Watch Tip: Search Immediately for Lost Pets

Posted on June 19th, 2011 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoTip for week of June 19:

If your dog or cat goes missing, start your search immediately. For dogs: Search your neighborhood, enlisting help, but when your dog is spotted, LURE your dog to you with treats. Do not chase, which could become a dangerous game of keep-away for your dog! For cats: Search near your home. Search tree limbs, shrubbery, and under outbuildings with flashlights. Don’t give up!

Don’t wait! Search immediately. It’s dangerous out there.

Sometimes pet owners opt to just wait for their missing dog or cat to come home. They give up before even trying. They won’t even leave the yard or make a phone call. Yes, the missing pet knows where it lives. Yes, the pet might just be walking it’s territorial boundary, a daily occurrence. Yes, every neighbor might know your pet. Yes, they might just wait until the morning. Yes, their pet can take care of itself. No it can’t; that is foolish thinking. All those excuses won’t keep their pet safe.

Do you have a Class B dog dealer nearby? Animal research is a billion-dollar business. Dealers are roaming widely to locate strays; it’s how they make a living and they are very good at luring dogs to their vehicles. They don’t advertise, so if you think you don’t have Class B dog dealers operating in the region, think again. You might. If your dog goes missing, you’ll never see it again if a dealer found it.

How about a dog fighting ring? They need bait dogs and cats on a near-daily basis because they can die too quickly. Do you think they are not nearby? They are extremely secretive; how would you ever know?

What about wild predators such as owls or coyotes or cougars?

What about those people who see a nice-looking dog walking along a road and decide they can keep it because they believe it ran away from home where it was possibly abused? Sure, it’s faulty logic, but there are people who think this way. If your dog is a bit submissive or shy, many people will just naturally assume that it was abused.

What if the collar is missing and a passerby believes a dog or cat needs rescuing and drives it to the pound an hour away? What if the intake clerk decides the rescuer is an actual owner just pretending to be rescuing a stray and the pet is euthanized within minutes because they are full? Only strays are guaranteed a holding period by law; owner-surrenders are not protected. Don’t think it hasn’t happened; it happens all too often.

But it’s more likely that a soft-hearted someone has provided temporary shelter to a pet who is not wearing any ID, with hopes of finding the owners or finding it a home. They provide temporary shelter because many animal control facilities euthanize stray animals within a few days and they want to save that stray pet’s life. Well, guess what. It’s not easy finding a pet owner and it’s not easy to find a home for a pet either. Weeks later, the pet ends up at the shelter. But the owners have given up their search and their pet dies confused and alone. It’s very sad.

What can you do? Be fierce about pets wearing ID; spread the word. It is a matter of life and death. Make sure your pet is microchipped and is wearing ID tags and be proactive.

Launch an “extreme” poster campaign for your missing pet

If the unthinkable should happen and your dog or cat is missing, act fast and think smart. Someone has seen your missing pet in your area and you need as many tips as you can get. Think like a billboard salesperson: think big, bright, simple, legible. Everyone drives or is driven at times. Not everyone reads the newspaper or browses Craigslist or notices posters in the grocery store. Posters are your best bet.

Launch an extreme outdoor poster campaign at a major intersection or roadside near your home. Make 4 simple LOST posters using a photo of your pet’s face. Use big sheets of fluorescent tagboard and fasten the posters in the  middle, and in very large, very bold, very legible letters at the top announce REWARD and your phone number. Post them facing traffic in all directions or ask volunteers to display them to traffic during rush hour.

The Missing Pet Partnership has great information and advice on this topic. Learn effective ways to search for your missing dog or cat BEFORE it actually happens.

Next, notify your animal control facility. Visit and search personally every other day. Remember, you and that staff are likely to describe your pet differently. Trust your own eyes only or risk your pet being euthanized.

Notify your state’s missing pet network on Facebook and follow their advice. Oops, don’t you have one?

Start a “lost pets” network for your state on Facebook

On Facebook, statewide groups of volunteers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and other states have organized search and rescue networks of volunteers that are very effective in reuniting lost pets with their owners. Big kudos to those forward-thinking and resourceful folks!

One of the first, if not the very first, “Lost Dogs of Wisconsin,” uses Twitter, JotForms, and other social/cloud technologies to enable more powerful searches and networking. They rapidly spread the word among motivated animal lovers on Facebook as well as rescue professionals. Their volunteers will sometimes conduct group searches for dogs (and cats) who have been spotted nearby. They also surf regional shelter pet lists looking for matches.

Here’s hoping that volunteers in every state will organize such Facebook groups. Please think about starting one in your state or join your state’s network.

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