A family pet can be lost or stolen in a flash. It can happen to even the most dedicated pet owner. Pets are often lost when a gate in the yard or exterior door is left open, in car accidents, or during disasters. Missing pets can also be the result of pet theft from a yard or car. Here are some steps you can take to prevent your pet from becoming, as well as key actions to take to reunite you and your pet in the case that you do get separated.
Proactive Measurers for Pet Owners: ID Tags & Microchips
In the case that your beloved family animal goes missing, ID tags and microchips can be the key to reuniting with your cat or dog. These preventative measures are vital to the identification and safe return of your pet.
You should always have a collar and ID tag with current contact information on your pet. ID tags are the easiest way for someone who finds your pet to contact you. Even indoor cats and dogs should wear a collar and tag. In addition to a tag with your current phone numbers, include tags provided by your veterinarian, microchip registry, or local animal shelter.
Microchipping your pet is an added level of permanent protection in the event your pet loses its collar or is stolen. Keep your contact information current with the microchip registry, and have your veterinarian scan your pet during visits to ensure the microchip is still readable. These microchips are used by shelters who receive lost pets. By scanning, they can then contact the owner promptly and ensure a safe return. However, it should be noted that the average person finding a pet won’t have a scanner to detect a chip, and may not even know about the technology. That’s why, in addition to microchipping your pet, ID tags are also a must.
Critical Steps to Finding Lost Pets
Dogs and cats can become disoriented when lost. Lost cats will sometimes hide for weeks and dogs will sometimes travel outside of their home territory. It is important not to give up your search. It can take weeks of months to find a missing pet.
- Search your neighborhood and notify your neighbors as soon as you know your pet is missing.
- Report and distribute flyers with a photo of your missing pet to local shelters, veterinarians, rescue groups, animal services, and police departments.
- Find out where lost pets are taken and cared for in your community and visit the location every other day. Also visit shelters in surrounding counties in your search. It’s not unusual for someone who finds a lost pet to transport it out of your community.
- Ask to see pets in isolation/quarantine areas that prohibit public access. Ask to check the listings of pets who may have been injured or housed with local veterinarians.
- Create flyers including a good photo of your pet, a basic description and your phone numbers. Provide flyers to your neighbors, veterinary clinics, shelters, police stations and local businesses.
- Create posters large enough to be read by passing vehicles along roadways. Keep the information brief with enlarged print giving a basic description, phone numbers and good photo. There are lots of great online template to guide you. You can display posters on your car with vivid wording.
- Check the websites of local shelters and rescues. Some will provide online links for uploading photos and information on your missing pet. Florida law requires shelters and rescues post their protocols for hold times and redeeming lost pets. Post your lost pet’s photos and your contact information on social media sites – Facebook, Craigslist, Twitter, etc.
- If you suspect your pet was stolen, or in the event you receive a call demanding money for the return of a lost pet. When describing your pet give an explanation that will help agencies identify your pet. If your pet is a mixed breed, describe what your pet looks like and give any unique markings that will distinguish your pet from the many others that are received at shelters.
Traveling with and without Your Pet
When traveling with your pet, or evacuating prior to a hurricane or other disaster, add an additional tag with the phone number of a family member or friend who knows your travel plans and can assist with the care for your pet in the event of an emergency. Keep your dog or cat safely secured in your car. Dogs should wear safety harness and cats should travel in a secure carrier. Also carry current photos of you with your pet to confirm identification in the event you need to prove ownership of your lost pet.
It’s not uncommon for a pet to become lost while their owner is on vacation. Make sure you have a reliable pet sitter that will notify you immediately in the event your pet becomes lost. Provide your pet sitter with current photos of your pet and the phone numbers of shelters and law enforcement in your area.
When You Find a Lost Pet
Don’t assume the pet you find has been abandoned by its owner. A pet can wander for days or weeks and may lose weight or have a matted coat. If the pet you find does not have a collar and ID tag, call your local shelter and animal services or law enforcement agency to file a report. Many shelters provide services to monitor missing pets and will take a detailed description of the pet you’ve found or sighted. Your report will be compared to instances of pets reported lost or stolen.
- If you can, keep the pet in your home. If it does not have a collar with ID tags, take the pet to your nearest veterinarian to have it scanned for a microchip. Microchips can be traced through national registries that maintain the owner’s contact information.
- If you are unable to keep the pet in your home, take it to your local shelter that is recognized as the housing facility for lost pets. Many animal service agencies will transport pets if they are confined to your home or yard.
- Advertise on social media sites. Give a basic description but withhold some detail so that you may question callers to ensure you are returning the pet to its rightful owner.
Online Resources for Pet Recovery
The Center for Lost Pets http://www.thecenterforlostpets.com/
Missing Pets Resources https://missionreunite.org/missing-pet-resources
Pet Amber Alert – Nationwide https://www.petamberalert.com/
Lost Dogs Florida http://www.lostdogsflorida.org/
Lost Dogs of America https://lostdogsofamerica.org/
Lost Pets USAhttp://www.lostpetusa.net/home
Finding Rover – Facial Recognition service https://www.findingrover.com/shelters
For the Sheltering Community
Free PetChip Registry https://www.freepetchipregistry.com/
AKC Reunite http://www.akcreunite.org/
Found Animals https://www.foundanimals.org/microchip-registry/