Losing your beloved pet can be a scary experience for families and pets alike. It is important to do all of the following steps in order to reunite with your pet. The best chance a pet has of returning home is a loving, concerned, and very persistant guardian.
If your lost pet is a cat, check your front and back yard and your neighbor's yards very thouroughly. Oftentimes, a lost cat - especially one who lives only indoors - will hide close to home and be too frightened to come out when called.
Go to the animal services shelter or shelters servicing your city and any adjacent areas as soon as possible. File a "lost animal" report including a current photograph of your pet, which will be kept on file for three months.
It is very important to go in person to look through the stray population at least every three days after filing your report. Animals impounded without a current license are held for a minimum time period to give their guardians a chance to reclaim them. The length of this stray hold can vary from state to state and county to county. It is essential that you continue to personally check with the shelter, as only you would be certain to recognize your own pet. Do not give up too soon! Many of the animals in public shelters wander for weeks before being rescued by an animal services officer, or well-meaning people may have held the pet for some time before bringing him to the shelter.
Notify neighbors and search areas thoroughly, especially in the evening. Door-to-door canvassing may provide leads as well. Always leave your phone number and address in case a neighbor sees your pet later.
Post an ad on Craigslist, community websites, and in your local newspaper.
Create posters about your pet. Place posters with a photo of your pet in the vicinity where he was lost. Remember to remove the posters once you have found your pet. A reward may generate more interest.
Check with local veterinarians, as injured pets may have been taken to a clinic by a Good Samaritan.
Be careful with assumptions the pet has been abandoned. It's very possible the animal on your doorstep has a family who loves him and is searching for him. A lost pet is depending on you to help him find his way home. Please show him the same kindness you would want a stranger to show to your own pet.
Look for identification. A name/identification tag can lead you directly to the owner. Rabies tags and shelter tags also have traceable numbers.
Network and recruit your neighbors for help, including on social media and community websites such as Patch or Craigslist. Someone in your community may know the pet and guardian.
If there are no identification tags, take the pet to a veterinarian or shelter to scan for an implanted microchip. If there is a microchip, the company can trace the guardian and contact them to be reuinited with their lost pet. Additionally, search the animal for an identification number tattoo.
Call your local animal shelter and give a complete description of the pet, along with day and location found. If the guardians call the shelter, the information will be on file to cross-reference. If you wish to foster and keep the pet out of the shelter until the guardian is found, inform the agency of your desire to do so - most agencies are agreeable to this.
Check Craigslist, community websites, and your local paper for "lost pet" ads every day.
Create a poster giving a physical description of the pet and distribute copies widely in your neighborhood. As you travel, look for community bulletin boards in shopping centers, libraries, churches, synagogues, or anywhere else you may post a notice of general interest. Additionally, place flyers on the streets at busy intersections (you may first want to check the legality of posting on public property). As you distribute the posters, remember to look for the flyer that the pet's guardian, may have posted.
If you cannot keep the animal while you look for his guardian, an alternative is to turn the animal over to the public shelter for the stray holding period. His guardian may come looking for him.
Preventing Lost Pets
Even the most responsible pet owners can lose a pet due to unforeseen circumstances. Try to take every precaution to see that the animal is safely protected:
License: Dogs and cats with a current license or identification tag attached to their collars are held at Animal Services Centers for a full 10 days instead of the four days unlicensed strays are held. The owners are notified by telephone and via US Mail. Keep the county informed of any address or telephone number changes after you have applied for your pet's license.
Identification Tag: A message such as "Help me, I'm lost" with your current telephone number and address on the tag will encourage people to contact you rather than let your pet wander to starve, become ill, or be hit by a car.
Confinement: There is no better protection for your pet than to be kept indoors, in a fenced yard, or enclosed kennel area. Do not let your pet run loose. It is illegal in the state of California to let your dog roam unattended unless in designated off-leash areas.
Obedience: Many local organizations including ARF offer low-cost training classes.
Spay and Neuter: Decrease your animal's urge to wander in search of a mate. Spaying and neutering dramatically reduces and can eliminate, the attraction of males to females.
Download this flyer with prevention tips.