Lost pet? Here’s what to do

It’s a situation pet owners fear: there’s a hole under the fence, the sitter left the front door open, the leash broke. Your beloved fur baby is lost.

A lost pet is a scary situation for both you and your four-legged family member. Here’s what happens when a pet gets loose, how to start the search to find him, and what you can do to prevent escapes (either before they happen – or from happening again).

1. You have a lost pet
When a pet gets loose, it’s nearly impossible to know where he is, but you can make an educated guess. If he’s lost in your neighborhood, he’s somewhere nearby or a neighbor picked him up and took him home. Alternatively, someone may have called animal control to pick him up or delivered him to a shelter.

If you are, say, camping or hiking and your dog runs off, another hiker or park ranger could find your pet and take him to an information booth.

Do you suspect your pet is injured – did he crawl through a jagged fence or broken glass window? Did he simply run out the door? This information is helpful when you begin the search for your pet. An injured pet is more likely to hide in a secret spot or be picked up for treatment at the shelter or a local veterinary hospital.

2. Starting the search
Most neighborhoods have social media groups specifically for finding and returning lost pets, such as Nextdoor, Facebook lost and found pets pages, FindingRover.com, and more. Even if you are in an unfamiliar place, you should still be able to find such groups.

It’s wise to keep current photos of your pets just in case one of them gets loose. Post these photos, along with your pet’s name, distinguishing marks not seen in the photo, collar color, and age on neighborhood sites. Note whether the pet may be injured or if a leash likely is still attached to his collar. Be sure to list your contact information as well.

Post flyers around your neighborhood – include the same information on these flyers, and if you are offering a reward, include it as well. Even if you have limited access to a computer or printer, you can print copies at your local public library or at a printing company such as FedEx, Office Depot, or Staples. If you lose your dog in an unfamiliar place, place the flyers around that neighborhood, including nearby parks and animal shelters.

Go door-to-door, if possible, and ask neighbors if they have seen your pet. Take photos or flyers you can leave with neighbors so they can contact you right away if they find your pet.

Make sure your pet’s microchip (if he has one) is registered to your current address and phone number, and if not, update the database as quickly as possible.

3. Prevention
Hopefully, your pet is returned to you safe and sound! Better yet, though, he never escapes. Regardless, here are some ways to prevent a great escape:

  • Check fences. If you allow your pets to be in a fenced yard unsupervised, be sure to check your fence’s integrity regularly. Check for holes and loose boards, as well as nails or screws that are poking out.
  • Close the door. This is an obvious one, but maybe not for children, or visitors who don’t own pets. Be sure your door is fully closed behind visitors, and teach children not to linger with the door open.
  • Kennel during heavy traffic times. If you are going to have the cable guy or other service workers going in and out of your house, keep your pets in kennels. A little barking or yowling is a better alternative to a lost pet!
  • Microchip and use ID tags. Microchip your pets – dogs and cats adopted from shelters often come microchipped before you adopt, and any other pets can be microchipped here in our clinic. Attach ID tags to your pets’ collars as well – you can purchase them at any pet store chain, or online. The tags should have your pet’s name and your contact information. You can also get the pet’s name and a phone number embroidered on your pets’ collars.
  • Use a GPS tracking device. Want to take it a step further? Attach a GPS-tracking device such as Tile, Whistle, Paw Tracker, or a similar device to your pet’s collar. Many of these devices offer Fitbit-like features for your pet, such as exercise tracking. More importantly, however, they offer peace of mind in knowing where your pet is at all times.