What Should You Do With a Lost Dog?
In February, Alfredo Fulleda‘s mother let his dog, Pepito, outside along with the family’s three other miniature Dachshunds. The other three came back inside; Pepito did not. An 18-month-old dog, Pepito, was lost for two days. That is until a friend discovered an Internet posting about a Dachshund found in their city.
“He was scared when I finally got to him,” says Fulleda. “He had lost some weight, and the bottoms of his paws were chapped. He had walked over a mile and had crossed major intersections.”
Pepito’s saga of how a lost dog was found is repeated around the country each year. Consider, for example, JoJo of San Francisco.
JoJo’s Lost and Found Story
JoJo’s return to the Gaffney family in San Francisco underscores the need to make sure a dog has identification in case it gets lost, or in JoJo’s case, stolen.
His family tied up the 5-year-old mixed breed dog in front of a supermarket. But when they came back, someone had taken JoJo, with the abduction caught on the store’s security cameras.
Owner Nick Gaffney says the family plastered the neighborhood with “lost dog” posters. They contacted dog walkers, hired a dog tracker and even a pet psychic, and had their story picked up by the local news. More than $800 and a week later, JoJo’s implanted microchip saved the day. The dog was turned in to a nearby veterinarian who scanned the chip.
“If he weren’t chipped, we never would have gotten him home,” says Gaffney.
In addition to microchipping, other forms of pet identification are collars, tags, and tattoos. “We think external collars and tags save more lives and prompt more returns than anything else,” says John Snyder, vice president of the companion animal section of the Humane Society of the United States.
An Old Pooch is Lost
An old hound dropped off at the Hopalong Animal Shelter, a foster-care based shelter in Oakland, Calif., left a lasting impression. The dog had no tags but was someone’s beloved pet that had gotten lost and couldn’t find its way back home. The shelter staff scoured the lost-and-found ads in the local newspapers and on websites. They also reviewed posters for lost dogs collected by area shelters, all to no avail. After staying at the shelter for a few months unclaimed, the dog was facing possible euthanasia.
“One of my board members just loved that hound,” recounts Sarah Cohen, Hopalong‘s executive director. The board member searched the lost-and-founds one last time, and the effort paid off: the dog’s picture was found on an old “lost dog” poster from a nearby community. Dog and owner were reunited. “The message for people is never to give up looking,” Cohen says.
Not all lost-dog stories have such a happy ending. A study published in January 2007 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) found that only 71 percent of lost dogs were recovered during four months in Montgomery County, Ohio. In other communities, the reunification rate is even lower. So what should you do if you find a lost dog? According to experts, there are steps you can take to improve the odds of bringing a family back in touch with a pooch who went astray or to help it find a new home.
What Do I Do With a Lost Dog?
Network and Use the Internet
As the stories of Pepito and JoJo demonstrate, alerting a network of people in the community can help in the immediate aftermath of a disappearance. Here’s what you can do if your dog goes missing:
- Put up flyers in your neighborhood with a recent photo of your dog
- Use neighborhood email distribution lists to alert neighbors
- Contact local animal shelters and dog rescue organizations
- Tap into networks of dog walkers to spread the word
- Use Craigslist.org and FidoFinder.com to post information about lost or found dogs
“The sooner you can get the information out to animal welfare, the Humane Society and neighbors, the better your chances are at finding your dog,” says Snyder.
The Internet helped lead Fulleda to Pepito. Fulleda had posted pictures of Pepito on his Facebook page along with a caption: “We need you to come home.” High school friend Erin Mallon saw the posting and wanted to help. “It popped into my head to do an Internet search,” she says. “I typed into a search engine ‘found Dachshund‘ and the name of their city.” A link to the FidoFinder.com came up, where someone had already posted a note about a black Dachshund seen in the area.
Fulleda believes that Pepito, who was unneutered, had wandered off in search of a female dog. He’s now going to neuter Pepito and train him to stay in the yard.
Contact a Shelter or Animal Control Agency
While your first impulse may be to catch that stray dog you find wandering into your yard or in a parking lot; experts caution first to call local animal control authorities. If you’re not sure there is one in your community, call the city or county clerk, or even the police, and ask what to do. “Getting bitten is a major concern,” says Kimberley Intino, director of animal sheltering issues for the Humane Society of the United States. “I know people want to help, but they should always contact the animal control professionals first.”
The study reported in JAVMA, conducted by researchers from the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, found that the chances of reuniting a lost dog with its owners were vastly improved if the found dog was taken to, or even just reported to, a local shelter. Shelters act as clearinghouses for information about lost pets, and their primary purpose is to reunite lost pets with people. Thirty-five percent of lost dogs in the study were reunited with owners through calls/visits to a shelter.
Where Can You Take a Dog You Found?
Try to Help Find the Owner
Another effective means to reunification is to post “found dog” posters in the neighborhood where you picked the pup up. The study found these signs helped recover dogs in 15 percent of the cases. Information on a dog tag or license also proved helpful to reunite dogs and owners. Bonnie Beaver, DVM, a veterinary medicine professor at Texas A&M University, agrees that professionals are best able to handle strays. Under some conditions — if you know the dog, it seems overtly friendly, or if the dog approaches you with tail wagging, it may be safe to catch the dog and look at its tags. “Don’t frighten the animal,” Dr. Beaver says. “The dog may already be scared if it’s out and running.”
Some tags include the owner’s phone number. If the dog has a license but no contact information, call the town or city where the license is registered. If there are no tags, bring the pup to an animal shelter. Most shelters now can scan dogs for another set of identifying information — tiny microchips that are increasingly implanted under the skin of beloved pets. A unique serial number on the chip can be read at the shelter to find the dog’s owner. It’s also good to drop posters with local veterinarians who might know the dog’s owner or be contacted about a missing pet.
Adopt the Dog – Or Help Find It a Home
If you’re willing to take time and help a found dog, it probably means that you’re a dog lover. As such, you probably want to take additional steps to help your newfound furry friend. Many shelters don’t have room for all the unwanted dogs in a community and often resort to euthanasia after anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, ask about their policies on this in advance. You can help by scouring the classified ads for lost dogs, both in print and in cyberspace, at such sites as Craig’s List, which has localized listings, or websites such as Petfinder, Lostdog, or Missingpet. And the power of word-of-mouth, letting everyone you know about a situation, who will then make everyone they know about a situation, can’t be underestimated.
Find a “no-kill” Shelter
Another way to help is to search for a “no-kill” animal shelter; several organizations maintain directories of such shelters, including Hearts United for Animals, Save Our Strays, and Nokillnetwork. Another way that Cohen recommends helping is by offering to provide temporary foster care for the dog while the shelter helps search for the dog’s owners. Most animal shelters are already at capacity. It just maybe, however, that you fall in love with your found dog friend and decide to adopt if the pet remains unclaimed.
Be aware that most states have laws specifying a period that a pet owner has to find a missing dog before it becomes the property of a shelter or can be adopted out. “The big thing is never to assume the animal is just abandoned,” Cohen says. “You need to go through steps, taking it to a shelter, posting a notice at a shelter, and asking what the legal time limit is.”
How Can I Prevent My Dog Becoming Lost?
The best insurance policy against losing your dog is to make sure the dog doesn’t get loose. Here are steps the HSUS recommends:
- Keep dogs indoors, especially when you’re not home
- Teach your dog to walk on a leash
- Fence your yard and padlock gates
- Don’t let your pet roam free or be visible from the street
- Never leave pets in a car or outside a store to wait for you
- Train your dogs to come when called
Article written by Author: Elizabeth Wasserman