What To Do If Your Pet Is Lost

2 10 2006

This is an article I wrote for a Pet Forum I am a member of “I Heart Paws”

Recently I helped a friend search (and find) her missing cat. In hopes of offering a resource to those that also may have lost their beloved pet, please find below some links and tips on what to do in the same situation:

Be vigilant. A daily call to the local SPCA, Animal Care & Control or other animal authority in your area is mandatory. Keep a good outlook and stay focused.
The SPCA or other animal agency such as a rescue, will be able to offer you help, guidance, advice and suggestions about how to go about locating your pet. Be polite and courteous.

What to Include on Them (source: http://members.aol.com/TesterDe<WBR>sp/mpposters.html)

  • Heading: Print the words “LOST DOG/CAT” or whatever else you decide to begin with in letters large enough for people driving or walking by to read.
  • Description of Pet: Include a detailed description of the animal, including: breed or mix; coat color, length & type; size or height & weight; eye color; type of ears; sex; age. (“Small, Fluffy White Dog” might work better than “Bichon Frise.”) List distinguishing characteristics, or any particular markings, but withhold one or two details to use to verify that a person has truly found your pet, and is not trying to scam you.
  • Note about including your pet’s name: there is conflicting advice as to whether or not the pet’s name should be listed on lost pet posters. Some feel that this makes your pet (and you) more vulnerable to animal dealers and abusers because it enables them to better gain your pet’s confidence if it can be addressed by name.
  • Identification: Indicate the collar, or identification (tags, microchip, tattoo); however, remember that the identification may not remain on the pet.
  • Details of the Separation: List the date of disappearance and the place/area where your pet was lost. If the pet escaped ,climbed a fence, dug out of a kennel , include it. People are more likely to help if they think the dog escaped rather than that he always runs loose and now you think he is missing.
  • Contact Information for You: your name and a phone number where you can be reached, and an alternate phone number if you don’t have the phone with you while you are out driving around! Include a pager number, if possible, and an email address. Some advise against including your address and even your name, for safety reasons.
  • Photograph: Include a color picture of your pet, preferably full body, using a light background and including some indicator of the dog’s size. If you don’t have any pictures, use pet pictures you find in magazines, on the internet, or anywhere else you can find pictures that look like your pet.
  • Use 8-1/2″ X 11″ fluorescent paper for high visibility if you have no photo; color copies on white paper will make the best use of your pet’s photo
  • Use indelible ink and big, bold lettering than can be read from a passing car.
  • Some animal welfare organizations can provide posters for you to make copies of. See the links, below, for several poster-forms.
  • Take the completed poster to a copy shop to be duplicated; most owners of lost dogs use about 2,000 posters, which is 4 reams of paper (at 5 cents/copy, that’s $100)
  • Keep your posters looking good so they are not overlooked. Examine your posted flyers frequently and replace the ones that are missing or damaged, faded or torn.
  • Consider covering the posters in plastic to protect the sign from the elements.
  • Consider offering a reward for the safe return of your pet, even if you can only afford $5.00, in case someone may have stolen or kept your pet as a “stray.”
  • Offering a reward can motivate people to take the time to look for and return your dog, but can backfire if the amount is perceived as inadequate.
  • If you wish to offer a reward, write only “REWARD” in large letters but don’t state the amount. Putting the reward amount is not necessary, just the word REWARD.
  • Put the word REWARD at the top OR under “Special Instructions” on your poster.
    Where to post your posters
    • In mail boxes of your neighbors
    • Local vet offices or animal hospitals
    • Pet stores, groomers, Rescues (or other pet related businesses)
    • Light poles, mail boxes, community bulletin boards
    • Convenience stores, coffee shops and fast food restaurants
    • Grocery stores
    • Community centers, Libraries
    • “Lost and Found” websites (see links below)


With a collar and leash in one hand and your pet”s favorite treat in the other, go out and be actively search for your pet. Early morning/dawn or evening is best, when the streets are a little quieter. Your pet may be frightened so call for them in a happy tone.
Ask close family, friends and neighbors to keep an eye out for your pet. If you can set up a “search party” one evening, take advantage off all the help you can get. Be sure to be thankful to all who helped, even if you come up empty handed.
Remember to “think outside the box”, you may need to consider things from your pet”s perspective (get down to their level).


Use the information you complied for your poster (along with a picture of your pet) and create a “tread” to post on the various “lost and found” websites. For ease, create your thread in Word and copy and paste onto the various websites. Use your location in the tread title. Eg. Missing Orange Cat: (The Plateau) Montreal, Quebec

Email all the local rescues and shelters, as well as vet offices and other pet related businesses. Kindly ask if they can post on their website, or put your poster up in their offices. Also ask kindly if they can forward on or cross post your email to other contacts.
Be sure to keep track of the companies, rescues, shelters and vets you email, as well as the websites you posted lost ads on and the companies who posted your poster in their stores/offices.
Here is a list of resources:

http://www.iheartpaws.comand other pet related forums

http://www.petfinder.com (You can post a lost and found ad, as well as search local shelters/rescues)


  • Give your pet a lot of smoochies and hugs
  • Take your pet to the vet to be looked over
  • If your pet is not speutered or micro chipped/Tattooed-make an appointment to have that done ASAP!
  • Put identification on your pet
  • Use the list of companies, rescues, shelters and vets you emailed, and send them a “FOUND”/thank you email! If a shelter or rescue helped considerably, please consider a donation to their organization (Many cannot exist without private donations)
  • Delete/update your “lost” ads on any websites you posted on

Good luck and have faith!




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