By: Jody Smith | Reviewed by Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | May 27, 2019
It’s a scary thing to realize your pet is missing. But if this happens to you, don’t panic. There are things you can do, and organizations you can contact that are in place for just such situations.
Don’t waste any time once you have discovered that your pet is missing. Look close to home to begin with, then gradually widen the search on foot. When you talk to people, hand out your phone number. Be sure to tell anyone you encounter that if they see your pet not to give chase because that will probably just scare the animal away. Instead, they should contact you.
A pet dog can travel quite a distance if it’s so inclined. You may not find it in your neighbourhood or even in the next one over. Did you recently move? Could your pet have gone “home”?
Cats and small animals that have escaped outdoors often try to seek shelter nearby. Consider your pet’s behavior: are they likely to climb, dig, or look for somewhere to perch? Thoroughly search likely hiding places: underneath decks, below patio furniture, inside sheds/garages, amongst tall plants, near garbage/recycling bins, or stairwells.
Create a safe and enticing place for your pet near your home. Provide a sheltered area with fresh food and water, and bedding or toys that smell familiar. Check this area regularly, especially during quiet evening and early morning hours. During cold or extreme weather, this shelter could save your pet’s life.
Contact local shelters, as well as local branches of the Humane Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Put up posters in your area, in stores and veterinary clinics. The most important information to have is a heading about a lost pet, a photo of your pet and your phone number. But think about including the date your pet disappeared, and a description. Be as specific as you can. Consider offering a reward. If you have a condo board or homeowner’s association, ask them to help you spread the word.
Does your pet have a microchip or a tag from a municipality or a missing pet service? Contact them and let them know what’s happened.
Maybe you’ve never seen this particular animal in your area before. Maybe it’s wandering from yard to yard. It might not be from your neighbourhood, but chances are it doesn’t live too far away. If its owners have realized it’s missing, they may be out searching right now. Your first move should not be to call the animal shelter for this reason.
But before all else, determine whether it’s safe to approach this animal. Injured animals are particularly prone to lashing out at would-be rescuers. If the animal is aggressive, contact Animal Control or the local SPCA to come and corral the animal. Otherwise, find a way to safely contain the animal and prevent it from running out onto the street.
Then you can check for identification, or have the expert do it if you called in for help. Dogs and cats are more likely to be microchipped than other animals.
You may find identification tags or ear tattoos. You can’t see a microchip but a scan at an Animal Control center, an SPCA shelter, or a veterinary clinic will call up the information needed if this animal has a chip. SPCA cats and dogs that have been adopted all have microchips.
Talk to people in your neighbourhood, share on social media, and put up notices, especially near where you found the animal. Check in with local vets, and Lost and Found in the newspaper or on Craigslist.
Finally, if you’ve had no luck, report the lost animal to Animal Control or your local SPCA shelter.
If you are able to locate the animal’s owner, don’t forget to let the groups you contacted previously know, so they can take the animal off their lists.
Plenty of websites and social media groups offer assistance so that animals can be returned to their owners. Here are just a few: