In February, I saw a shocking Instagram post from a person I follow. Her dog walker lost her dog. Sugar is still missing, and not a day goes by when I don’t think about her. If you know anything or see her, go to her Facebook page.
More recently, a friend pointed me to a story with a happy ending. A couple who tracks lost dogs learned of a dog who needed help. He’d been spotted for months in a remote park near Mount Rainier. He was starving and afraid. No one could catch him. When Amanda and Dylan, the trackers, couldn’t lure him with food, they devised a new plan.
Amanda lied down on the ground. Amazingly, the dog approached. She whimpered. He lied down next to her. She gained his trust my making herself vulnerable. He helped her!
Amanda got a leash around the dog and he’s now in a foster home. But the story isn’t over. Baby Bear, as they’re calling him, was likely lost, not abandoned. If he has a family, they need to be reunited. To help, go to Amanda and Dylan’s site, Lost and Found Pets Washington State or their Facebook page.
In the weeks between when Sugar went missing in NYC and Baby Bear was found in the remote forest, I’ve seen other lost pet announcements–from Facebook to telephone poles. I realize that, tragically, a lot of people lose their beloved cats and dogs. Whether urban or rural, there is hope.
I thought I’d put together a bit of info to help prevent such a situation and devise a plan if the unthinkable happens.
Before your animal gets lost
- Microchip your animals. This drastically increases the likelihood of a reunion.
- Spay or neuter your animals. This decreases their desire to escape the house and wander away. It also means when you find your animal, she won’t come home pregnant.
- Add your contact info to your animal’s collar. Consider a GPS collar. Both of these work only if the animal still has his collar on. The microchip will be your backup. Harder to read (only a vet, groomer, shelter, or other facility with a reader can), but impossible to lose.
- Make your cats indoor cats and invest in a catio if they want to experience the outdoors in safety.
- Check your fencing and make sure gates latch properly. Did the meter reader leave the gate open? Check.
- Put your animals in a safe, quiet room during storms or fireworks, times when they might get startled and bolt.
- Have pictures handy in case the unthinkable happens.
If your animal is lost
- Start looking immediately! A big dog could run for miles, but a scared cat is likely close by and hiding. Chart your area based on your animal’s characteristics.
- Make big posters and post them in high-traffic areas. Make indoor signs for vet’s offices, libraries, and grocery stores.
- Check shelters, animal control, and vet’s offices. PAWS has a great checklist.
- Tell your neighbors, use social media and spread the word.
- Make sure your animal’s microchip info is up-to-date so if she is found, someone calls the correct number.
- Consider humane trapping your cat. Cats don’t usually wander far and won’t often come when called if they are afraid.
- Work with Missing Pet partnership, Lost Pet Professionals, or another organization that can help you find your animal.
- Don’t give up.
If you find a stray animal*
- Don’t chase the animal or call to him. He’s likely afraid.
- Sit or lie down and let the animal’s curiously kick in.
- Use a potato chip bag or treats container to make noise that the animal associates with food.
- Drop food on the ground and use a looped leash to gently snare a dog.
- An unwilling cat or dog may need to be trapped humanely.
*If the animal in question isn’t yours, exercise extreme caution. Call animal control if you think you’re placing yourself in danger. If you recognize the animal from a Lost sign, call someone who knows the animal.
How to find a lost dog, Huffington Post article
How to find your lost dog, a Petfinder article
Recovery tips, from Missing Pet Partnership
How to find a lost cat, from about.com
Must-do tips for finding a cat, a Petfinder article
How to find other animals (ferrets, tortoises, birds), from Missing Pet Partnership
Sign tips, from Missing Pet Partnership
Sign tips and downloadable template, from Lost Pets USA
* I should note that I prefer the terms companion animal and animal guardian, not pet and owner. However, when searching for resources or looking for a lost animal, the common terms are pet and owner.