelters are understaffed so the postings may have to wait a few days. Contact your veterinarian’s office, notifying them of your pet’s disappearance, as they will be able to track his or her rabies tag number. If your dog is microchipped, contact the microchip company. They will issue a “lost or stolen” alert against that number. If you think your pet has been stolen, contact the police.
Social media can be a lifesaver. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can help spread the word of a lost pet very fast. Post a photo and/or video of your dog while including appropriate hashtags. And, be sure to provide your contact information.
Search the Internet. There are national Web sites that work on local levels. Some are Pet Amber Alert, Center for Lost Pets, and Fido Finder. Also, your community’s Craigslist.com is an excellent resource. Your veterinarian’s office and local animal control agency may have other Internet site suggestions.
Post bulletins. Create a notice with your dog’s photo, name, sex, age, weight, breed, color, and special markings. The Humane Society of the United States recommends omitting “one identifying characteristic and asking the person who finds your pet to describe it.” Hang the notices on community bulletin boards, vet offices, grocery stores, pet supply stores, coffee shops, and other gathering locations.
Place a lost and found ad. Use your local newspaper to advertise your lost pet, and remember to check the “found” section, too.
Don’t give up the search. Certainly you’ve heard tales of dogs and cats returning home after months and years of absence. The Humane Society of the United States shares the story of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) being reunited with her lost dog, Kiwi, who is microchipped, after more than a year.
Just as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, you can be somewhat prepared should you have to face the awfulness of searching for your inquisitive canine one day. Here are some of the things you can do:
- Have your pet microchipped. Remember to keep record of the microchip number, company name and contact information, and notify them should you have a change in contact information.
- Make sure your dog always wears a collar with its name, your name, address, and telephone number. There should be an ID tag on the collar, too, with the same information.
- Keep recent photos of your pet accessible.
- Be acquainted with animal services, such as shelters and veterinarian offices, in your area.
- Think about why dogs run away. It can be out of loneliness or lack of stimulation, i.e. boredom. Here’s a post on enrichment activities for your inquisitive canine. If a pet is not neutered, it may be searching for a special friend or a night on the town. Maybe they are in a new surrounding and are looking for their former home. Something may have frightened them, such as thunder or a car backfiring. Do what you can to not give your dog reasons to run away.
Lastly, I’m sorry to say, be aware of scams. There are people out there who prey on others during life’s most vulnerable moments. If someone insists you wire or give money before the return of a pet, ask a trusted relative or friend to help you determine if this is legitimate.
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