Discovering a lost or abandoned dog can be disheartening, especially when they don’t have any visible identification that will lead them back to their home. I read about this issue often in the social media platforms that I participate in. And while I feel bad for the dog and the person who discovered them pleading for help. I can only imagine the distress that the dog’s parents must feel. It’s literally like losing a family member.
So in this post, I will offer a four step action plan for people who find lost or stray dogs. And I will also provide some useful tips for dog parents to help them minimize the chances of their dogs getting lost in the first place.
Whenever you find a lost dog, your first course of action should always be to try and locate the dog’s parents. If the dog has identification, then that’s a slam dunk. Just contact his parents and make arrangements for them to be reunited with their dog. However, if the dog doesn’t have any identification, that’s when it gets a little tricky. And time is of the essence.
You can start by contacting the local animal shelters in your area. Because many dog parents tend to contact their local animal shelters first once they discover that their dog is missing.
It’s best to contact shelters within a 15-20 mile radius from where you initially found the dog. Because you can never tell just how far a lost dog may have wandered from home, so it’s best to cover as much ground as possible.
So just leave your contact information with the shelters that you contact. Hopefully, if the owner is also contacting local animal shelters, the chances are that you both will contact the same shelter at some point which is the goal. But instead of just playing the “sit and wait” game, you’ll want to be proactive and continue with another method.
Since we now live in the digital age where information can travel far and wide and at lightning speed, you’ll want to get online. And your first stop should be to visit Paw Maw’s website
Paw Maw is a lost pet rescue service. This service will help lost animals get reunited with their parents, and they do it at a much faster rate than your more traditional methods. They also help more than just dog parents. They understand that people have all sorts of pets that they consider family. So they will help you find your lost dog, cat, or even your bird.
They offer this service for free, which includes a free lost or found dog listing, a free alert, and a free lost or found flyer to print and post in your local area.
Paw Maw’s process is simple. You register a “found dog” on their website, then promote it via their alert system that feeds into their database of members. And the members will be put on notice that a dog in their area is missing.
These members consist of local residents, volunteers and pet professionals in any given zip code. And Paw Maw will give them an alert once your register your “found dog” in their area.
And the best part of this service is that they follow up with the good news. There is a daily feed of pop-ups that lets you know when a lost pet has been found and reunited with their family. It will even include how quickly they were able to locate the missing pet. And they’re reuniting families with their pets daily. Here is a quick video on how they work.
While Paw Maw will post your “found dog” alert to their Facebook page and groups, you can also take the initiative and post to your social networks as well. But you’ll want to do this with a strategy.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can place a lost dog ad by creating a Facebook Page for the dog and then purchase an ad to target the residents of your city and the nearby towns. You can start with a small budget just to see if you receive any feedback or information. But it’s worth a try in addition to the assistance you’ll receive with Paw Maw also working in the background on your behalf.
Now, if the dog was not a stray and has an owner, the previously mentioned steps should help you to find your lost dog’s family in a matter of days. But if you’re not receiving any feedback or results, then chances are that the dog was already stray or homeless for a long time.
In that case, you do have another option which we’ll get to in a second. But whatever you do, you want to avoid releasing the dog back onto the street. Because doing so would only contribute to the overwhelming homeless animal crisis.
This lost dog would become vulnerable to a host of unfortunate circumstances, from disease, starvation, to being attacked by another animal. And if they were not fixed, they would be susceptible to reproducing with another homeless animal.
And as we all know, dogs don’t just have one baby; they have an entire litter. So two homeless dogs can quadruple into eight homeless dogs-a situation that we’d want to avoid entirely.
A No-Kill animal shelter is a shelter that promotes a “no-euthanasia” model. This means that they will never kill the animals in their care. They will keep them until they can find them a home. While this sounds great, the downside is that if their facilities are full, they will have to place you on a waiting list until a spot opens up. And that could take days, to weeks, to months.
And when you’re harboring a lost dog in your home that doesn’t allow pets, you just don’t’ have that kind of time.
The “No-Kill Network” is an organization that vets animal shelters across the country to create a comprehensive list of “verified” no-kill animal shelters.
Further, their mission is:
To promote existing no-kill organizations in order to help them help the animals they serve…To promote the no-kill organization model…to ensure that the organizations we list are, in fact, no-kill advocates. This is an ongoing process, due to the constantly changing goals of organizations, and we continue to rely on public support to ensure that all of the organizations in our directory are legitimate.”- The No Kill Network’s Mission Statement
So once you click on a particular state, you’ll receive an exhaustive list of no-kill shelters in several cities in that single state.
And that’s incredible because in the unfortunate circumstance that one of the shelters that you contact is full, you can just let them take your information down for their waiting list. At the same time, you can just call the next one to see if they have any space available for your lost dog.
It’s a numbers game. But since this directory provides a list of sometimes hundreds of these shelters in a single state, the odds are clearly in your favor. It will just take a little bit of effort and patience on your part. But if you’re unable to rescue the lost or stray dog yourself, the next best thing you can do for them is to try to increase their chances of finding a forever home.
If you’re the parent of a lost dog, simply reverse engineer the previously mentioned steps so that you can increase the chances of finding your lost dog:
This way, the current guardian of your lost dog and you will eventually make contact and reunite you and your family with your dog.
To prevent your dog from going missing, a key tip is to not leave them unattended. And I don’t mean you have to be a helicopter parent and micromanage your dog’s every move. I mean if you’re out walking or driving with your dog and you need to make a few stops, you’d want to avoid leaving them alone in your car for an extended period of time or tethered to a pole while you go inside a store to shop for example.
Because while this world is filled with delightful and wonderful people, it’s also filled with some heartless people. And you don’t want to risk someone stealing your dog even if you’ve never had an issue with leaving them alone in your car before.
I understand how inconvenient it can be when you need to make a quick stop, especially when it’s literally on your way home. But my thoughts are, how would you feel if something were to happen? I know the answer is that you’d be devastated. So that grocery list that you need to take care of, is really not worth losing your dog over. Making your dog’s safety a priority is what will prevent them from becoming a statistic.
So as a precaution, just plan ahead when you’re out running errands with your dog. It’s best to bring someone with you that can attend to your dog while you’re making your rounds.
When you’re out running errands with your dog, try to limit your visits to dog-friendly establishments only. You’d be amazed at how many businesses are dog-friendly. Just ask the attendant when you walk in if it’s okay to bring your dog inside with you. You’ll be surprised when they give you a warm welcome and your dog a tasty biscuit from behind their counter.
Visiting dog-friendly establishments will allow you to do more activities with your dog. It’s a great bonding experience. I take our Mina shopping and running errands with me all the time. She even comes into the fitting rooms with me. And she absolutely loves it!
The Avid chip is a pet identification system. So if your dog gets lost and turns up at a shelter, they can scan him for the chip and gain access to your information. It’s a fantastic technology to help keep pets safe. But since it’s a microchip, it’s best to discuss this option with your veterinarian first.
You can learn more about the Avid System here as they offer various pet identification products and services, including a 24/7 pet recovery service. And that’s the next critical step. If you get the microchip you must register your dog with their Petrac Database. Otherwise, you’ll just have a dog with a chip that contains information that no one can access. So review the site carefully to make sure that you’ve covered all the bases required for using their system.
Unlike the chip that requires an implant and scanning process, the “Tile App” is a blue-tooth tracking system that helps you find lost items-including lost pets. This device is also practical for situations where your dog may not be lost, but is just wandering around your home and ignoring you when you call him (hello senior dogs!)
So if you find that you’re often having this sort of trouble just looking for your dog, cat, turtle, etc. around your home, the “Tile” tracker is a great option to look into.
It will send an alert/sound that will output to their collars. Just follow the sound, and you’ll find your dog. And if they are too far for you to hear the alert, then you can just view their location from the “Tile App.”.
This system comes in hand even for household items like your lost phone, keys, TV remote, etc. So again, this is just another cool tool for finding lost items that may be beneficial to keeping your pets safe.
GPS tracker systems are another great option because they help you pinpoint your dog’s location before they get too far away. There are many options to choose from. They range in style, price, and features based on your needs. Some even include an activity monitor to measure how active your dog is during the day.
Others include features that will let know you when your dog has left their designated safe zone. Some have the capability to track your dog’s location even if they are 3000 miles away!
Here is a site that did an extensive review and listed what there thought were the top five GPS trackers for dogs. Again, another great investment to look into to help keep your dog safe.
My personal opinion is if you want to be extra careful, then a combination of a chip plus a GPS system may do the trick. This is because if your dog does get lost, and loses or damages his GPS collar in the process, you will at least have the chip as a backup plan if he turns up at an animal shelter.
So doubling up on security may sound like a bit much, but it can certainly be useful for dog parents that use doggy doors, or allow their dog to roam freely in their large yards where it’s not always easy to keep an eye on them. So the extra added security measure will just give you a little peace of mind.
In conclusion, I hope that you found these tips useful, whether you’re someone who finds a lost dog, or if you’re a dog parent. Because …
Animal shelters are already overwhelmed grappling with the homeless animal crisis. The last thing they need is to take in a dog that actually does have a home -but just lost his way back. – Phylecia Terrell, The Dog Care Guide
Implementing some of the tips mentioned in this post will hopefully help you keep your dog safe from getting lost, or prevent it from happening all together. And that’s the ultimate goal!
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Any interesting lost or found dog stories and tips to share? Please add them in the comments section below.
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