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Is Your Pet Missing

Finding A Lost Pet | Preventing Your Pet From Running Away | Reasons A Pet Disappears | Common Mistakes Pet Owners Make | If You Find A Stray Animal | Finding Another Home For Your Pet

Finding A Lost Pet

  • Begin your search IMMEDIATELY. Don't wait another day for your cat or dog to come home.

  • Alert your neighborhood person-to-person. Talk to the neighbors, their children, the mail carrier, friends, other routine service people (sanitation people, paper delivery, etc.), lawn service personnel, and any local veterinary clinics or grooming parlors. Tell them that your pet is lost and you badly want him/her back.

  • Make a flyer with your pet's description, name, the specific date and time lost, and place last seen. Include a clear photograph of your pet, in color if possible. If you don't have a good photo of your pet, take one today, just in case, and take a new photo every few years as your pet ages. Consider offering a reward that is large enough to be an incentive to a thief or good Samaritan to return the animal safely to you.

  • Call area schools, particularly grade schools or middle schools, and ask if you can distribute posters and reward information among the children. Kids spend a lot of time outdoors and are often the finders of lost pets.

  • Go to -- do not call -- your local animal control department and surrounding shelters. Personally check for your lost animal. Check their lost-and-found boards, and put up your own lost notice. We cannot overstress how important it is that you go personally to these places. Go back to them every other day. Do not call them or rely on the shelter personnel to find your animal for you.

  • Notify the police.

  • When describing your lost pet, verbally, in an ad, or on a flyer, be aware there are many ways to describe animals: what is a red dog to you might be a liver-colored or tan dog to someone else. What is an orange cat to you could be a red cat, cream cat, tiger cat, ginger cat, or marmalade cat to someone else. Be as precise in your language as you can, and use pictures. If you don�t have a photo of your own pet, you might check books on cat and dog breeds for a similar photo.

  • Display flyers at grocery stores, veterinary clinics, grooming parlors, beauty parlors, or any other place you can within a one- to two-mile radius of the place where the animal was last seen. Cover areas where people gather outdoors: parks, swimming pools, ball fields, jogging tracks, farmers' markets, ice cream stands, etc. If you make street signs, be sure they are larger and sturdier than notebook-sized paper (poster board, foam core, or cardboard) and can be clearly read from passing cars. People rarely are going to park their cars and get out to read a lost pet sign. Make the wording large and dark.

  • Place a lost pet ad in your local papers. One week we saw a lost cat ad and a found cat ad in the same paper describing the same cat. That cat probably got home safely.

    Finding Lost Pets:Tip Sheets from the Lost Pet Partnership web site.

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Preventing Your Pet From Running Away

  • Always keep a collar with proper ID on your animal. "We just gave him a bath and hadn't put the collar back on yet" will not help save your dog. Microchip all your companion animals. Keep your cats indoors; they are always much safer that way. Regardless of whether you let your cat outside, outfit her with a "breakaway collar" with proper ID and have her microchipped. (Use only breakaway collars on cats. Regular collars get caught on things and the cat can choke to death.)

  • Learn your animal's temperament, and know what might trigger an escape. If you own a sight hound or a cat that loves to hunt toy mice, the birds and squirrels may well trigger a breakout from the back yard or out the kitchen window. If your dog loves people and the folks down the street are are barbequing, he may invite himself to the party. If your dog or cat is easily frightened, be extra cautious: the fight-or-flight instinct is very strong, and a timid animal will flee if it can when threatened by things like thunderstorms, police sirens, or even trash blowing in the wind.

  • Spay or neuter your pets. They won't go looking for love in all the wrong places and meet with a tragic end.

  • Be sure to update your pet's tags and microchip records immediately whenever you move to a new home. Examine tags from time to time, to make sure they're not badly worn and unreadable. Get in the habit of taking your pet's photo every so often, too, so you�ll always have an up-to-date picture to use in a lost pet flyer.

  • See related article from the University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine.

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Reasons A Pet Disappears

  • Pet Theft: The Humane Society of the United States suggests that you not leave your pet outside unsupervised any longer than you would leave a toddler alone, even if it is in a fenced yard. Pet theft in the United States is big business, and it's on the rise. Missouri is a very high-theft area, and the thieves don't just take purebreds. They are also looking for friendly, mixed-breed, companion animals to sell to research labs, and to use as bait in training fighting dogs (despite the fact dog fighting is illegal in most of the 50 states). Consider the possibility that your missing companion animal has been stolen. More information on pet theft from the Animal Rights Page Web site.

  • See related article on theft from the Humane Society of the United States.

  • See related article on theft from Animal Alert News.

  • See related article on theft from The Atlantic Monthly.

  • Your Neighbors And Your Cat: If you let your cat roam, do you really know where she is or what she does while out? Is your cat at someone's bird feeder killing birds, or digging up a flower bed to get at a rodent? Does your unaltered male cat sit outside someone else's house late at night, yowling and fighting with other "at large" cats, or does he spray on a neighbor's siding or other belongings? Is he/she using the kids' sandbox as a litterbox? These actions can put your cat at risk. It's your responsibility to make sure your cat is not perceived as a nuisance. Many people do not like cats and find these habits annoying. Most of these people will not voice these issues to you, but will take the law into their own hands, poisoning your cat, shooting it, or turning it into Animal Control as a stray. An ad in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in the gun section, read, "22 Rifle for sale. Good for shooting cats."

  • Your Neighbors And Your Dog: Do you leave your dog chained out all day long without water or shelter? Does he bark constantly? Is he running at large, turning over trash cans, digging up gardens, growling and barking at children, or relieving himself in others' yards? Is he marking the neighborhood, threatening other companion animals, or killing local wildlife? You might think these things are fine and natural; your neighbors could be very upset over the way you allow your dog to act and to invade their property. Not everyone likes your dog. Many people are very afraid of dogs. When this situation gets out of control, neighbors can take the law into their own hands, shooting or poisoning your dog, or calling animal control, which ends up costing you money and time, or the life of your pet.

  • Torture And Killing: Sadly, some people enjoy torturing and killing animals. The most common types of cat abuse are burning, hanging, or feeding them to dogs. With dogs, it's placing your sweet companion in with fighting dogs as "bait" or training material to be chewed to death, hanging, burning, and beating. Do you really know your neighbors, or the people two streets over, that well? Why put your companion animal at risk?

  • Humane Beliefs: There are people who strongly believe that no cat should be allowed to roam at large. With these folks, the lucky cats are taken off the street and put into safe, inside-only homes. The unlucky are turned into Animal Control as strays and probably not adopted. Others believe that any at-large dog is a stray dog and call Animal Control. They feel that roaming dogs' owners are irresponsible people; the animal is therefore an abused animal; and the animal shelter is the most humane place for them. Please be aware that this is not their fault; it's yours, for not practicing responsible pet ownership.

  • Other Animals: Do your cat and dog get along? You�re very lucky. How about the other dogs in your neighborhood? What about stray dogs or runaways? Your animals are at risk from them. Your cat or small dog is also at great risk from coyotes. They are all over the metro area, although you may not have seen them. They have added small dogs and cats to their diet and are highly skilled hunters. More information on coyotes from the Mercy Crusade Inc. web site.

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Common Mistakes Pet Owners Make

  • Not Using A Leash: Always walk your dogs on a leash. Any dog can be frightened by events going on around it, and nothing stops even a trained off-leash dog from running away if terrified. It can run after another unleashed animal and fight. It can bite someone. If you are hurt, pass out or have a heart attack while walking with your dog, people have no way to keep your unleashed dog from wandering off or getting into the street and being hit by a car. Keeping him on a leash means he has less chance of becoming a lost or stray or injured dog.

  • Being Susceptible To Pet Theft: Don't leave your dog chained outside a store or restaurant while you are inside, in the back of your pick-up, in your convertible with the top down, or in your car with all windows open. This leaves your dog open to pet theft. See Reasons A Pet Disappears.

  • Invisible Fences: Invisible Fences are not fail-proof. If considering the purchase of an invisible fence, know all the drawbacks: Your dog is not safe from other dogs getting into the fenced area. Your dog is not protected from pet theft. Children can get into your yard and hurt the dog or get bitten. Some dogs will bear the pain of the shock to get out. Some larger dogs are not bothered by the shock. Dogs with sight-hound blood run so fast that the shock will not stop them going out, but it will stop them if they try to walk back in. Finally, the collars can fail, or the underground units can fail without you knowing it.

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If You Find A Stray Animal

  • If you decide to try to return the animal to its rightful owner on your own, using posters, flyers, or newspapers ads,simply state, "Found Dog/Cat," and where and when found. Do not give the animal's physical description. If someone replies to your notice, make him describe his animal and provide some form of proof of ownership. Ask for personal ID when he comes to see the animal. If the animal hides, cringes, or shows any signs of fear, do not release the animal. The animal either does not know or trust the person, or has been hurt or abused by this individual. Bunchers (people who steal companion animals for resale) answer "found" ads, trying to get animals to sell the easy way. They can be very convincing, bringing "grandma and the kids" along. If you chose to try to reunite the animal with its owner, be alert to these possibilities. See Reasons A Pet Disappears.

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Finding Another Home For Your Pet

  • You need to find another home for your companion animal, or possibly you have neglected to spay/neuter and have puppies/kittens to place. Never, never, ever post a sign or place an ad saying, "Free to Good Home." Charge at least $25.00 for each animal. If someone can�t afford to pay $25.00 for your companion, how can he/she afford to properly care for the animal? Bunchers (people who steal companion animals for resale) gravitate to these ads. You give them the animal for free; they turn around and sell it into research, to a puppy mill for breeding stock, or to dog fighters as bait to train fighting dogs. Puppies and kittens have even been sold to feed large pet snakes. If you feel you don't have the skills to screen potential adopters properly, ask a rescue group or shelter to help you screen, or take your companion animal to a charitable shelter for placement. See Reasons A Pet Disappears.

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