If Your Pet Becomes Lost
Step One – Remain Calm
Unless your pet was actually last seen outside, a systematic search-and-seal of your home is one of the first things you should do. Since we know animals respond to the sounds of eminent dinner (can opener; kibbles hitting the food dish; etc.) go through your typical mealtime routine immediately, regardless of what time it is.
Step Two – Use the Search-and Seal Method
Thoroughly check and seal off the upper and lowermost rooms and hallways of the building until you’ve worked your way out a ground-floor door. Depending upon your temperament, you might want to do this by yourself (thus assuring yourself that every inch of the place has been searched) or you might want help.
Let the size of your missing pet be your guide, but remember that small animals (cats in particular) can curl up in very tiny spaces.
Lock all doors to the outside (so you know they will not inadvertently open). If you have a pet door, don’t lock it but secure the room it opens into so your pet will be limited to that room.
Get a flashlight and some masking tape and turn on all the lights in the first room you want to search.
Have a helper stand in the doorway leading to the rest of the house, or close that door. Beginning in the closet, check every shelf, recess, the floor, drawers, boxes, racks, etc.
Call your animal as you search every room and listen carefully for a response.
Shine the light behind and under every piece of furniture. Open and shut all the drawers. Check behind books in bookcases. Look under pillows and blankets. Go through laundry baskets and hampers.
When you are convinced the animals isn’t in the closet, shut the door (if it doesn’t latch securely, tape it shut with masking tape) and continue searching other areas and closing them off.
Pay special attention to places in your house where your pet could gain access into a wall or the ceiling.
Check inside and all around the furnace, washer, dryer, refrigerator, freezer, and other appliances. Shine the light on rafters and beams.
If there is an attached garage, search it and any vehicles too.
Make a thorough search around nearby uninhabited houses (for sale, owner on vacation, etc) to make sure your pet isn’t trapped in a window-well, fenced-in area, shed, garage, or other areas of the property where an animal could become confined. Call out to your animal as you search.
Try to “think like a cat or dog, etc.” and act accordingly.
Step Three – Advertise Your Animal as Lost
Contact us. We receive many unidentified animals every day at the Marion County Humane Society. Please give us a good description of your pet and leave all pertinent contact information with us. We will check the animals we have received overnight and continue to check those that arrive each day. Even schedule a visit to see for yourself if your pet is at the shelter. However, please continue to reach out to us for the latest information and also informing us if your pet has been found.
Contact other shelters in the area. It’s also a good idea to inform other shelters in the area of your missing pet.
Contact the local police or sheriff’s department dispatcher with a brief description.
Marion County Sheriff's Department - non-emergency # 641-828-2220
Knoxville Police Department - non-emergency # 641-828-0554
Pella Police Department - non-emergency # 641-628-4921
Pleasantville Police Department - non-emergency # 515-848-3112
Contact the local radio station and report your missing pet.
KNIA-KRLS Knoxville - 641-842-3161 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact your neighbors and friends to keep an eye out for your pet roaming in the neighborhood.
Make a poster. Use the following prompts to make a list of physical descriptors that portray your animal:
- Unique visual attributes
- Colors (primary and secondary)
- Markings (be visually precise)
- Coat length
- Gender/reproductive status
- Collar type/color
- Location (or address) last seen
- Date and time last seen
- Medical conditions alerts
Find a photo of your pet and double check your descriptors—it’s amazing how difficult it is to describe even the best of friends when you’re not looking at them. Use this information and a photo to create a poster.
Offer a reward (don’t mention a dollar amount yet) and list your phone number, but not your address.
- Breed (if he’s visually true to his breed)
- Size (small or medium or large) for breed
- Probable behavior toward strangers
- Size and shape and color of any ID tags
- Favorite food or treat
Post copies of your poster where you think they will be easily seen by people on foot and in cars. (Remember to be a good citizen of the world and retrieve posters later.)
Go to stores, supermarkets, parks, laundromats, schools, churches, city kiosks, etc.
Take enough posters to area veterinary clinics so one can be posted in each exam room.
Give posters to neighbors, seniors, lawn-care professionals, street crews, joggers, schools, businesses, mail carriers, paper deliverers, etc.
Place an ad in your local newspaper or shopper.
Knoxville Reminder - Knoxville Journal-Express - 641-842-2155 e-mail email@example.com
Town Crier - Pella - 641-628-1751
Pella Chronicle - 641-628-3882 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
KNIA-KRLS - Pella - 641-628-9494
Marion County News - 515-848-5614
Report your pet as lost to:
- Missing Pets http://www.missingpets.com/
- USDA Missing Pet Network (MPN), a free service sponsored by the USDA Animal Care Office http://www.missingpet.net/
- Sherlock Bone, a service that also offers good free advice
Scan the “found” classifieds in the newspaper.
Leave something that smells like your animal outside the house as a “scented signpost.”
Provide shelter and water if the weather is inclement (food may simply draw other animals).
Check around your neighborhood often, especially at dusk or dawn.
Follow up on every lead you get as soon as possible.
If after a week has passed and your animal is still missing, redo your poster—change “lost dog” to dog still missing” and specify a dollar amount for the reward. Think of ways you might be able to get one of the newspapers to do a “human interest” story on your lost pet.
If You Find Someone Else’s Pet
Remember to use caution in approaching any animal you don’t know, especially if injured. When in doubt, consult a veterinarian, the animal shelter, or law enforcement.
Call the Marion County Humane Society any time you find (or even see) a companion animal who appears to be lost. With any luck, the owner has already called there looking for him. Even if the animal you’ve found has not been reported as missing, please call the shelter.
Iowa animal sheltering facilities are required to keep animals impounded as strays for a certain number of days (including a Saturday) to allow owners time to reclaim their pets.
Be Proactive and Keep Your Animal Safe!
Of course animals love the outdoors…it was once their natural habitat. Today there are plenty of reasons to keep pets indoors.
- Cars and bikes – most “hit-by-vehicle” animals are killed by the trauma. An accident will be painful for your pet and expensive for you, even if it isn’t fatal.
- Viral and parasitic diseases – heartworm, Lyme disease, feline immuneodeficiency virus (FIV), distemper, feline leukemia (feLV), fleas, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), worms and flukes, rabies—some of these are fatal, some have preventive vaccines, and some fall into both categories! Why take a chance?
- Traps, predators, heatstroke, frostbite, etc.
- Unethical, rude people – unfortunately, there are some who make a living through pet theft (mostly dogs). According to the National Humane Education Society, out of 5 million family pets reported missing each year, as many as 2 million are stolen!
The majority of these pets end up at research institutions because the multi-billion dollar animal research industry creates a supply and demand market for stolen dogs and cats. If there are indications that your pet has been stolen, call he police or sheriff and also notify the national advocacy group, In Defense of Animals.
- Poisons – antifreeze (as little as a half teaspoon is fatal), toxic garden plants, spoiled garbage, chemically-treated lawns, salt and chemical de-icers.
Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with identification. There are “break away” collars especially designed for cats. You never know when a house guest might leave a door open!
If you travel with your pets, make sure they are wearing identification. If you and your pets plan to be away for awhile and no one will be home to answer the phone, consider getting tags made up with your vacation address or cell phone number.
Talk to you us or your veterinarian about inserting a computerized microchip underneath your pet’s skin. Animal shelters, research laboratories, and other veterinarians scan “strays” for microchips, thus identifying rightful owners. This can be of indisputable help if your pet slips her collar!
Other Proactive Ideas
Every time you leave the house (and at bedtime) check to see where your pets are.
Take extra precautious during thunderstorms, parties, or fireworks, when pets may become frightened by noise.
Be especially careful when opening/closing doors leading to the outside. Everyone in the family needs to be aware of the doors when visitors arrive and depart.
Make sure that repair persons know you have pets before they arrive and confine pets to a closed-off room.
Have your pet spayed or neutered to reduce its tendency to wander.
Use a pet carrier to transport cats and small dogs (even for short trips to the vet) rather than carrying them in your arms.
Make sure your home’s windows are securely screened.
Do not leave y our cat or dog out in the yard alone. Unless you are there to watch over her personally, you’re inviting a thief to take her.
Just any old fenced yard won’t always confine your dog to your property. Dogs are dept at digging under, leaping over, and squeezing through fencing you thought was secure. A passerby could easily open a gate to let your dog out.
Lost and Found Links
Animal AWOL http://www.animalawol.com/ – A worldwide online data base of lost and found animals
Before Allowing Your Cat to Roam Outdoors – Understand the “indoor-outdoor” risks
Pet Theft: In Defense of Animals (IDA) http://www.idausa.org/ – Follow the link “Campaigns and Projects” to “Pet Theft”
Pet Rescue http://www.thepetrescue.com/ – Lost and found pets by state
Iowa Pet Alert http://www.iowapetalert.com/ – A volunteer-run group dedicated to keeping pets in loving homes