One of my co-workers recently acquired a dog. *Kathleen pulled into the parking lot of a local store and when she stepped out of the car, an adorable dog came shooting across the pavement. Knowing that this was probably someone’s pet, she quickly approached the dog.
Much to Kathleen’s surprise, the dog sat down at her feet. I received a frantic call from her that evening. She had so many questions about what she should do next. I have gotten a reputation for being a resource for all things pet related since I used to foster dogs and am now the proud owner of 5 rescue dogs and 2 rescue cats.
Here are my top tips on what you should do if you find a lost dog or cat:
1. Do NOT chase the animal! If the dog or cat runs and you attempt to chase it, he/she will become even more frightened and will run that much harder. My husband and I learned this while attempting to corral a neighbor’s loose dog. Instead, try calling to the animal with “Here, boy/girl!” or the famous “Here, kitty, kitty!” If this does not work, head to your local police department and provide them with a detailed description of the animal that you saw and the name of the street where you last saw him/her. All officers on duty will then be able to keep an eye out for the lost fur baby.
2. Take the animal to your nearest vet. Explain that you believe the animal is lost and that you would like a technician to scan for a microchip. A microchip is a tiny chip that is injected underneath the surface of the animal’s skin, typically while they are being spayed/neutered. There is a unique number that is associated with each chip. When the animal is adopted, the new owners pay to have the chip registration switched to their name. Once the animal is scanned, the pet’s name, owner’s address and phone number should appear when the number is entered on a microchip site such as Google.com, Avid.com or HomeAgain.com. You or the technician can call the pet’s owner and let them know that their fur baby is safe and sound. If the owners have not yet switched ownership of the chip, the information of the shelter in which the animal was adopted from should come up instead. Shelters usually keep excellent records of all of the animals within their care and should be able to locate the contact information for the pet’s owner.
3. Keep the animal separated from your own pets. If the animal does not have a microchip and you decide to take him/her home with you, be sure to keep him/her separated from your pets. Since you do not know the history of the dog/cat, you will not know if it is friendly with other animals or has any health issues that could possibly be transferred to your babies. Additionally, your pets may become territorial and attempt to pick a fight with the stranger.
4. Create a lost animal flier. The heading should read: LOST DOG/CAT in all caps and in a large, bold font. This will capture the attention of passersby. Be sure to include a good quality photo of the animal. Take a full frontal photograph of the animal’s face. No half face shots where only one eye and ear are showing. By not including the whole face, the animal becomes vague. The side profile could belong to any brown dog. That could be the ear of any tabby cat. You may also be missing out on distinguishing features, such as eye color difference, a defining spot of color, a facial abnormality such as an overbite, etc. My dog, Penny, has a severe overbite and a deformed front paw. If you just saw a side profile photo of her, you would be missing out on the very things that define who Penny is. Include the full address of where you picked up the animal. Finally, leave a phone number where you can be reached. Distribute the fliers to all of the veterinarians in the area as well as any pet stores and boutiques. Some grocery stores and shopping centers will also permit you to post the flier in a special section of the store, usually by the entrances/exits where the most traffic is present. Do not forget to include your local police and fire departments.
5. Take to social media. Many an animal has been reunited with their owner thanks to social media. In our region, Spencer Kennel sends out a Mimi Alert when they are notified of a missing pet. The alert contains a photo and contact information about the animal and is e-mailed and sent as a text to all Spencer Kennel customers. They also post the alert on their Facebook page. You can create your own Mimi Alert by posting a condensed version of your flier onto Facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc. Do not forget about bloggers! The more people that know about the lost pet, the better.
6. Reach out to rescue groups. If you live in an apartment that does not allow pets or have a spouse or child that is allergic, you should not try to house the animal until its owner is found. Instead, contact your local animal rescue groups to see if they can provide assistance. They may have room at their no-kill shelter or be able to find a foster home where the animal can stay. This will assure that the dog/cat will be properly cared for and will not be euthanized if its owner has not been located within a certain amount of time.
After two months, Kathleen finally located the owner of the missing dog. While she was sorry to see her new furry friend go, she was overjoyed that she was able to reunite the little pooch with his family. Paw it forward!