Tips for Finding a Missing Pet
By Jodi Hartley

One of the scariest things that can happen to an animal lover is for a family pet to go missing. Panic is understandable, but try to be calm and think about how you will find him. After checking with other family members and searching your home and property, here are some other ways to try to locate your dog.

1. First think about where your dog may have gone. What does your dog love? Food? Swimming? Hunting? Walking trails? Socializing with people or perhaps a dog of the opposite gender? Have you recently moved? Would your dog try to go back to his old home? Thinking about what may have tempted your dog away from home and where he can find that is the first place to look. Enlist the help of friends and family to search.

2. Search the neighborhood and talk to neighbors. Walk or drive through the neighborhood and talk with your neighbors. If possible, have a picture with you to show anyone you see your dog. Give them your phone number to call if they spot your dog.

3. Take to social media. Immediately post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks a picture of your dog and that he is lost. Be sure to include a phone number. Also post to local message boards and Facebook groups for lost and found pets, yard sale/swap and shop sites, neighborhood groups, etc.

4. Print flyers. Write “LOST DOG” and “REWARD” largely across the top. Offering a reward is a good way to entice people to be on the look out. Include a recent, clear photo of your dog along with your phone number and an additional phone number in case you can’t be reached. You can include other information such as your dog’s breed, coloring, sex, age, unique markings or medical needs.

5. Distribute flyers. Hand them out to all neighbors and other neighborhoods nearby (remember that it is illegal to put flyers in mailboxes), post throughout your neighborhood, at stores, post offices, gas stations, schools, churches and at intersections and stoplights. Put flyers in a plastic sleeve and tape shut to protect them from rain. Give flyers to mail carriers and UPS/FedEx drivers and take to all veterinary offices and animal rescue organizations in your county and surrounding counties.

6. Hopefully your dog is microchipped, and if so, contact the microchip company. Make sure your contact information is up to date, and notify them that your dog is missing. Some microchip companies will send out a lost pet alert to others who use the same microchip company in your area.

7. Physically visit all animal control agencies and animal shelters in your county and neighboring counties. You can call all of them initially to give a description of your missing animal, but it is best to physically take a flyer to each, fill out a missing pet report and walk through the shelters to look yourself. You should return to the shelters every other to every three days to look through all the animals. Animal control agencies and shelters often take in too many animals per day for front office staff to know for sure if your dog is there. Plus an animal who has been gone for even just a few days can drastically change appearance after being out in the elements and going without regular feedings. Also ask shelter personnel if they work with any rescue organizations and be sure to send your flyer to those organizations.

8. Call your local radio stations with a description of your dog and post a notice in the lost pets section of Craig’s List. Run an ad in your local and regional newspapers. While it is very important to be detailed in describing your dog, it is a good idea to leave out one identifying characteristic. That way if someone contacts you to say they found your dog, you can ask for that characteristic to be certain it is your dog.

9. Notify and take flyers to your local police departments, especially if you don’t have an animal control agency in your area. Some police departments are very proactive in helping to find lost pets.

10. The last tip, and the one no one wants to do, is to check with your city/town, county and state highway departments’ and animal shelters’ lists of deceased animals. Leaving flyers for each is a good idea, but to be certain, you should return to check those lists once a week.

There are additional national resources for locating lost pets such as search teams and national lost pet websites. Pets that have been missing for years have been found and reunited with their families so never give up hope that your dog will return.