KEY STEPS TO FIND YOUR LOST DOG
By Scherrie Dys-Buzcko
Losing your pet is a traumatic experience. It’s easy to panic. Now more than ever though, your pet is depending on you to stay calm and focused to help them find their way home.
Before you do anything, check every room in your home; under the beds, behind the furniture, inside the closets and the garage. Now look outside – under the bushes or behind anything that could be blocking your view. They could even be in your car or truck, cats have a penchant for crawling into wheel wells or up under your vehicle. Use a flashlight. Remember if something has frightened your pet, if they are injured or sick they could be seriously trying to hide.
Immediately put familiar items that have a scent outside where your pet was lost. Food, their pet beds, for cats their kitty litter box, an article of your unwashed clothing, and water too, may help lure your pet back home.
Second, make sure you file a missing animal report: you can do this at Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services :941-861-9501, After Hours: 941-316-1201 or Non-Emergency police: (941) 316-1199.
They will need from you:
-A picture of your pet (preferably a current picture)
Information that is unique to your animal:
-Color of pet w/ variation and breed – especially with regard to markings, this will help id your pet if found.
-Microchip information if micro-chipped
-Color of collar
-The specific location where you think your pet was lost, provide the cross cross streets of where pet was lost
-Date and approximate time the animal was lost
-Your contact information, give a couple of phone numbers. It’s really important that they can reach someone at a critical moment.
Third, contact all of your local animal shelters & animal control facilities. You can fax, email, or go directly to them- give them a picture of your pet and all the information above used in missing animal report. It is highly recommended to go in person to check and see if your pet is in your local shelter.
Next, leave a scent trail for your animal; leaving a scent trail can help lure a lost pet to a safe area. You can do this by using strips of unwashed bed sheets or several worn socks or worn articles of clothing. Create a trail from where your pet was last seen to your home or a safe trapping area.
Pets that are lost at rest areas, parks, or from an automobile accident often stay in the general area. Pets that run from a place other than their home often return to that exact spot they ran away from, many will return late at night or early in the morning when there is minimal activity at the location.
If possible, stay in a locked car with another person and hopefully your pet will return back when the area is quieter. Do not slam the car door and do not call out the pet’s name. Although it’s hard to believe, a pet in survival mode will likely run from their owner if called, instead, sit quietly with tasty treats or a can of tuna. If your cat is missing spread the tuna out near you and wait until it comes to you on its own. This may take some time, especially if the animal is scared. Do this same thing if you were notified that your pet was sighted somewhere.
Then, get the word out! Go door to door and ask if the pet has been found or seen. Make flyers with a current picture and contact information on them; pass the flyers out on your block and the blocks around your home (or where the animal was lost); pass them out to everyone you see in your area that is outside walking, riding their bike, or walking their dog.
Call your vet who gave pet the rabies vaccine and alert them your pet is missing. Give one to your local USPS postal carrier, U.P.S. & Fed Ex delivery drivers, (they spend a lot of time in your area and may have seen the animal) or even the Cable TV provider truck drivers.
Go to all your local stores & veterinarian offices and leave flyers with them. Visit all your local groomers and give them flyers to share. Post them at bus stops, local parks, local schools (first ask the schools if they would allow you to place flyers in the school for kids to pick up or if you can post them on student bulletin boards. Put a flyer on your mailbox and post a yard sign in front of your house with a photo of your missing pet and phone number (people who find a pet will often drive or walk around trying to locate the owner). If you live in a rural area pass out flyers to the local equine and large animal vet clinics, feed stores, school bus companies, and farm implement dealers in the area. These businesses all have staff that drive and work on the back roads, traveling from farm to farm on a daily basis. Also, place an ad in your local newspaper (it’s usually free to do under the lost and found section).
Offer a reward: offering a reward can generate interest in the search of your lost pet. Beware: sadly there are people that will try to take advantage of your loss, so never pay a reward to someone that “says” they found your pet before you meet them. Ask them to message you a picture of your pet and if it is your pet NEVER go alone to pick the pet up and always make sure you get your pet back before you give them the reward money. Also, request to meet at a public place if possible. It is suggested to contact your local non-emergency police department and inform them of the arranged meeting.
Finally, use social media! In our area – there is a Facebook group called: Missing Charlotte/Sarasota County Animals which helps pets get reunited by sharing your post regularly. Some more great Facebook sites are: FLORIDA Lost and found pets!!!! (only Florida pets ). Include your photo and ask for people to Be On The Lookout and to share your lost pet’s flyer. These groups have thousands of local members who will share your photos and can be your eyes and ears on the ground. The help and support provided can be incredible.
The Sarasota Scoop (on this site you would have to make your own post because no one can share a post to that site but once you put a post on there it will be shared as well by others). Post on Craigslist: post to classifieds>Sarasota-Bradenton area> Community>lost & found. and also this website as well www.petharbor.com
Things you can do in advance to ensure your pet stays safe:
- Make sure your pet is microchipped and registered. If you adopt a pet make sure your information is updated with the microchip company.
- When you move make sure to update your animals microchip information.
- Take current photos of your pet often. Make sure to take a profile and side-view picture. If your dog is groomed, take before and after pictures. Have a picture(s) handy on your cell phone just in case you need to make a post for Facebook, Craigslist or to show to passers by. If your pet has any special markings make sure you take a picture of that as well.
- Make sure your pet has an I.D. tag with your current information (your local pet store, Walmart, Target etc should have name tag machines available).
- If you are having a gathering at your home, put your pet in a secured quiet location. If you plan on taking your dog for a walk, check to make sure it has it’s tags on and do an inspection of the collar and chain before using.