Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What to do if you've lost your dog or cat

Help, My Dog is Lost!

Take a deep breath.  Check the house and the yard.  If you are sure your pet is missing, get out immediately and check the neighborhood.  There is a pet tracker locally who recommends calling him within an hour.  The sooner you start your search the better.  Call Animal Control and advise them that your pet is missing.  If they pick the animal up as a stray, they can match the description to your missing pet.  GO TO THE POUND EVERY DAY!  Your description of your pet may not sound the same as what he looks like if he gets picked up.  Collars and tags are great, microchips are better, none are 100%. 

He's still missing

If after the first few hours your pet hasn't turned up, you need to cast your net wider.  Make up a COLOR flyer with a recent picture of your pet.  Use the word "Reward" in big letters.  Make as many copies as you can afford and put them up anywhere people can see them; gas stations, supermarket bulletin boards, restaurants, etc.  Call local vets and humane societies, post pictures on Facebook and Twitter, send e-mails, whatever you can think of to get the word out.  For cats, food-baited traps with something that smells like you may be a good option.  For dogs, having people out calling (if your dog is people-friendly) is a good way to go. 


Have your pet spayed or neutered.  Looking for love is the most common reason to run, 70% of the animals found hit on the road are un-neutered males.  If you have a fenced yard, check it frequently for any potential escape points. When traveling with your pet, take extra care.  Yes, your cat hates the carrier, but she'll be safe in it. A harness is much less likely to be wriggled out of than a collar.  Animals in strange environments behave differently than they do at home.  If you know your pet is an escape artist, put some extra safeguards in place like an extra clip on the gate lock.  Make sure you have an up to date picture of your pet. An ID tag with your cell phone number is worth its weight in gold.  A microchip can mean the difference between your pet coming home or not.

What to do if you've found a dog

I couldn't just leave him there

We get dozens of calls each week from people who have found dogs or cats.  There are rescue groups and government agencies who care for stray animals and they are admittedly overwhelmed.  Taking in a stray is a big undertaking.  It has financial and family obligations that need to be considered. As of this posting we do not know of any programs in our community that offer money to help people who take in found animals.  Do you have the money to care for another pet?  If the owner comes forward are you prepared emotionally to give him back?  If the animal turns out to have health or behavior issues are you able to handle them, emotionally and financially?  Is your family, human and animal, ready for an addition?  If you aren't prepared for this the best thing to do is leave the animal where you found it. 

I can do this

The first step is to try to find out if the animal has an owner.  Check for a collar and ID tags.  Bring him to a vet to have him scanned for a microchip.    Does he appear well taken care of?  Some street dogs that look rough have been lost for a while and actually have loving familes that are desperately looking for them.  Don't judge a book by its cover, or coat.
We recommend placing an ad in the local paper describing the pet.  7 days after the paper is published if no one claims the dog, you can consider the dog yours.  This will protect you if the owner comes back weeks or months later after you have spent hundreds of dollars.  That means you may have to keep the dog for almost 2 weeks depending on the newspaper's publishing schedule.  We generally recommend giving the dog a rabies vaccine if you plan on keeping the dog around your family during that time. 

But he's hurt

If you have found an injured animal, be careful.  The friendliest house pet can bite when in pain. Rabies is also a consideration.  With a stray, by definition, you don't know anything about it's history.  It may not have had any vaccines and the law will assume it has not.  If you get bit, rabies protocol will go into effect.
If you want to take on the financial obligation, and can safely do so, take the animal to your veterinarian or emergency clinic.  Do not ever attempt to handle a wild animal.  Most people do not have hundreds of dollars to spend on an animal they don't know, but still can't bear to leave an animal to suffer.  Please call Animal Control so they can tend to the animal.