By Becky DiLucia, CARMAA Board Member
It takes just a split second. Someone opens a door or becomes distracted at exactly the wrong moment, and the next thing you know, Fido or Fluffy is gone. No matter how or when it happens, the key is to act immediately to increase the chances of getting your pet back home to its loving family.
Talk to people living nearby. Let them know that your pet is lost, give them a thorough description and photo—if possible—and provide a phone number that will always be answered.
Contact your local police department, animal control facility and all animal shelters in the area. Each municipality has their own facility for animal control. In Pittsburgh, a list is available on LostMyPet.org. Check with the facilities DAILY, and make sure that they have your contact information. Going in person is highly recommended so you can be absolutely sure that your pet isn’t there. It’s important to know the holding period for dogs is 3 days and there is no holding period for cats. Unfortunately, unclaimed pets are usually euthanized.
Utilize the Internet whenever possible. Facebook has several pages specifically dedicated to lost pets, and their members are quite skilled at searching for and often finding pets that have wandered. They will have many helpful suggestions, and some may even help post flyers and search. Additionally, post to any local community pages on Facebook and on the Craig’s List Lost and Found section. Include a photo and details about when and where the pet was lost. Check e-mails and postings regularly, update all postings with any sightings, and check postings for found pets to see if yours is among them.
If your cat has wandered from home, chances are that she won’t go very far. Because of this, it’s critical to let neighbors know that she could be hiding in any number of small spaces. Ask them to check—or request permission to check—any space that looks large enough to shelter a cat, and even those that don’t look large enough. Look under porches, in sheds, basements that have unsecured openings to the outside, children’s playhouses and any areas that could potentially provide a hiding place for your cat. If you find your cat, remember that she is likely to be very frightened and may lash out, even at Mom or Dad. Use food to lure her, and avoid scaring her into bolting once again. When you catch her, try to to use a cat carrier to get her back home safely.
Dogs are apt to wander farther than cats, and can actually cover quite a bit of territory. A people-oriented, social dog will often approach folks he sees, which makes it easier for him to be caught. A dog who is scared of people is, unfortunately, much more difficult to catch. This may require a humane dog trap or two and lots of food to catch him. You may have to rely on sightings reported by people in the area to track him. This requires patience and dedication, but it can be done.
Creating a large, brightly colored, eye-catching flyer with a description of your pet, a photo and contact information is essential. Post and distribute the flyers in high-traffic areas where your pet was most recently seen, such as street intersections. Please note that each municipality has different laws about posting signs—some will impose fines. If posting is prohibited in public areas, search for community bulletin boards that allow such postings or ask business owners if they would display a flyer for you. Door-to-door distribution of flyers or physically passing out flyers on the streets in the area where your pet was last seen is time-consuming and labor intensive, but may be one of the only ways to get the word out.
Always be prepared to go and get your pet at a moment’s notice if he is found. Leave your cell phone on, and check your email frequently.
In closing, make sure your dog or cat has an updated identification tag and is microchipped—this can help reunite you and your beloved pet and give your story a happy ending.