If you’ve experienced the sinking feeling that comes with realizing your pet is lost, you’re not alone. Estimates from American Humane put the number of pets lost every year in the US close to 10 million. A 2012 study from the ASPCA of nearly 3,000 households found that those who lost a pet were reunited 85% of the time.
This is good news for those of use with companion animals. There are things we can do to prevent losing a pet and steps we can take to find them quickly if they are lost. According to the same ASPCA study, of the dogs that were recovered, almost 50% were found during a neighborhood search, and 15% were found because of a tag or microchip.
In honor of July as Lost Pet Prevention Month, here’s what to do if you’ve lost your pet.
1. Start your search quickly
As soon as you realize your pet is lost, start your search. Call on neighbors and friends to search the area, including common places your pet likes to go. The best time to look is during the morning or at night when your pet will be most active. If they are shy, look under cars and bushes. If they are outgoing, check places where they might find and be comforted by other people.
2. Check with your local county shelter, animal control and veterinary offices
You can immediately call local animal control and give them a description of your pet. This way, if they find them along their route, they’ll know who to contact. If someone finds your pet, they might take them to a local shelter. Be sure your shelter knows your pet has been lost and you are ready to come and get them should they be found. Contact your vet’s office and others in the area as people will sometimes take lost pets there.
3. Make flyers with your pet’s picture
Post lost pet flyers around your neighborhood and in local businesses, especially if people have seen you there with your pet. Good places are pet stores, your veterinary office, grocery stores, dog friendly restaurants and bars, at major intersections, and at the dog shelter.
Include on the flyer:
- Your pet’s name
- Information about how to approach them
- The date they became missing and where and when they were last seen
- Your number
- If offering a reward, list “Reward” without a monetary amount
4. Post online about your missing pet
Share details from your lost pet poster on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on sites like Craigslist. Use public settings so that anyone can share your images to help get the word out.
5. Contact your local newspaper or radio station and place a lost pet ad
Most local newspapers and radio stations will let you place an ad about your lost pet for free. Radio stations are best for getting the word out quickly and newspapers help to keep the details of your lost pet top of mind.
6. Keep up hope
Searching for a lost pet is emotionally exhausting and stressful. Lean on your support system and take time to care for yourself as you plan and execute your search.
Take preventative steps to avoid losing your pet:
While accidents happen and pets get lost, there are preventative steps pet parents can take to avoid losing a pet. This includes taking the time to train your dog with cues like “come” and “stay.” In addition, only let your dog off leash in an area with proper fencing, and make sure they are under voice control if in an off leash area. For cats, consider creating a secure outdoor area for your cat to explore rather than letting them freely roam outside.
With any pet, proper identification is important. Your pet’s tags should have their name, your phone number and address, and any other important identifying information. Microchips are another form of ID that, unlike tags, can’t be lost or removed easily. Having your pet microchipped with your contact information can help them be quickly identified if lost. GPS based trackers like Whistle and FINDSTER are also a great solution to track the location of your pet.
While these steps can’t guarantee your pet won’t get lost, they’re important in getting you reunited.