Finding a Lost Pet
Discovering that your animal has gotten loose and gone missing can be a frightening and traumatic experience. However, it is important not to panic as there are several steps you can take to help increase your odds of being reunited with your lost pet. The likelihood of successfully finding your animal will be significantly improved if you act swiftly and if you remain persistent in your efforts.
- Search the neighborhood - By acting quickly, you may be able to locate your pet before he has the opportunity to wander too far from home. You can make a quick trip through the neighborhood in your car, but it is important to also canvas the area on foot. This will let you look more closely at areas you won't see when driving by. If you take a regular path when walking your dog, follow this route. Otherwise, start close to home and work outward in increasingly large circles.
Bring a leash or carrier and even some treats to help entice your animal back to you. Don't forget to call out to your animal as you go - looking a little silly is a small price to pay for getting your pet back home safely.
- File a Lost Animal Report - Contact Animal Services immediately to file a Lost Animal Report. To ensure that we get all the necessary information as quickly as possible, it is best to file this report over the phone. If you bring a cell phone along, you can make the report as you are canvasing the neighborhood for your pet. If you are unable to file a phone report, you can download a Lost Animal Report form here and submit it to Animal Services by fax.
- Check with vet hospitals - If your animal has been injured, he may have been brought to a veterinary facility. Contact the clinics in your area and provide them a description of your pet along with your phone number. If the local clinics are closed when your pet goes missing, check with the emergency animal hospitals in Arroyo Grande and Atascadero.
- Put the word out - The more you get the information out about your missing pet, the better.
- Talk with your neighbors and let them know your pet is missing. Bring along a recent photo and make sure that they have your phone number and address. Also, check with mail carriers, delivery personnel, and others who work in the area.
- Make up "lost pet" flyers. Include a clear, current photo of your animal; list the breed, sex, color, age, size or weight, and any distinguishing characteristics. Include your name and phone numbers. It's a good idea to include a phone number for a friend or family member in case you can't be reached. Good places to post your fliers include mailboxes, signposts, and trees around the area where your pet was lost; dog parks; vet clinics and pet stores; around schools; and high traffic commercial facilities like grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, and restaurants.
- Go Online - Post a notice with online community boards like Craig's List. Be sure to check on postings of "Found Animals" too. Online services like the Center for Lost Pets and Fido Finder are also available to help find lost pets.
- Check Animal Services' Lost Pet Hotline and website - The Lost Pet Hotline provides a daily recording of all animals brought to the shelter or reported to Animal Services as found in the last 24 hours. The recording updates daily at approximately 6:00pm.
Animal Services' website displays a listing of all animals in our shelter as well as a listing of all animals reported as found over the last sixty days.
- Visit the Animal Services shelter - Tools such as Lost Reports, the Animal Services' website and Lost Pet Hotline are helpful, but no one knows your animal better than you. In fact, descriptions of animals, even photographs, may vary from the way you would describe your pet. Therefore, it is critical that you come to the shelter and personally look for your pet on a frequent and regular basis (at least every 72 hours).
- Make sure your information is up to date - Identification aids like microchips and license tags only work if your contact information is up to date. If your animal gets lost, contact Animal Services, your pet's microchip registry, and any other pet recovery companies you have an account with to ensure that they have your most current address, phone numbers, and email address on file.
- Don't give up - If you don't find your pet right away, keep at it. Many animals are reunited with their owners after several weeks or even months.
If You've Found an Animal
If you have found a lost animal, it's important to remember that there is probably a worried owner looking for it somewhere. Taking it in off the street is the first step in keeping the animal safe and helping it get back home. But, there are still several more things which need to be done.
- Check for ID - ID tags with current information are the quickest way of finding an animal's owner. However, animals may sometimes have other identification which is not so immediately obvious.
- If the animal is wearing a collar, check both sides to see if a phone number or other contact information has been written there.
- Look for tattoos. These are generally located on sparsely haired areas of the body such as the inside of the ear flaps or on the belly and thighs
- Check for a microchip. You'll need help to do this as the chip is a small device implanted below the skin in the area of the shoulder blades. Since it can't be seen or felt, a scanner has to be used to detect it. Most vet hospitals and animal shelters will scan the animal for you at no charge.
- Check Around the Neighborhood - Often times, animals are found just a few streets or even a few doors away from home. Thus, it may be reasonable to hold on to the animal temporarily while you search for its owner. Make sure that the animal is safely and securely confined while you check with neighbors to find out if their pet is missing or if they might know where the animal lives. Talking with mail carriers, delivery personnel or other people working in the area can also be helpful in finding the animal's home. Keep an eye out for "lost pet" posters as you go through the neighborhood.
File a Found Animal Report - Contact Animal Services to file a Lost Animal Report. To ensure that we get all the necessary information as quickly as possible, it is best to file this report over the phone. If you bring a cell phone along, you can make the report as you are canvasing the neighborhood for the animal's owner. If you are unable to file a phone report, you can download a Lost Animal Report form here and submit it to Animal Services by fax. Be sure we have all your contact information.
- Go Online - Post a notice with online community boards like Craig's List. Be sure to check on postings of "Lost Animals" too. Online services like the Center for Lost Pets and Fido Finder are also available to help reunite lost pets with their owners.
- Put the Word Out - The more information you get out about a found animal, the better. Make up "lost pet" flyers. Include a clear, current photo of your animal; list the breed, sex, color, age, size or weight, and any distinguishing characteristics. Include your name and phone numbers. It's a good idea to include a phone number for a friend or family member in case you can't be reached. Good places to post your fliers include mailboxes, signposts, and trees around the area where your pet was lost; dog parks; vet clinics and pet stores; around schools; and high traffic commercial facilities like grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, and restaurants. It's always a good idea to keep a copy of the posters you make up along with a list of the places and dates you posted them.
- Call for a Pick Up - While an animal's owner can often be found with a little bit of effort, keeping a strange dog or cat at your home, even for a short time may not be a practical option. If this is the case, or if you are unable to locate the owner, contact Animal Services and let us know you've found a stray animal. We'll dispatch an officer to pick it up during normal business hours and do our best to reunite it with its owner.
Keeping Your Pet Safe at Home
Of course, preventing our animals from escaping in the first place is always preferable and, while accidents do happen, there are a number of steps responsible pet owners should take to help ensure that their animals remain securely confined or that they can be quickly returned home if they do happen to get out.
- Walk the Line - Good fences make good neighbors... and good pet owners too. Take time to regularly walk your fence line and check for areas where pets may be able to dig under or climb over. If you have an "invisible fence", periodically check to ensure that the circuit is complete and change the batteries in your pet's collar frequently. Animal Services does not recommend the use of tethers as a primary means of confinement since they do not keep other animals away from your pet and their use has been associated with increased rates of aggressive behavior. However, if you do decide to tether your dog, please remember that the use of "single point" tethers is illegal in the state of California and you must use a "two point" or "trolley" style tether.
- Spay and Neuter - Having an unaltered animal which escapes may mean you'll wind up with a litter of unwanted puppies or kittens. By spaying or neutering your pet, you can eliminate this possibility and also help reduce pet overpopulation which leads to shelter crowding and the unnecessary euthanasia of homeless dogs and cats. Just as importantly, spaying or neutering your pet decreases their desire to escape and roam.
- Give Them a Reason to Stay Home - Animals confined in a sparse area are much more motivated to escape. If your pet is going to spend any significant amount of time outside, ensure that they have adequate shelter, a comfortable area to rest, and toys or other items to keep them occupied. Giving them regular walks, adequate exercise, and social interaction will also help keep them content to stay where they are. If you're going to be gone for a long time, make arrangements for someone to come by and check on your pet and spend a little time giving him some attention.
- Think ahead - Even animals which wouldn't normally try to escape can become frightened by fireworks, loud noises, and other unusual events. If you know that these may be occurring, it is best to keep your pet confined securely indoors when you can't be with him.
- Identification - In the event your animal does get out despite your best efforts, having identification on him with your current contact information is the key to getting him home quickly.
- At a minimum, your animal should have a collar with an ID tag on it. Tags should have your name, address, phone number, and the phone number of a friend or family member in case you can't be reached. Check your pet's tags from time to time to ensure that they are still securely attached, that they are legible, and that all the information is still current.
- Since tags can come off the collar or can become worn down with time, it may be helpful to write or embroider your phone number on your pet's collar.
- One of the most dependable means of identification is a microchip. Microchips are a small capsule about the size of a grain of rice. A chip implanted under the skin of an animal's shoulder region can be scanned, yielding a unique identification number which is linked to a database in which your name, address and phone number can be stored. Some microchip companies will also help you put out lost pet alerts, pay to have animals transported back home, or provide other benefits for pet owners. Most veterinarians and animal shelters can implant a chip for you at a minimal cost; depending on the chip manufacturer and the program you choose, there may be a small registration fee as well.