Find A Lost Pet? Now What?
A lost pet is every pet parent’s worst nightmare. Some may argue that when they find a lost pet that their owner must have abandoned them, or clearly their owner is irresponsible and doesn’t care that their pet is out in the cold or heat. The truth is pets are naturally curious and sometimes accidents happen. Most of the time owners are doing everything they can to search for their missing family member.
Caring for pets as often as we do at Floofins & Co., our team comes across a couple strays every year. We recently got a call in the office from one of our Pet Care Specialists letting us know a friendly little dog started following her on a walk and she couldn’t find their owner or anyone looking for him. Our Administrative Staff picked him up and started the search process. But what do you do? Where do you start?
Reuniting a pet with their family can seem like a daunting task but don’t panic. There are a lot of things you can do that can often quickly get them back home where they belong:
Check For ID. If the pet is wearing a collar, you have it easy; call the owner or walk them back home. If they have a rabies tag on their collar, call the county and they can track down the vet that administered the vaccination who in turn can connect you with their owner. If they have a city registration tag call the city. If there are no tags there still may be some form of ID. Check for a tattoo or microchip. Most veterinarians, stray holding facilities, and police stations can scan for a microchip.
Report It. No ID? Time to do a little more work and report the pet. You can complete “found animal” reports on your county’s website. There is also a site called Lost Dogs Illinois where you can post found animals. Also, contact the local police departments within a 10 mile radius from where you found the pet. Many owners will start contacting local police, animal care and control, etc. immediately when they know their pet is missing.
Posters And Ads. Most pets are within 10 miles of their home when they are found. Take a photo and hang some posters or place an ad in the local newspapers. Also, look for missing pet signs. Many owners will start posting signs for their lost pet. If someone calls to claim them, make sure they provide some form of medical records and photos of their pet before handing them over.
To House OR Not To House? That is the question. Do you provide room and board until they are reunited with their owners, or should you drop them at a stray holding facility? Most counties will recommend placing the pet at a holding facility so if and when their owners come looking for them they can be reunited easily. Holding facilities generally keep pets for 3-7 days. If they are not claimed and if the pet is deemed adoptable, they will be placed for adoption.
Shy, Sick, or Frightened Animals. If you find a stray who is shy, sick or frightened, they may not let you approach them. If this is the case, there are still things you can do to help. Sudden moves can make a frightened dog bolt, so proceed with caution and go slowly. Take a picture and note your whereabouts so you can notify relevant parties such as animal care and control, the police, and missing dog sites. If the pup simply won’t let you near them, if they are displaying overtly aggressive behavior, or if they run away from you, call your local animal care and control and if you can, wait for help. If approach is possible, try to lure the animal to you or into your car. If you are able to restrain the dog be careful; animals that are sick or feel threatened are more likely to be aggressive. If you encounter a lost dog who is shy, sick or frightened while you’re out with your own pets, it’s best to keep them separated since you don’t know how the lost pet will respond to them. If possible, take your pets home and come back. If you encounter a lost animal while driving and manage to lead them to your car, remember that you may not want to travel with a potentially aggressive creature riding in your backseat, in which case you should call your animal control agency and wait for help.
As far as the two little guys we reunited with their families last year, both were very friendly, were clearly someone’s pet, and were easy to handle with a slip lead. One was reunited with their owner within an hour via rabies tag number. The wind had blown the gate open and he went exploring. The other also had escaped his fence but had no visible or microchip ID. But, he was reunited within a few hours of picking him up by contacting local police stations.
There is nothing better than seeing furry and human family reunited. I encourage you all: if you come across a stray, don’t walk away. Assume it is someone’s beloved pet. What would you want to happen if it was your pet? Pick them up and get them home.