Spring is here and along with warmer weather more dogs and cats seem to be wandering the streets. What do you do when you find a pet?
Pets with ID
Best-case scenario the pet has a collar and tag. Pets with visible identification get back home faster. Just a few weeks ago as I was leaving my neighborhood for work I found a little Yorkie wandering around the street. I pulled over, opened the car door and she LEAPED into my lap. She had a collar and tag. I quickly found her home and was met at the door by a panicked and grateful owner.
If she hadn’t had a tag the next step would have been a trip to closest veterinarian’s office so she could be scanned for a microchip. That would have added an additional 45 minutes to the search and I might have missed her owner (who was ready to leave for work, too). If she was micro-chipped, then a call to the owner would have been in order. However, it’s all too common for pets to be micro-chipped, but pet owners forgetting to register the chip or update information after a move.
Pets without ID
Pets wandering the street without ID – collar/tag and/or a micro-chip – is heartbreaking. Too many pets wind up at animal control, in rescue groups, or in new homes because the pet’s family couldn’t be found. A lost or frightened pet can run for miles – 30 or more – and then be unable to find their way home. Or they get picked up by a concerned person or animal control and are never reunited with their family.
Helping lost pets get back home
- Take several good pictures – head shot, side shot, standing, sitting
- Post images to neighborhood lists, Facebook, lostmydoggie.com, Craigslist and other social media sites
- Scan Craigslist for lost pet posts – you’d be amazed at how often pets are reunited through Craigslist
- Make posters and distribute to local vet clinics, pet stores, local animal control and humane associations – spread the word fast and far keeping in mind that pets can travel a long distance when frightened, scarred or disoriented!
- Make sure your local animal control has a flyer with a good picture and contact information. People often check animal control for their missing pets. If the pet owner calls or visits animal control but animal control has no idea where the pet is, then the opportunity for reuniting the pet and person may be lost.
- Be prepared to wait – days or even weeks to reunite pet and person
- Make a plan – if you can hold the pet for a few days and search for the owner that’s great. Sometimes that’s not an option. Animal control is the next best option for reuniting pet and person.
- If you’re unable to locate the pet owner and cannot take the pet to animal control, then contact local rescue groups. Keep in mind that rescue groups are generally bursting at the seams with foster pets. It may take a few days or weeks for an opening in a foster home for the pet.
How do you know if it’s a homeless stray or a lost pet?
It’s really difficult to tell whether a cat or dog is a homeless stray or a lost pet. Lost pets may be terrified and not willingly approach people and then be misidentified as a stray. Stray animals may be very people friendly, having learned that some people will give them food or affection. In that case the stray may be mistaken for a pet. A lost pet that’s been gone for weeks may be dirty, have matted fur, or be covered in fleas or ticks simply because they’ve been missing for so long. And of course, some pets are true escape artists and enjoy taking an unsupervised walk now and again (a certain red-bone coonhound I loved comes to my mind – silly hound!). Attempting to locate the pet’s home is the best course of action if you’re just not sure if the dog or cat is a homeless stray or a lost pet.
Please keep in mind that if you bring a stray or lost pet into your home that you put your own pets at risk for disease. While trying to locate the pet’s family it’s best to keep the pet quarantined in a separate room to keep your pets safe.