You might know the feeling — one minute your dog is milling around your backyard and the next moment, he’s nowhere in sight. Be it an unlatched gate, low invisible fence batteries, or an enticing scent that has led your four-legged friend astray, all you know is that you’re in a panic to find him.
The good news is there are countless avenues through which to track him down. The bad news is it could take days, weeks, or more to do so. The following steps will not only help you cover all your bases on the way to finding a lost pet, but will also keep you occupied and feeling productive in a stressful and emotional situation.
One of the first things an owner should do is contact his or her local county animal shelter and animal control. If a law enforcement officer or other individual has spotted your dog wandering near a road and picked him up, this is where he likely is. However, don’t rely on shelter staff to verify whether they have your dog. Found dog descriptions are often very vague; visit the shelter in person to view their dogs. If possible, continue to do this on a daily basis, because if your dog is found and brought to them the next day, animal control or shelter personnel are not obligated to, might not have the time to, or just won’t remember that a dog matches your lost dog’s description.
Also ask animal control or the animal shelter if you can file a lost dog report. Due to the large number of calls they receive regarding not only lost dogs, but also found dogs, most of these organizations will keep some sort of organized record of lost and found dog descriptions. Some county shelters even go so far as to follow up with you if a similar “found” dog report comes in, but don’t bet on this; it’s most effective to browse the lost/found files or bulletin yourself — and often.
Once you’ve verified that your dog is not in animal control’s custody, the next step is to post “lost dog” fliers liberally around your neighborhood and in surrounding areas. Keep your fliers simple and to-the-point; typically a description of the dog’s breed, color, and gender will do, as well as contact information and a cash reward. In the off chance that someone has intentionally taken your dog or intends to keep him after finding him, a several-hundred-dollar reward will hopefully motivate that person to cash in and return the animal. Also include a color photo of your dog—the more identifiable, the better. Then slip each flier into a plastic sleeve to protect it against weather, and use duck tape to best adhere it to street signs, light poles, etc. You can also ask local businesses to display the lost pet poster.
Don’t forget to also post fliers outside your neighborhood at common intersections, dog parks, recreational parks, and other popular hang outs.
Leave a note in your mailbox for your mailman asking him to keep his eyes peeled for your pooch. His daily mail route likely takes him through many neighborhood and side streets you didn’t poster. He also can let you know if he’s spotted any “found dog” fliers that might just match your dog.
Once you’ve thoroughly plastered your neighborhood with fliers, you might consider going door-to-door with a photo of your dog in hand. More often than not a friendly stranger took your wayward pet in and has not yet spotted your lost dog signs. Otherwise, this just ensures more eyes are looking for your dog. Ask neighbors to notify you if they spot someone walking a dog that looks similar to yours.
Call your veterinarian as soon as possible to let him know your dog is lost. If by chance your dog was wearing a collar with rabies tags, your veterinarian is likely going to be one of the first people contacted. Also research any and all surrounding veterinary clinics in not only your town, but also surrounding ones. Call these clinics and report that your dog is missing—even better, visit in person and drop off a lost dog flier. Most clinics either have a lost/found dog reporting system or a bulletin board to post this information. Ask receptionists if they can help pass the word along to other clinics, or what other veterinarians or resources they might suggest you reach out to.
If someone does bring your dog in to a vet, the first thing the practitioner typically does is scan for a microchip. If your dog is microchipped, make sure you have contacted the chip company, verified that your contact information is up-to-date, and filed a missing dog report.
Craigslist is a hotspot for posting lost and found dog notices. Create a “lost dog” classified in one (or both) of two popular categories: “Pets” and “Lost and Found.” Be careful, however, not to create identical ads in both categories, as Craiglist will not allow duplicate postings—change the verbiage between the two. Then check for coordinating “found dog” posts regularly. Don’t rely on Craigslist visitors to spot your ad and reply — you might have to do most of the legwork yourself.
Also contact your local newspaper and ask to post a lost dog listing both in their print product and online. Most papers offer these types of classifieds free-of-charge for a few days. You might also consider posting a free lost dog classified on pet websites such as PetFinder.com.
Tell technologically-savvy friends and colleagues that your dog is missing and ask if they would mind spreading the word via social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. Email them the same photo, descriptors, and contact information as you printed on your fliers and watch how fast word gets around town via the ’Net.
Once you’ve exhausted all outlets for finding your dog in your county, it’s time to branch out into any surrounding counties. After all, if a good-intentioned stranger has picked your dog up in a vehicle, there’s no limit to how far he could have traveled in a few days. This means contacting animal control services, animal shelters, and veterinarians in adjoining counties.
Most importantly in the finding Fido process is not to give up. Many dogs aren’t reunited with their owners for days, weeks, and even months. The search is a tedious and time-consuming process, but leave no stone unturned!