It might be a door left open, a collar or harness that was just loose enough to wiggle out of, or something just exciting enough to provoke a normally calm dog into leaping a fence. The result is the same – a lost pet.
Much of the time, missing pets find their way home again. It might be through a kind soul who finds the animal and calls the phone number on its ID tag. It might be through an animal control officer who picks up the pet and takes it to a shelter where it can be housed safely until you can bring it home. Sometimes, a pet finds its own way home, if it hasn’t strayed too far.
What do you do when you realize your pet is lost?
- The first thing to do is call all local animal shelters – Linn County Dog Control, Safehaven Humane Society, and Heartland Humane Society. File a lost pet report so they can return your animal if it comes in. It’s not a bad idea to call the humane societies in Salem and Eugene, as pets close to the I-5 corridor have been known to hitch rides north or south. If you can, file the lost report in person. It will allow you to see the animals at the shelter and make sure that none is yours. This is more important if you have a popular kind of pet, such as a black labrador retriever or a tabby cat.
- Put an ad in the paper and keep an eye on the found pet ads. A friend of mine recently lost a dog and immediately placed an ad. When he got the paper the next morning, a found ad with their dog’s description was also running. He was reunited with his dog quickly.
- Call local veterinarians, especially emergency clinics like Williamette Veterinary Clinic in Corvallis, which is open 24 hours. It’s possible that your pet was injured while it was out, and a good samaritan took it for medical care.
- Put up posters. A good, clear photo of your pet with your contact information and the offer of a small reward may help. Post your fliers in local stores and community areas.
- Ask the neighborhood kids to keep a lookout. Often, children are more observant than adults, especially when it comes to animals. If there is a school nearby, ask if you can post a notice there. As well, small rewards help motivate kids to search.
- Walk around your neighborhood and knock on doors. Sometimes you may have to go a distance away. Cats will wander several blocks, and some breeds of dogs like terriers and sighthounds can run for quite a ways before realizing they are far from home.
If you have never lost a pet, consider yourself lucky – and perhaps overdue. Even indoor-only animals can get outside, and those animals have little experience in taking care of themselves away from home. Take preventative measures, such as using permanent identification.
I recommend that every pet owner have his or her animals microchipped. The procedure involves placing a small, weak transmitter that is about the size of a grain of rice under the skin. When taken to a vet clinic or humane society, the animal will be scanned with a device that looks much like a grocery store check-out pricer. If a microchip is present, a number will appear on the scanner. The microchip registry will look up the number and provide corresponding contact information for the owner. (A word of caution – don’t forget to change your contact information with the microchip registry if you move. Outdated addresses and disconnected phone numbers don’t do anyone any good.)
Microchipping can be done at your vet’s office for around $40. Call your personal vet for an exact price. If your pet is not current on its vaccinations, now is a good time to get that updated and get a microchip. An animal that gets lost is at higher risk of picking up common diseases, and the vaccine provides a measure of safety against that.
What about if you find a pet? If the animal can be safely approached, try to get near enough to find an ID tag. When you have any concerns about your ability to get close to the animal, don’t do it. Call your local animal control office and report the stray pet.
If the pet is friendly, check for identification and call the owner. You may have a place where the pet can stay until the owner can pick it up, which is always kind. If you cannot house the pet for any length of time, even in a fenced yard, on a back porch, or in a garage, then take it to the nearest humane society. The owner will have to pay a boarding fee to retrieve his or her animal, and the facility will have to do all the paperwork and work to admit the animal even if it will be picked up in a couple hours, so do this only when the owner absolutely cannot be contacted or is not able to retrieve the pet in a reasonable time.