5 Tips for Finding Lost Pets

Simple Steps to Expedite Your Search

Lost dog at a park

Panic can sink in when your pet fails to turn up for a routine event such as the sound of kitty or dog chow dropping into an empty bowl. After conducting a fruitless search of your pet's habitual hiding places and some possible new ones, it might be time to look outside the perimeters of your home.

Searching for a lost pet can be an emotional and frustrating event. However, following some simple steps from experts at Pets 911 might help bring your pet home before you can say "Fancy Feast."

1. Missing Pets Report

First, file a report at a site such as Pets911.org. Owners can write a description of their pet and upload a photo. At any given time there are an estimated 9,000 to 10,000 profiles of lost and found animals from across the county listed. (If you think your pet might have been stolen, call the police and contact your local Humane Society.)

2. Hit the Streets

Before setting out to scour the neighborhood, you should place food, water and an unwashed piece of clothing with your scent outside the door. These items might help lure your pet home and keep them put while you're out searching.

Bring these items with you:

  • Pen and paper to write down your contact information
  • Photos of your pet
  • Squeaky toy or bag of treats with a familiar sound
  • Flashlight to search trees and underneath cars
  • Acme whistle to call out to dogs
  • Your pet's companion
  • Leash and collar to secure your pet if they are located

While you're out, look for evidence of your pet such as fur and paw prints. Call out for your pet and stop and listen.

3. Get the Word Out

Start making brightly colored fliers if you pet fails to turn up after the initial search.

Include only:

  • Your phone number
  • Pet's photo
  • Name, size and color

When offering a reward, don't list the amount. Leave a message on your voice mail that indicates you are the owner of the lost pet.

When posting fliers, keep in mind that as many as one third of pets are located more than 10 miles from their home.

If after a few weeks your pet is still missing, create new fliers and write "Pet still missing" at the top. If you locate your pet remove the fliers.

4. Notify Local Vet Hospitals

It’s possible that someone who has found your lost pet has contacted neighborhood vet hospitals rather than taking your cat or dog to the local pet pound.

Be proactive and take a copy of your flier to vet hospitals within a 10 to 15 mile range from your home. If you have access to a fax machine, faxing a copy of the flier to each hospital will expedite your search for your family companion.

5. Visit Animal Shelters

Dog collar with ID tag

An estimated 4-6 million pets are brought into animal shelters across the county annually. Only about half are picked up by their owner or adopted by new ones.

Visit shelters at least every 1-3 days. Shelter workers may not recognize your dog based on your description. Research shows that dogs can travel up to 30 miles a day. Someone may have picked your pet up near your home and dropped them off at a shelter near theirs.

Find a shelter:

Sadly, some animals are injured or killed by cars. If you fear this may be a possibility, you can contact your city's roads or transportation departments for a listing of found animals.

Be proactive: make sure your pet is wearing up-to-date tags on his collar at all times, or has microchip identification. The right pet ID can be one easy step toward reuniting you with a lost pet.