Lost a Pet? What To Do Now
Losing a pet can be a stressful and difficult experience. There are steps you can take to improve the chance of finding your lost pet. 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 your missing pet.
Step 1: Search Your House And Yard Thoroughly
Animals, especially small ones, can make themselves virtually invisible by hiding in closets, under beds, under furniture, under appliances, and in any other unused space inside. Outside, check places such as under the house, under cars, in utility sheds and other outside structures, in drain pipes and exposed wells, roofs, trees, shrubs, trash cans, and anywhere else that is not in plain view.
Tip: If your pet is injured or not feeling well, it may want to hide in an out-of-the-way and darkened place, so leave no stone unturned in your house and yard search.
Step 2: Search Your Immediate Neighborhood
Walk down both sides of your street. Call your pet's name, whistle or use any other key words that might bring your pet to you if your pet heard it. Pause and listen for any noise that may indicate your pet hears you. If you meet anyone while walking, adults or children, let them know that your pet is missing. Give a description and leave your phone number in case they see it. Ask them to spread the word and let them know how heart-broken you are over the loss. If possible, for safety reasons, take someone with you, especially at night (after dark, always walk with a flashlight turned on).
Tip: If your pet has a favorite toy that makes noise or squeaks, take it along and use it. The familiar sound may encourage the pet to come to you. Also take a favorite treat along, and call out "treat" or other key word the pet will recognize. When your pet is at home, what do you do to get him or her to come to you? That is what you to duplicate when out searching.
Tip: Dog whistles, available at pet stores, may help attract your pet when searching.
Step 3: Search Your Extended Neighborhood
Walk the streets adjacent to where your house is. Repeating what was said above, call your pet's name, whistle, or use any other key words that might bring your pet to you if your pet heard it. If you meet anyone while walking, let him or her know that your pet is missing. Give a description and leave your phone number in case they see it.
Tip: Ask everyone you meet to help spread the word. If you see any children, let them know about the lost pet. Each person you give your information to is one more set of eyes and ears out there.
Step 4: 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 lost 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:
Craigslist can help reunite lost and found animals, but use Craigslist with caution. See the Tips below and also see Step 15: 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 and a photo gets more notice and attention. On the negative side a photo will provide identification information for a scammer to use to make a convincing argument that they have your pet when they try to extort money from you. If posting a photo, make sure there are some identifying features not shown that only the person who actually has the animal would know. The best solution is to post a photo and have some identification characteristics hidden that only someone who actually had the animal would know.
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 from someone falsely claiming to have your pet and asking for money. See Step 15: Watch Out For Scams below for more scam information.
Step 5: Make Up Flyers For Posting
Flyers are an important tool in your search. Flyers should have "LOST 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 last seen, any medical requirements, the word "Reward" (if a reward is offered), 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 your pet's unique identifying marks or characteristics. Keep some of this information private so when someone calls claiming to have found your pet you can confirm they actually have your pet and it isn't someone trying to scam you. Have a hundred or so 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 Lost Pet Flyer Creator
Here is an easy to use flyer lost pet flyer creator: Lost Pet Flyer Creator
Another Sample Lost 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 and a photo gets more notice and attention. On the negative side a photo will provide identification information for a scammer to use to make a convincing argument that they have your pet when they try to extort money from you. If posting a photo, make sure there are some identifying features not shown that only the person who actually has the animal would know. 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 they have your pet. The best solution is to post a photo and have some identification characteristics hidden that only someone who actually had the animal 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 6: Post Flyers Around Your Neighborhood
Post the flyers you have made anywhere local laws allow. Give the flyers out to everyone you meet. 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 7: Call Your Local Animal Shelters, Humane Society, And Animal Rescue Groups
This is very important. Do this as soon as possible informing them of the lost pet, a description, and your phone number. Do not assume that a pet with a collar, tags, and even a microchip will be returned to you automatically. Sometimes collars come off, microchips are not read, and mistakes are made. For contact information see the links to area shelters, humane societies, rescue groups, and other databases below:
Check and View Lost Found and Stray Pets:
at Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services
at Clay County Animal Care and Control
Also Check with:
Animal Shelters and Humane Society Facilities
in Jacksonville and North Florida
Animal Rescue Groups
in Jacksonville and North Florida
National Pet Database Listings
Tip: If a shelter reports taking in an animal that even sounds a little like your pet, make an immediate visit to the shelter to view the animal.
Tip: Call you local shelter and humane society every day to check to see if any animals were brought in that could be your lost pet. This is very important.
Tip: If your pet was microchipped, file a lost pet report with the microchip company. This can usually be done by phone or online.
Step 8: Contact Local Veterinary Offices And Animal Emergency Clinics
Call your veterinarian and let them know about your missing pet. Also call other vets in your area leaving a phone number for them to call in case they see or hear about an animal similar to yours.
Tip: Don’t forget to call any animal emergency clinics in your area. They are usually also open at night and on weekends and holidays. If your pet is injured and found by someone else, the animal could be brought in to an emergency facility.
Step 9: 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 your lost pet. Keep the ad short and to the point. For example: Lost Dog, small black/brown terrier mix, lost in Arlington area, family heartbroken, 555-0199. Keep at least one identifying mark out of the ad so you will be able to tell if someone who claims to have found your pet actually has your pet and is not trying to scam you.
You can place free listings online in national lost and found pet databases such as FidoFinder. Click on the link below to list your lost or found pet with FidoFinder:
Place a FidoFinder Lost / Found Listing
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 10: Leave A Light On At Night And Pet Familiar Articles Outside
At night leave on or more outside lights on. If the pet has an old favorite blanket, old article of clothing, or other favorite item, leave it outside on the front or back porch close to a door. Leave some food and water outside. Although other animals may get to the food and water, it may be your missing pet seeking out the food and water.
Tip: Listen at night when all is quiet for sounds which could be your near by pet trying to get back into the house or yard.
Step 11: Visit Your Local Animal Shelters And Humane Society
Visit the local shelters and humane society to look at their animals. Do this daily if possible. Make sure the shelters and humane society have a copy of a flyer or photo of your animal. Descriptions can vary between people: one person's description of an animal may differ from your description of your pet.
Tip: Some shelters hold animals for only a few days before euthanizing them or releasing them to rescue. Many animals are euthanized. Find out what this hold period is so you will know how long you have. Some shelters may hold an animal longer but don’t rely on this. Fast action and followup is very important.
Step 12: Check The Newspaper Found Ads Every Day
If an animal even sounds vaguely like your missing pet, check it out. The person who found the animal may not describe it as you would and may not know breed names. If it has been missing for an extended time and has been on the streets, it may look scraggly and somewhat different from the way you remember your pet. When in doubt, check it out!
Tip: Continue checking the found ads for an extended period if you have not found your pet. It is possible it could show up weeks or even months later.
Step 13: Check With The Local City Or County Agency That Is Responsible For Removing Dead Animals From Roads And Public Property.
Unfortunately many animals are killed by cars and it would help bring closure to you for your missing pet if you knew it had passed on.
Step 14: BE PERSISENT As Time Goes On
Continue to check shelters, rescue groups, newspapers, and other contacts. Do not give up. Replace missing and torn down flyers. Continue to be on the lookout for your pet, especially closer to home. You never know when that next corner you turn will be the one where your missing pet will be found.
Step 15: Watch Out For Scams
If someone says they have found your pet, remember that there are people out there that use lost ads or flyers to try and scam pet owners out of money.
Scammers 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 they have your pet. Some scammers will even use the same photo you may have posted somewhere.
You should have withheld certain key identifying marks from your flyers and ads. Now, you will be able to question the person about these marks to see if they do have your pet. Remember they could be honest and really have your pet, but they could also not have your pet and try to extort money from you which is a crime. Be cautious.
When arranging to get 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.
Beware the out of area scams. This is where someone claiming to be a trucker or someone else out of your local area calls you and says they have found your pet in another city or state and heard about your missing pet from a flyer or newspaper ad. They may seem very caring and offer to ship the animal back to you if you will send or wire them money for shipping. Be cautious of this as it is a common scam.
A variation of this scam is the person would offer to have a friend deliver the pet to you but they need gas money first.
Yet another variation is someone calls and says your pet has been injured and they need money right away for treatment. In the case of someone who says they need money for your pet's medical treatment, only offer to pay the vet directly. Get the vet's name they claim the pet is at and call information for that city so you can confirm the phone number of the vet yourself. Then call and talk directly to the vet or the vet's staff.
Step 16: When You Find Your Pet
If you have been fortunate and have found your missing pet, take a deep sigh of relief and rejoice. Remove all of your flyers and let people know you have found your pet. If you have posted on facebook or other social media sites, a followup message is always appreciated. If you know how your pet got loose and can correct that problem, do so. Give your found pet lots of attention and love.
One More Tip:
Remember that your pet is worth the effort of a comprehensive plan to locate him or her. In many cases persistence pays off and is the difference between not finding a pet and finding a missing pet. Don't give up.