Found a Pet? What To Do Now
First, thanks for taking the time to care about a lost pet that is probably scared and unsure of what the future holds.
There are steps you can take to improve the chance of locating a found pet's home. Time is important, so take action as quickly as possible. Below are several important steps listed in order that you should take to help locate a found pet's home.
Step 1: Check the Pet for Tags
If the pet has a collar and tags, check for a phone number or other contact information. A tag may include a phone number of the owner, or a veterinarian, or city license number. Hopefully, this will lead to a quick return of the pet. Sometimes, a tag's phone number or contact information is no longer current. If so, proceed to the next step.
Tip: Until more information on the pet's health and behavior can be determined it may be wise to keep the found pet isolated and away from other pets you may have. Give the pet a blanket, water, and a quiet place as it will likely be scared and nervous.
Step 2: Have the Pet Scanned for a Microchip
This can be done for free at most vets, humane societies, or city shelters. If the pet has a microchip and the contact information is current, this should lead to finding the lost pet's home.
Tip: Microchipping of pets has become much more common today and often leads to a quick reuniting of a lost pet and owner. This also demonstrates why it is important to microchip any pets you currently have. Microchipping is inexpensive and one of the best things you can do for your pet.
Step 3: Post on Facebook, Other Social Media Sites, and Craigslist
Social media sites like Facebook offer a quick and effective way to spread the word about a found pet. Not only will people see your notice immediately, they will be able to easily share the information with others. There are some local Facebook Pages for local lost and found animals including the Jax Animals Facebook Page:
Post a Lost Pet Notice on the Jax Animals Facebook Page:
Lost Found Pets Jacksonville and North Florida
Post to your neighborhood's NextDoor page:
Craigslist can help reunite lost and found animals, but use Craigslist with caution. See the four Tips below and also see Step 9: Watch Out For Scams. If you are posting on Craigslist, post in both the Lost and Found section AND the Pets section. Both are under the Community heading in Craigslist.
Tip: Post a basic description, general location found, date the animal was found, and contact information. Posting a photo has pros and cons. On the positive side, it helps identify the animal to someone looking for their lost pet and a photo gets more notice and attention. On the negative side a photo will provide identification information for a pet flipper or dogfighter to use to make a convincing argument that it is their pet. If posting a photo, make sure there are some identifying features not shown that only the true owner will know. If a dogfighter gets the animal, it has no future and always ends up dying a horrible death. The best solution is to post a photo and have some identification characteristics hidden that only the true owner would know.
Tip: Please do not post a found animal on Craigslist as "Free". This is an open invitation to pet flippers and also dogfighters who will use the animal as dogfighting bait and this always causes the animal to die a horrible death.
Tip: People involved in dogfighting will look at ads and posts about found animals to get them for use as bait dogs used in dogfighting. It is very important to withhold some unique identifying features or characteristics of the found pet so you will know if someone who contacts you is the real owner. For example, if the dog has a unique collar and it is not shown in the photo, then use that as something the owner should be able to describe when asked. Any other physical characteristic not shown in the photo can also be used. If you are not sure if someone contacting you about a found dog is the true owner, they could be trying to get the pet for use as a bait dog for dogfighting. If this is the case, the pet will always die a horrible death. Classified newspaper ads and Craigslist ads are notorious for use by dogfighters to secure new bait animals.
Tip: Beware of scams. Since a social media post on sites like Facebook can be seen by anyone anywhere, there are incidents of scam emails or phone calls. Some people seek out found animals to be used in dogfighting and other illegal operations. See Step 9: Watch Out For Scams below for more scam information.
Step 4: Make Up Flyers For Posting
Flyers are an important tool. Flyers should have "FOUND DOG" (or CAT or whatever you pet is) in big letters at the top of the page. Follow this with a picture, short description, location where the pet was found, and then a phone number that you can monitor. A color picture is best but a good black and white photo will work if color is not available. It is not advisable to put your name and address on the flyer for security reasons. Do not describe all of the found pet's unique identifying marks or characteristics. Keep some of this information private so when someone calls claiming it is their pet you can confirm they actually are the owner and it isn't someone trying to scam you or get the dog for dogfighting or other illegal use. Have several of these flyers printed up at a local office supply store if you do not have access to a good quality printer or copier.
Free Online Found Pet Flyer Creator
Here is an easy to use flyer found pet flyer creator: Found Pet Flyer Creator
Another Sample Found Pet Flyer:
Note: Some people choose not to post a photo. Posting a photo has pros and cons. On the positive side, it helps identify the animal to someone looking for their lost pet and a photo gets more notice and attention. On the negative side a photo will provide identification information for a pet flipper or dogfighter to use to make a convincing argument that it is their pet. If posting a photo, make sure there are some identifying features not shown that only the true owner will know. If a dogfighter gets the animal, it has no future and always ends up dying a horrible death. Dogfighters and other unscrupulous people have been known to take your posted photo and create another photo with a different background to present as proof that it is their dog or cat. The best solution is to post a photo and have some identification characteristics hidden that only the true owner would know.
Tip: Use large bold letters for visibility. Also, fluorescent color paper is good for attention if the photo and lettering show up well. If color is not possible, use large black letters and photo on white paper.
Step 5: Post Flyers Around Your Neighborhood
Post the flyers you have made anywhere local laws allow. Common places used include telephone poles and self-standing garage-sale type signs.
Tip: If there are grocery or retail stores in your area, ask the manager of each store if you can put a flyer in the window. Don't be afraid to ask. All they can do is say no. If there is a local pet store, see if they have a lost/found bulletin board for pets (many pet stores have these). If so, put a flyer there.
Step 6: Call Your Local Animal Shelters, Humane Society, And Animal Rescue Groups
This is also an important step when the found pet has no tags or contact information. Inform them of the found pet, a description, and your contact phone number. Contact information for local animal shelters and humane societies are below:
Animal Shelters and Humane Society Facilities
in Jacksonville and North Florida
Animal Rescue Groups
in Jacksonville and North Florida
National Pet Database Listings
Step 7: Place A Lost/Found Classified Advertisement In Your Local Newspaper and In National Databases
Newspaper ads are usually inexpensive or free and are one more tool to use that could lead to finding the pet's home. Keep the ad short and to the point. For example: Found Dog, small black/brown terrier mix, found in Arlington area, call to identify, 555-0199. Keep at least one identifying mark out of the ad so you will be able to tell if someone who claims it is their pet is the real owner and not a pet flipper or dogfighter wanting the pet for use as dogfighting bait.
Tip: Posting your lost or found pet on social media sites like local Facebook Pages are more likely to result in reuniting lost and found pets. National databases are less likely to be seen by local residents.
Tip: For newspaper ads, be sure to include at least one weekend for the ad will run. Saturday and Sunday newspapers are important days for your lost/found ad. Newspaper lost and found ads are not as popular as they once were but are one tool to use.
Step 8: Check The Newspaper Lost Ads Every Day
If an animal even sounds vaguely like your found pet, check it out. The person who lost the animal may not describe it exactly as you would and may not know breed names.
Tip: Continue checking the lost ads. It is possible it could show up weeks or even months later.
Step 9: Watch Out For Scams
If someone says they have lost a pet and your found pet is theirs, remember that there are people out there that use found ads or flyers to try and scam people out of money or get found dogs to be used for dogfighting. If something does not sound right or legitimate, it probably isn't.
Pet flippers, dogfighters, and other unscrupulous people have been known to take a posted photo and create another photo with a different background to present as proof that it is their dog or cat.
You should withhold certain key identifying marks from your flyers and ads. Now, you will be able to question the person about these marks to see if it is their pet. Be cautious.
When arranging to return a pet from a response to an ad or flyer, never meet the person alone. Take a friend or two or three. Do not let them come to your home unless you know them. Meet them in a safe public place, well lit at night.
If someone calls or emails you that the pet you found is their pet and they want to have it sent somewhere or picked up by a courier, this is a scam. Usually they will want to offer you a reward and cover shipping costs and send you a check or cashier's check, usually for more than what they said they would send. They then ask you to deposit the check and then wire them the difference. The check they sent you is a fake and may not come back as insufficient for many weeks, after you have sent them the difference.
Step 10: When You Find the Pet's Owner
If you have been fortunate and have found the pet's rightful home we thank you. Remove all of your flyers and let people know you have found the pet's owner. If you have posted on facebook or other social media sites, a followup message is always appreciated.
One More Tip:
A found pet is worth the effort of a comprehensive plan to locate the pet's owner and home. In many cases persistence pays off. Reuniting a missing pet and owner can heal the broken hearts of all involved. Don't give up.