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What to Do if Your Pet is Lost

It can happen in the blink of an eye, an open door or gate and your pet is missing. Read on for tips to help Fido find his way home.

Guest Blogger: Becky DiLucia

It takes just a split second. Someone opens a door or becomes distracted at exactly the wrong moment and the next thing you know, Fido or Fluffy is nowhere to be seen. No matter how or when it happens, the key is to act immediately to increase your chances of getting your pet back home to his or her loving family.

Talk to people living nearby. Let them know that your pet is lost, give them a thorough description and photo if possible and provide a phone number that will always be answered by someone.

Contact your local police department, animal control facility and all animal shelters in the area. Each municipality has their own facility for animal control and you can find a list of them on our Lost and Found web page. You should check with the facility DAILY and make sure that they have contact information for you. It is important that you know the holding period for dogs is 3 days and there is no holding period for cats. Unfortunately, unclaimed pets are euthanized.

You should also utilize the Internet whenever possible. Animal Friends has a “Lost and Found” page on our website and we are happy to post a photo and information about a lost pet. Additionally, there are several sites such as telephonepole.org and Craig’s List where you can post information about a lost pet. Be sure to have someone check e-mails and postings on the sites regularly.

If your cat has wandered from home, chances are that she won’t go very far. Because of this, it is critical to let neighbors know that she could be hiding in any number of small spaces. You should ask them to check, or request permission to check, any space that looks large enough to shelter your cat, and even those that don’t look large enough. This would include areas under porches, sheds, basements that have unsecured openings to the outside, children’s playhouses and any other areas that could potentially provide a place for your cat to hide. If you do locate your cat, remember that she is likely to be very frightened and may lash out, even at Mom or Dad. Use food to lure her and try to avoid scaring her into bolting once again. Once you do catch her, it would be advisable to use a carrier to get her back home.

Dogs are apt to wander further than cats, and can actually cover quite a bit of territory. A people-oriented dog will often approach folks he sees in his travels which makes it easier for him to be caught. A dog who is scared of people is, unfortunately, much more difficult to catch and it may require a humane dog trap or two and lots of food to catch him. You will also be relying on sightings reported by people in the area to track him. This requires quite a bit of patience and dedication, but it can be done.

Creating a large, brightly colored, eye-catching flyer with a description of your pet, a photo and contact information is essential. This flyer should be posted and/or distributed in highly trafficked areas where your pet was most recently seen such as intersections. It is important to note that each municipality has different laws about the posting of signs and some will levy fines. If posting is not permitted in public areas, you should search for community bulletin boards which will allow such posting or ask business owners if they would be willing to display one of your flyers. Door to door distribution of flyers or handing out flyers on the street in the area where your pet was last seen is time-consuming and labor intensive, but it may be one of the only ways to get the word out to people.

In summary, get the word out to as many people as possible that your pet is missing, be sure to check all animal control facilities and shelters daily and be prepared to go and get your pet at a moment’s notice. Preventative measures you should take before disaster strikes include making sure your dog or cat has an updated identification tag and is microchipped. Both of these may help reunite you with your beloved pet and give your story a happy ending.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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