Lost-dog Recovery Service
By Kim Boatman
Roscoe, a 2-year-old Boston terrier, made his escape by busting through a screen door. Owner Josh Sorkin became frantic when Roscoe didn’t show up in early canvases of the neighborhood.
Sorkin, who works in the tech industry, resorted to a new service in his quest to find his feisty pup. He placed an order through FindToto, an online pet search service that sends an automated call out to neighbors within a certain radius from where the animal disappeared. “As soon as we registered, my phone rang,” Sorkin says. “We got a lot of calls back from concerned people. There were people out there who were trying to help.”
Roscoe turned up two days later on ranch land some distance from Sorkin’s home. FindToto not only helped with Roscoe’s recovery, but it also gave Sorkin peace of mind throughout the ordeal, knowing his neighbors were on the lookout.
How It Works
FindToto began little more than a year ago when Dustin Sterlino and his girlfriend lost their cat. They found knocking on doors and posting flyers ineffective but couldn’t afford a pet detective.
Sterlino came up with the idea to formulate a database of home phone numbers, and to charge for placing automated calls when users purchase FindToto’s service. An entry-level package calls 500 neighbors for about $125, and packages run up to approximately $875 for an alert that reaches 10,000 homes. The database of phone numbers is updated monthly, so customers have the assurance the service is calling current numbers.
“You can’t alert too many people going door to door,” says Sterlino. “If you lose a dog or cat, chances are they’re roaming around the neighborhood somewhere. It’s more compelling for that message to be right there in your neighbor’s ear when they get home from work.”
FindToto dials each number up to four times in an attempt to reach a person or answering machine. The call offers a description of the pet, the owner’s phone number and contact information for FindToto.
So far, Sterlino estimates that FindToto found 1,000 pets out of 3,000 orders. Some pet detectives use the service themselves and recommend that prospective clientele try FindToto first, says Sterlino. “I think we got lucky with this simple concept of life that the more people you touch, the more successful you become.”
Dog Safety Tips
Protecting your dog at home is more than a matter of luck. Vicki Kirby, of The Humane Society of Fairfax County, Va., offers these tips:
- Spay or neuter “Most stray or lost animals brought into area shelters are unaltered,” says Kirby, who has worked with The Humane Society for 30 years.
- Buy a collar “Your animal’s ID is his ticket home,” Kirby says. Make sure the collar fits securely and your pal can’t easily slip free. The ID tag on the collar should include your phone number with the area code.
- Watch closely Your dog can dig under a fence or slip through a loose board. Gates may accidentally be left open. Dog theft is also common in many areas, such as around Kirby’s home in Northern Virginia.
- Use microchip technology Shelters, rescue organizations and veterinary hospitals will check for a microchip when a dog comes in, Kirby says.
If you do lose your dog, it’s important to act immediately. A quick response greatly increases your chance of recovering your furry pal. “Most animals will stick around the same area for approximately three days,” Kirby says. “After that, they will start to wander farther. Look for your pet while the trail is hot.”
Kim Boatman is a journalist based in Northern California. She is also the managing editor of ExceptionalCanine.com. Boatman's work has appeared in The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifelong lover of animals, and a frequent contributor to The Dog Daily.