A Rationale Approach to Locating a Missing Pet by J. Abee

Finalist to the 2nd Annual Dog Fence DIY scholarship

J. Abee

Oklahoma State University


Topping the list of panic situations for a pet owner is the unfortunate realization that their pet has gone missing. Pet owners can unfortunately be abruptly faced with the daunting and emotional task of locating a beloved pet. These owners are most often severely underprepared and uninformed about the sequential process. A few simple steps can greatly increase the chances of being reunited with the pet. Preparedness cannot be overemphasized! Once “Fluffy” is lost, searching high and low and getting the message out is crucial.
Prepare! Prepare! Prepare! Don’t be that person that believes their pet will never be lost. It can happen to you in seconds. Being prepared for the unexpected is crucial to locating the pet.
First, make sure the pet is clearly identified. Collars with identification tags including owner information can be quite helpful, but any collar can be lost or removed. The best way to identify a pet is via a microchip, but make sure to keep memberships and records up-to-date! Be prepared with a recent color photo on hand to make flyer processing much easier and effective. Vaccinate the animal! If the animal bites someone (in fear or intentional) while lost, he or she could be euthanized if proper Rabies vaccine verification cannot be proven.
Maintain the pets’ enclosure. If you know the dog is a digger, then be proactive and check the fence daily/weekly or implement a safe barrier to “Rocky’s” fencing. If you know “Prissy” can push through that bathroom screened window, then have it repaired so she can no longer escape. In sum, be prepared to correctly identify the pet, keep his or her vaccinations up-to-date, and maintain the animal’s enclosure. Don’t forget, neutering has been shown to aid in the prevention of male dogs and cats wandering the neighborhood looking for that perfect girlfriend.
After that gut retching realization that “Maddie” is gone, it is dire to start an immediate search effort. Bring friends and/or family and begin the search at the last known location of the pet. Ask neighbors if you may search their yards and remember the pet may be scared and hiding. Calling the pet’s name is helpful and bringing along a scent he or she may recognize can be beneficial. Think like the pet! Remember “Scratchy” may be high in a tree and “Jasper” may be visiting the new female around the block. A delayed search is a failed search, so begin immediately after the pet is missing, call his or her name repetitively, and be the animal. Preparedness reminder: Strive to maintain the pet’s environment to minimize accidental escape.
Get the word out as soon as possible. Colored flyers can be a great help but some important dos and don’ts exist. Do use a recent, color photo. If a color photo is unavailable consider using colored paper to attract more attention and use a full sheet (8 ½ x 11). Don’t include every identifying mark on the pet, such as a blue eye, scar, or tattoo. This may aid in the identification process if “Charlie” doesn’t have a permanent ID. Do offer a reward but do not give the amount to weed out those people looking to make a buck and who may attempt to pass off any dog to collect. Do include the written, general description of the pet, such as breed, age, sex, and color and include the owner’s contact information. Don’t forget that location placement of the flyers is essential. Do not place them illegally! If the post is removed, you have just delayed the search. Post where the pet went missing and post at local pet stores or feed stores. It is imperative that the flyers are attention-grabbing, posted legally, in high traffic areas, and promptly removed upon recovery of the animal. Preparedness reminder: a recent, well developed photo on hand can aid in flyer processing.
A crucial step is notifying the local shelters and the local county pound. All county pounds have a minimal holding time but that time is usually only a few days. A commonly unknown fact is that the holding time is routinely increased if the pet is located while wearing a collar. Some pounds and shelters have a process of filing a lost report. Take the local shelters and county pound a flyer and check in with them daily or every other day. If time permits, visit these locations daily. A less time consuming effort would be to check the listings of found dogs on the shelters’ websites. Preparedness reminder: county shelters and pounds scan for microchips. This could be a fast, easy way to be re-united with the pet.
Include the notification of the local veterinary clinics. Most often the clinics are happy to take the owner’s information in case a lost pet is brought in by a Good Samaritan. Don’t forget to take the office a flyer (most have a billboard designated for just this purpose). It’s important to remember that the veterinary office also scans stray dogs for a microchip.
Social media and newspapers can be quit helpful in assisting in getting the word out. Many Facebook groups exist that are solely dedicated to the location and return of missing pets. The added feature to using Facebook is that you can choose a local group and get the message out to a mass group of people in seconds. A newspaper ad can accomplish the same effects. Craigslist also has an area dedicated to the location of missing pets. Preparedness tip: Find and join these groups now.
Lost pet notification systems exist that can be a tremendous help in the successful and rapid recovery of a missing pet. These systems implement a tracking collar (that the pet must be wearing) and a transponder that can locate the collar. The systems can be configured to communicate with an App on the owner’s phone to alert them of the pet’s location. The downside is that the systems are expensive, require maintenance, may not work outside a known range, and demand the collar be worn by the pet.
In conclusion, the location of a missing pet begins with preparedness. It can happen to anyone, anytime. After the fact, start an immediate and thorough search effort and make sure to get the word out in as many ways as possible. Strive to remain calm, get assistance from those around you, and remember “Lucky” will be most thankful for your kind, dedicated efforts.

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