Doggone It! What to Do When Your Furry Friend Goes Missing

You always take the utmost care of your pet, doing your best to keep them safe and secure. But even so, sometimes pets can get lost. Your dog could follow a smell, or chase another animal, into a neighbor’s garage, and become trapped there. Your cat could find themselves up a tree, or in some other place where they don’t feel comfortable and can’t get out of on their own. Any pet could be attacked or injured when you’re not around, and attempt to retreat to a safe place.

July is National Lost Pet Prevention Month. We would like to take this opportunity to offer a guide that could reduce the risk of losing your pet. What actions can be taken if they do end up lost and what to do if you find someone else’s lost pet in your neighborhood?

Keeping Your Pet from Getting Lost

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The precautions you take now to keep your pet from running off could save you a lot of heartache in the future. First, make sure they have a collar with tags, bearing their name, along with your name and how to reach you. It’s also a good idea to have them microchipped with your name and address, along with any important medical information about them. Some pet owners even equip their furry companions with a GPS tracker, to be able to pinpoint their location at all times.

Many “lost pets” are simply the victims of misguided good samaritans. They’ll see an animal wandering just a few yards from their home, and pick them up to try and find their rightful owner—carrying them further and further away from that owner in the process. By ensuring your information is readily available on your pet, you reduce the risk of this happening and help guide them home.

If your pet likes to wander, there are a few basic things you can do to prevent your pet from getting lost. Make sure there’s a secure fence around your yard that your pet won’t be able to jump over, knock over, or climb over. When you take your pet out for a walk, always keep them on a leash. If you take them in the car, keep them in a pet carrier.

But the most important thing you can do to keep your pet from getting lost is to pay attention and keep an eye on them. When they’re at home, check on them regularly to make sure they’re OK. When you’re out and about with them, don’t get distracted and pay close attention to them and to your surroundings.

Lastly, training and teaching them basic commands like “come” and “stay” could be vital to keeping your pet from straying too far.

What to Do If Your Pet Does Get Lost

Even despite your best efforts and all your precautions, sometimes pets just go missing. Maybe there was a hole in the fence that you didn’t know about. Maybe they were startled by a squirrel on their walk, and took off faster than you were able to chase them. Whatever happened, your primary concern now is getting them back safe and sound.

Investing in a collar with GPS tracking capability could allow you to easily track down a wandering fido’s location. However, if that is not within your budget, microchipping and tagging your fur baby with your contact information makes it easier for someone who comes across them to get in touch. Have your phone on you and charged; and also have someone waiting at the house in case anyone comes by to return your pet.

In the meantime, call up local animal shelters, animal control, and other organizations in your area to file a lost pet report. If there’s nothing like that around, your local police department might be able to help. There are also a number of websites, such as The Center for Lost Pets, and Lost Dogs of America, where you can report the loss. Be prepared to provide a detailed description as well as a recent photo.

Lastly, posting lost pet signs around your neighborhood with a description and photo can still be effective. Offering a reward can be a good incentive but be aware of scammers. Don’t give someone money until you’ve confirmed that they really do have your pet.

What to Do If You Find a Lost Pet

There are a number of steps you can take if you find someone else’s pet running about in your neighborhood, seemingly without an owner in sight. First, be very careful. You don’t know if the animal bites, or is aggressive or nervous, or if it may be carrying rabies or another disease. Approach them slowly and allow them some time to come to you. Offer them food to gain trust if you have any.

Once they are comfortable around you, look to see if they have a tag with the pet parent’s contact information on it. If not, take them to the nearest animal shelter to see if they have a microchip that can be scanned.

If they don’t have any ID, then go to the websites mentioned above and file a report of a found pet. They might be able to match it up with someone else’s lost pet report. You can also post Found Dog signs around the neighborhood with a picture of the animal.

Local animal shelter is probably your best bet if you’re unable to locate the owner. That’s where the pet parent will most likely check and therefore gives them the best chance of reuniting with their fur baby. Many shelters even keep databases of their found pets that pet owners can search..

When encountering a lost pet who’s acting vicious, aggressive, or otherwise out of control, do not engage them. Call animal control or animal rescue groups that operate in your local area right away. Remember to put your own safety first and it’s also better for the pet’s safety to let the pros handle these situations.

A lost pet is a tragedy, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent one. By taking the right precautions, you can keep your fur baby from getting lost, ensure they’re found as quickly as possible if they do wander off, and even help reunite other pet parents with their lost pets. Let’s make this National Lost Pet Prevention Month a resounding success!