10 million dogs and cats go missing every year.
It’s one of the most traumatic experiences for pet parents and for their furry family members as well. If your dog gets lost or strays from home the instinct is to panic, but you need to keep your wits about you and take immediate action if you hope to reunite. Any pet has a better chance of being returned if it always wears a collar with an I.D. tag with your name, address and telephone number, and has a microchip for permanent identification.
Getting the word out early is the key to getting your dog back safely. Hours count, so take action immediately when your dog goes missing.
Contact the local animal shelter and animal control agencies immediately. File a lost pet report with every shelter within at least a 60-mile radius. Most shelters will take a lost pet report over the phone, and it’s helpful if you can email them a color photo of your dog. Be sure that you give them an accurate description. If you believe that your dog was stolen, file a police report. Whenever possible, go to the shelter yourself or send a reliable friend. Visit daily to look at all the dogs. Most shelters are reliable, but it’s safer to see for yourself if your dog is there.
Use the internet to widen your search. There are sites that may be able to help you out, including the Center for Lost Pets, Fido Finder, Lost Pets USA, Craig’s List, Pet Amber Alert and Lost My Doggie.
Use apps like Find Fido or Finding Rover are extremely useful to help you in locating your lost pup. Some apps will help you make fliers and other apps may use facial recognition software to help search the internet for photos of your lost dog that might be posted by someone else.
Search the neighborhood. Walk or drive through daily, and ask every neighbor, letter carrier, and delivery person if they have seen your pet, show them a color photo and give them your phone number in the event they see your dog later. Hand out pictures of your dog with your contact information to everyone, so they know what to look for and how to get in touch with you. Make dozens of index cards with this information and a description of your dog, and leave a card at houses and on car windshields if you are unable to talk directly with homeowners in your area.
As you drive and walk your neighborhood, call your pet by name. Enlist family and friends to do the same, so you can canvas the area thoroughly and frequently.
Make posters – lots of them – and keep it simple and informative. “LOST DOG” in bold letters that can be easily read from a distance is the headline, and include a basic description but keep some details private and I’ll tell you why in a moment. You can offer a reward, but don’t state how much in the ad and be sure to include your phone number. Post these notices at traffic intersections, grocery stores and community centers, veterinary offices and other locations. Get the word out, because the more people who know your pet is lost and you are searching, the more likely it is that someone will spot your dog and contact you.
Some local radio and television stations have “lost pet” alerts, if not on-air then frequently on their own websites. Ask if you can post the information on your dog so anyone who sees your pet can contact you. A frightened animal can cover a lot of ground and may end up far from home, so it’s critical that you broaden the search. Place an ad in the local newspaper.
Contact all veterinary clinics in your area and any emergency vet clinics. Sometimes people pick up a stray and drive it some distance to a clinic. Email them a photo and description of your dog and ask that they post a lost notice.
Email everyone on your own contact list, sending them the description and a photo and encouraging those who can to help you search. Consider using findtoto.com to contact homes in your area. Create a Facebook page and post photos daily asking your friends and family to share these photos on social media to get the word out to even more people. Ask everyone to share the information on their Facebook walls. Use Facebook to contact local rescue groups in your area and ask them to also share your dog’s photo on their wall. They are networked with vast amounts of animal rescue workers in your area who will see the photo and have contact with many homeless dogs through their rescue work.
Be wary of pet-recovery scams. If you’re contacted by a stranger claiming to have your dog, ask them to describe your pet thoroughly before giving out any information. This is the reason you don’t want to put too much detail on your flier. Keep some details private to use for confirmation if contacted by someone on the phone or internet. Be sure that they can identify characteristics you left out of your advertising to see if they are trying to scam you or actually have your dog. Ask them to text or email you a photo of your dog for confirmation. Be especially careful if they insist on payment for the return of your pet or come up with excuses to delay the return of your dog and call police if you suspect a scam. They could be running a scam where they actually kidnap dogs and hold them for ransom and you will need to get the police involved immediately because these people are professionals at using your emotions to take your money and you may never see your pet again.
Don’t give up! Try everything and look everywhere. Many animals have been lost for months or years before being found and reunited with their families (usually through microchip identification).
Also, it’s common for pet psychics or people claiming to be pet psychics to contact you and say they know where your pet is. They often have a message of “your pet is alive and well but you may never see them again.” This may be a misguided effort to make the parent of a lost pet feel better but do not give them money either. You can thank them for the message and move on.
If you have lost your dog we are so sorry to hear that. Many of us at DogTime have been through this before with varying results and our hearts go out to anyone who has lost a pet. It’s truly the worst feeling in the world. Be strong.