A wide-open front door, a swinging gate, even a slipped leash – whatever the circumstances, a missing pet can be cause for instant panic. These days, thankfully, technology is on your side. Here’s what to do to bring your pet home again.

Once you’ve determined that your furry friend really is missing, and not locked in the pantry or snoozing behind the sofa, take a minute to stop and think. When did you last see your pet? Approximately how long has he been missing? If it’s less than thirty minutes, rally some family members and friends and hit the neighborhood. Find a squeaky toy he loves or the box of treats with the rattling sound that always brings her running, and start searching. Check favorite spots – the park where you play fetch, or the normal route you take on your daily walks – and make sure to call your pet’s name. Try to be observant and listen carefully as well.

Bring along a recent photo, and ask neighbors, the mailman, delivery drivers and anyone you come across if they’ve seen your pet. Share contact information that can be used to reach you if your pet is found.

If you have no luck on foot, try driving slowly through the neighborhood. Take a systematic approach, and call out the window for your pet as you go. Start close to home, but it’s wise to expand your search to a 10-mile radius. It seems like a lot, but pets can travel a surprising distance, especially if they’re frightened.

Family Searching For Pet

Contact local animal control agencies and animal shelters within a 60-mile radius of where your pet went missing to file a missing pet report. It’s a good idea to visit your local pound to see if your pet has been picked up, and then to call or visit daily for information on animals recently brought in. Ask to see pets in the infirmary as well as in the general holding areas in case your pet has been injured. If your town doesn’t have these resources, you can try the non-emergency number for the local police department. You’ll need to provide a detailed description and photo of your pet. Contact your vet as well, particularly if your pet has tags with the vet’s information. You should plan to continue to visit local shelters at least every other day as it can take several days for a pet to be brought in by a Good Samaritan or animal control. And don’t forget about rescue groups. Often people who find lost pets are worried they may be euthanized if brought to a shelter so they’ll take them to a local rescue group instead.

If you think your pet might have been stolen, contact your local police department.

local resources

Share your pet’s photo, when he went missing and your approximate location to your personal social media channels. Check for local community pages on Facebook – most cities have pet-specific pages like “Lost Dogs of Broward and Dade County,” so start typing lost pets and see what comes up. Share your pet’s information on any community pages you can find. You can also do a Facebook search for veterinarians in your area by typing “veterinarians (your city)” to see a listing. Post your flyers and stories to their walls. This is a quick and easy way to share a color photo of your pet with vets in the area. Other online resources:

  • Craigslist – Check the found pets section, and post your missing friend to the lost pet section. Be sure to include contact information and a recent picture of your pet. The more details you can include about where he went missing, the better, but for your own safety, don’t include your specific address. It’s also wise to withhold a specific, notable detail about your pet. If someone contacts you and says they found your pet, you can ask for a description to avoid a scamming situation. Remember to check both sections of Craigslist daily.
  • Oliver Alert – Check oliveralert.com for a list of websites to post your missing pet (fidofinder.com, helpinglostpets.com and several others), best practices for making missing pet signs, and tips for searching.
  • LostMyDoggie.com – This website offers free and paid services, including something similar to an Amber Alert. For under $100, they’ll contact thousands of people in your area with an automated description of your missing pet, and send faxes and emails to local shelters and vets. You can create a free, professional lost pet flyer on their site, and they’ll fax and email it to your local vets and shelters for no cost as well.
  • HelpingLostPets.com – This is a free service that partners with volunteer groups to share your listing on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets.
  • MissingPetPartnership.org – Use this website to find a pet detective in your area. Pet detectives often use trained search dogs to locate missing pets, with surprising results.
lost my doggie

Make up a flyer with a clear, high-resolution photo of your pet, where and when she went missing, her name and description, and your phone number. Remember to withhold that specific detail, just like you did in the Craigslist post. Then paper your neighborhood with your flyers – hang them at the grocery stores, community centers, your vet’s office, pet supply stores, stop signs and more.

lost dog

Don’t Give Up!

Missing pets can turn up at any time, so stay in touch with your local shelters and keep posting and looking online.

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