What to Do When You Find a Lost Pet

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What to Do When You Find a Lost Pet

For the past several weeks, it seems like a lot of people in my social media circles have been finding dogs.

Of course, they want to help reunite them with their families, but I find a lot of them aren’t aware that free listing sites pose dangers to not only people seeking to rehome pets, but also to pets found by well-intentioned people who are trying to get them safely home.  

We’ve seen the extreme dangers of listing pets on free sites such as Craigslist with cases such as Puppy Doe, who was rehomed twice on Craigslist earlier this year and ended up in the wrong hands.

Recently, one friend posted two apparently well-cared for dogs on Facebook who she found running the streets of Kansas City, another friend advised her to post their pictures in the “found pets” section of Craigslist.

I advised her that people such as bunchers (who sell animals they’ve gotten for free to research labs) and dog fighters (who look for free bait dogs) troll sites such as this and sometimes claim animals are theirs when they're not, she responded, “I had no idea!”

Even a friend who rescues animals posted way too much information that could allow someone with evil intent to claim a dog she had found.  

The trick is posting enough information that the pet parent might recognize that you may have their beloved lost pet without posting too much information.  

Based on my years of rescue and with help from the Humane Society of the United States’ tips, the following is what you should do if you find a pet and want to help get him back home, rather than take it to a shelter:  

-After segregating the dog or cat from your pets, check the collar (if there is one) to make sure a name/phone number is not stamped on the inside of the collar). If there is a rabies tag, but no other information, call the vet listed. They keep records and will have the owner’s information under the rabies id. If there is no collar or tags, take the animal to a vet to see if there is a microchip.

-Knock on doors in the area where the pet was found and ask neighbors if they know where he may belong.

-Check “lost” ads in the local newspapers and Craigslist. If you find an ad that you think matches the animal you found, get in contact with them and ask them to describe their pet to you, including any unusual markings, collar color/design or quirky traits.

-Make flyers-- you can include a photo of the pet, but do a “head shot” that doesn’t show other identifiable markings. If the pet had a collar, you can include that information in the ad, but do not include the collar description or color as this is something the owner should be able to identify when they get in touch with you. Also, if the pet has two different colored eyes or any other unusual markings, do not include this in the information. You can include the breed and sex of the pet, but don’t include specifics such as “male that is neutered.” Again, this is something the owner should be able to tell you to identify their pet. Post the flyers in the neighborhood and leave them with veterinarian offices and shelters in your town or city.

-If someone contacts you about the pet, ask them to describe it and listen for them to include the specific things you left out of the ad. Ask them to email or text you a photo of their pet.

Of course, there is always a chance that the poor animal was left on the side of the road and no one claims them. Several of our rescues that were dumped ended up as part of our family and we have also rehomed those we could not keep.

If you cannot keep the pet and cannot find a no-kill shelter that will take the pet, many rescues are willing to give you tips on how to find the pet a good, loving home, or go to the HSUS website, which gives tips on rehoming.

Editor’s Note: Photo from the Joplin, Mo shelter’s Facebook page. This dog was found last month running the streets. She was even wearing a pink coat, but she had no collar or tags and wasn’t microchipped.  

Have you ever thought about the possibility of people with bad intentions trolling the “found pet” ads?