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Found a Pet, Looking for the Owner

  1. Confine the pet. All strange animals are unpredictable and they are most likely to wander when they are in unfamiliar surroundings. Use leashes and pet carriers when walking or transporting pets, and keep gates locked if the pet is staying outside. Keep pet away from any direct contact with existing pets. Remember, you are probably uncertain about his/her medical condition and history, reproductive capabilities, and personality.
  2. Record a description of the pet. Include pet Type (bird, cat, dog, etc.), Breed, Sex, Age, Size, Color(s). Add a description of any Collar(s) the pet may be wearing and note the Date and Location where the pet was found.
  3. Place temporary identification on the pet. Put a collar, harness or bandanna on the pet and print the word "Found", the date and location where the pet was found, and your telephone number on it.
  4. Preparing for longer-term searches. When pet owners aren't found within the first 48 hours, list the names and telephone numbers of area resources such as vets, shelters and animal control organizations. We recommend that you record all attempts to locate the owner using the following tool: Lost/Found Pet Search Activity Log
  5. Decide how long to look for the owner before giving up the search. One to Two weeks is a reasonable length of time and pets should not be "adopted out" or "given away" during the search period. Keep receipts of expenses paid on behalf of the pet(s). All reasonable expenses should be paid by the owner(s).
  6. If the search for the owner is not successful. Finding a permanent, good home is not as easy as it may seem. Friends or family members may be willing to accept a pet but, if it doesn't work out, you may not be informed. We advise that you contact a third-party organization such as a humane society or breed rescue group in your area for placement assistance. If you intend to place the pet yourself, you may contact APR for help as well: Our Pre-Adoption Screening System ©(PASS) is a tool designed for novice pet adoption counselors, and it could help you choose the best possible home especially if there are multiple applicants.
    APR's pre-adoption questionnaire
  7. Begin the search for the owner right away. Contact area lost and found pet registries such as Alabama Pet Registry. For pure breeds and exotic pets see if there are any clubs and rescue organizations who can be contacted for assistance.
  8. Call all animal control authorities within the immediate and surrounding jurisdictions. If a report is taken over the telephone and a record of the pet's description is requested, provide only the following basic information: Type Pet, Breed, Sex, Age, Size, Colors, and the Date and Location the pet was found.
  9. Call all area veterinary clinics and hospitals. In general, call all clinics within five miles from where the pet was found. Call each clinic at least twice a week and provide only the basic information described in 8 above.
  10. Call Animal Shelters and Humane Societies in the county and nearest adjacent county in which the pet was found. Call each shelter or society at least twice a week and provide only the basic information described in 8 above.
  11. Place Ads in Newspapers. Most daily newspapers and many weekly publications provide free ads for found pets. Space is usually limited to three or four lines therefore be brief and only provide the basic information described in 8 above.
  12. Call Radio and Television Stations. Many stations will air public service announcements (PSAs) for individuals who have found pets. Provide them with only the basic information described in 8 above.
  13. Post and Distribute Fliers. This is the most important step in the search process. It is the most labor intensive and, outside of any veterinary expenses, can be the most costly. The U.S. Postal Service does not allow fliers to be placed on or in mailboxes by persons other than postal employees, and, you may not use utility poles and traffic signs either!. For best results, we recommend that fliers be distributed door-to-door to private residences and to every commercial establishment with bulletin boards such as grocery stores, laundries, apartment complexes, filling stations, and parks, etc. For dogs that are found in cities and suburbs, a mile in every direction from where the pet was found is generally enough: For cats, one-half mile in all directions is also enough. A wider distribution area may be necessary if the pet was found in rural areas. Fliers should begin with the words "Found Pet", then list only the basic information described in 8 above, and finish with a single telephone number. see sample fliers

    Remember: The objective is to find the owner as quickly as possible.

  14. Verifying Claims Of Pet Ownership. Finally, our search appears to be over because we think the pet's owner(s) has been found, however, how can we be sure. The pet's name and owner's description of him/her is not conclusive so, for all concerned, we recommend that the owner be told to present some of the following information in order to claim his/her pet: Current rabies tag and certificate: Veterinary clinic treatment records: Picture or pictures of owner(s) and pet together in the same photograph: Adoption papers: Sales slips: American Kennel Club (AKC) papers, etc.

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