Imagine a typical scenario: a pet owner has released their pet into the yard only to find out the pet is gone. Panic sets in. The owner has to figure out what to do when they find they have a pet missing. Dogs Finding Dogs is a charity that has been using its search-and-rescue dogs to help find missing pets for more than seven years. Clients need to be guided through an immediate action plan when a pet is missing. Here are the basic steps to follow when a pet is missing.
Spot-check the neighborhood
Do not spend hours driving around. That is wasting time. Dogs Finding Dogs suggests using a phone calling alert for your pet. The group endorses Findtoto.com. This alert will immediately call every house and business in the pet owner’s area, issuing a missing pet alert for the dog. There is a description field in the alert. Anything the pet owner puts into this field will be communicated to those who receive the calls. Trackers use this to tell people that a dog is blind, sick, or to give other information. Pet owners should use this to their advantage.
The flyers should include the words “Lost Dog,” and a picture, phone number and any reward information. Use standard 8-and-a-half-sized paper. Put the papers into clear, plastic sheet protectors. Use brightly colored duct tape, which helps to attract the eye to the flyer. Do not cram many words onto the flyer. The flyer needs to be read from a car. Start from your house and place a flyer at every intersection located within a two-mile radius from your house. If a road is long, put one or two fliers on a light pole. If the pet owner lives in an apartment complex, put fliers on the dumpsters—be sure to check with the property manager first. Pet owners can also make smaller fliers. Hand these smaller fliers to people on the street. This method is secondary. Pet owners should also distribute fliers to nearby veterinarians.
Use the Internet
Place a notice on Craigslist, under the “Lost and Found” section. Re-post the notice every two to three days. Next, place notices on the lost-and-found pet pages on Facebook. If the pet owner has a community e-mail list-serve, send a message at that website.
Call every nearby shelter
Be sure to place a lost-pet report at your local animal shelters. Do not rely on any shelter to call the pet owner or tell the pet owner what animals are located at the shelter. Find out the number of strays that are at the shelter. Go look for yourself.
Set up your yard in case your dog comes back
Dogs travel more at night than during the day. Set a bowl of food in the front and in the back of the home. Take flour and place the flour around the food—so when the pet comes to the food, the pet leaves a footprint. Leave something that smells like the pet owner at the feeding stations. Take bath towels, wipe down every person in the house, cut those towels into strips, and make trails from the home. Familiar smells and food, show the dog where the owner wants them to be so the owner can find them.
Groups like Dogs Finding Dogs can offer help and consultation. These organizations can also provide search teams to follow a dog’s footsteps. When these basic steps are used, the success rate increase to the 90-percentile range. Pet owners should remain calm and focused. Pet owners should not fill their minds with bad thoughts. Above all, stay calm. It is possible for dogs to be found.
This article was originally published in our Spring 2014 print issue.