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What To Do To Find A Lost Or Missing Pet

  1. Begin your search right away. Contact any lost and found pet registries in your area such as Alabama Pet Registry. For lost pure breeds and exotic pets notify any clubs and rescue organizations that might be active in your area. If you have a pillow cover or blanket with the missing pet's scent on it, leave it outside the front door of your home or the door that he/she usually leaves inside from. DO NOT leave any food outside; any dog or cat that's healthy and well fed at the time of his loss can easily go a couple of weeks without food. In the case of missing cats, the presence of strange cats or their scent could confuse and scare off your pet.
  2. Conduct Foot Or Bicycle Searches. The first 72 hours are critical. Walking or riding bicycles helps to lay down a scent trail that a dog, to a lesser extent a cat, may be able to detect. The early morning and late evening hours are best. Cover a mile in all directions for dogs and one-half mile for cats. Continue to walk or ride the perimeter after 72 hours because while most dogs are found within seven days, cats take an average of two weeks to be found.
  3. Items To Take With You On Lost Pet Searches. Take your dog's favorite treat, a collar, leash and a flashlight. For cats, take a pillow case or thick towel, dry food to shake in a container he/she may know the sound of, and a flashlight. Carry proof of ownership documents such as the pet's rabies tag and certificate, pet photographs, AKC registration papers, veterinary clinic receipts, and any sales slips or adoption papers pertaining to the missing pet.
  4. Preparing for longer-term searches. When pets aren't found within the first 24 hours, list the names and telephone numbers of area resources such as vets, shelters and animal control organizations. Be prepared to record all contact activity. Lost/Found Pet Search Activity Log
  5. Call all animal control authorities within the immediate and surrounding jurisdictions. If a report of your lost pet is accepted over the telephone, give a complete description such as: Collar(s), color and type; Tags, color and type; Type Pet, Breed, Sex, Age, Size, Colors, and the Date and Location the pet was lost. Ask for the location of holding areas, what the mandatory hold requirement is, the days and hours of operation, how often you should contact them, and if they will accept a flier.
  6. Call all area veterinary clinics. In general, call all clinics within five miles from where the pet was lost and give them a complete description as in 5 above. We recommend that fliers be hand-delivered or faxed to every clinic. The best times to call clinics are when they are not busy, usually around 10:00am and/or 2:30pm. Call each clinic daily and be sure to say you will inform them when your pet is found.
  7. Call Animal Shelters and Humane Societies in the county and nearest adjacent county in which the pet was lost. Call each shelter or society and give them a complete description as in 5 above. We recommend that fliers be hand-delivered or faxed to every shelter. Call each shelter daily and be sure to say you will inform them when your pet is found.
  8. Place Ads in Newspapers. Put ads in daily and weekly publications in your area. A complete description of your pet, see 5 above, is essential. Additional information such as color of the collar(s), if a tag(s) is attached, and a description of any unusual physical characteristics is necessary. We do not recommend the use of the word "Reward" in ads, however, make sure the amount has been determined ahead of time if you choose to offer one. Run the first ad for one full week and renew them, if necessary, in continuous weekly installments thereafter.
  9. Call Radio and Television Stations. Many stations will air public service announcements (PSAs) for individuals who have lost pets. Provide them with the detailed information described in 5 above.
  10. Post and Distribute Fliers. This is the most important step in the search process. Fliers must be distributed door-to-door to private residences and to every commercial establishment with public bulletin boards such as grocery stores, laundries, apartment complexes, filling stations, and parks, etc. The U.S. Postal Service does not allow fliers to be placed on or in mailboxes by persons other than postal employees. In many communities, there are prohibitions regarding the use of utility poles, and traffic signs should never be used to post fliers whether or not ordinances or laws exist. For dogs that are lost in cities and suburbs, distributing fliers a mile in every direction from where the pet was lost is generally enough. For cats, one-half mile in all directions is also enough but, fliers need to be distributed once a week for at least two weeks. A wider distribution area may be necessary for pets lost in rural areas. For pets lost in primarily commercial areas, fliers need to be distributed to each business.

    Flier/Poster Preparation: Fliers should begin with the words "Lost Pet", followed by photographs, followed by a complete description as in 5 above, and ending with a single telephone number. Pet photographs are recommended for mixed breeds, multi-colored pets, and less popularly known pure breeds. Two pictures, a standing side view and one with the pet sitting or standing facing the camera are best. Removal of backgrounds with scissors will make subsequent photocopies crisper and provide a better likeness of your pet. see sample fliers

  11. Record a lost pet message on voice mail or answering machines. The ideal telephone number for receiving information about your lost pet will be answered personally seven days a week, 24 hours a day. This is not possible for most of us so it's vital that your answering machine or voice mail greeting includes a lost pet message. This message confirms to callers that the pet they're calling about may be yours and, if the pet is not already confined, they are more likely to leave a message and confine the pet until you call back. Record your message before fliers are distributed and right after your first wave of telephone calls have been made. We recommend a message similar to this: "We can't come to the phone right now; please leave a message. If you are calling about our lost pet, please leave a message or call.....(a second telephone number such as 123-4567)". Keep the message brief and to the point and be sure to specify voice or digital pagers and/or whether or not numbers are toll free or if persons may call collect if long distance.

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