Firstly. STOP PANICKING!
When our beloved furry family members go missing, whether it’s a cat, a dog, a horse or even a rabbit it can be a very stressful and emotional time. If you are panicking, you may not be thinking clearly, and miss some obvious steps you can take to ensure you have done everything you can to increase the chances of your pet being returned.
Here at MY GPS Friend we love the happy ‘found pet’ stories, and want you to have your own happy ending, so we are here to help show you how to find lost pets.
Your chances are GOOD! Follow the steps below, and feel safe that you will have done everything you can to ensure the return of your little furry friend!
Search your immediate local area, your home, and talk to your neighbors.
Search your home. If your pet has been injured in a car accident (heaven forbid), if he can, he may have crawled home. He won’t come if you call, and he may not bark or miaow in response to you, and may be hiding in a place he feels safe, waiting to be found by you.
When searching your local area, walk first, looking into driveways and yards and bushes, look in between and under parked cars and in the gutter. Once you have scoured the local area on foot, jump in the car and continue further afield. A large healthy dog can easily run 5 miles, so don’t limit your search area. Check the usual routes that you walk your dog, and the parks where you take him to play. If your pet is ‘food focused’, check the local takeaway shops and restaurants where he may have been lured by the smell.
If you are in a new home, go to your old house, following the most direct route. Your pet might just be trying to find his way ‘home’ to the old place. This is relatively common in cats, and their internal GPS is pretty good.
If your pet has gone missing from home, inform your neighbors. Make sure they know what your pet looks like. Even if you have never spoken to your neighbors before, let them know…. Your neighbors come and go from their houses as much as you do, and they are right at the heart of your search area.
Cats like wandering into other people’s houses, especially if food is on offer, so make sure that your kitty hasn’t just wandered next door, lured by the smell of some frying fish. Cats also don’t like rain, so there’s a good chance that if the weather is bad, she’s just hiding, and will come home once the storm has passed.
Take advantage of the kids in your local area. If you have kids that play or ride bikes on your street, ask them to help with the search – they WILL help, kids love being called in on a lost pet search and chances are they know the crooks and crannies of your local area better than you do!
While you are arranging all this, make sure someone is at home. Your pet may have just decided to take a little wander and might just find his way back home himself. Someone may have found him and has brought him back, be trying to call you to inform he has been found, so make sure someone is there to answer the door and the phone.
Hit the Phones
Once you feel that you’ve searched your local area thoroughly, it’s time to start ringing around. If possible, someone could start doing this for you while you are out searching.
Start with the local authority or council. They will tell you how to contact local animal shelters, kennels, and the pound. They will inform you of their ‘stray’ policy, and where your dog or cat pet be if he was picked up by the dog catcher or warden. Tell them you want to fill in a report, giving as much detail as possible so that if your dog is found by your local authority, it’s easier for you to be reunited. Don’t rely on them to contact you though – keep ringing back every couple of hours on that first or second day. Overnight stays in kennels and pounds will attract a hefty fee, and these guys are in business.
Ring all the local vet surgeries next. If your dog has been found by a member of the public, their first instinct may be to drop them off at the local vets. In turn, the vet will hand your pet over to the local authority, however, I can tell you from personal experience that this may not happen immediately. If your pet is at the vet, reuniting you is not their top priority – injured pets and scheduled appointments are. They will deal with your lost pet when they get a chance. Again, overnight stays at the vet surgery are costly, and it is a bill you will be liable for. Remember again, that the vet is in business, it does him and your pet no harm to stay there overnight, and probably will if you pet was turned in there later in the day.
Phone any local businesses that have anything to do with animals… pet shops, groomers, kennels, dog walkers, etc. They may not have your pet, but they may have heard stories or local gossip about a pet that was found by someone.
Once you have phoned everyone, go make a cup of coffee and phone them again!
Create a Lost Pet Flyer & Signage
Time to create some flyers. You can do this yourself at home on your PC or laptop. I would advise that you do not print them at home though, because the most important part of your flyer is going to be a large clear, high quality photo of your lost pet – most home printers won’t be up to the task, and you’ll be needing at least 100 flyers and 10-20 posters to start. So, create your flyer, print off one high resolution copy, and go to a local printer for color photocopies. Alternatively, you can save your flyer to a memory stick and take that to the printers. Get a few in A4 size or larger for lamp posts and some in smaller sizes, local shops may not want a huge poster of your dog in their window, but may allow you to post a smaller one, or leave a few flyers on their counter.
You want the photo in color so it stands out and catches people’s attention. We don’t always read the little ads in shop windows, but most people will stop to look at a photo of a dog or cat. You don’t need to be fancy, just a big clear photo, your pet’s name, the word “LOST” in a large font and your phone number is all you really need. In smaller font, detail the date and location your dog was last seen. If you can afford a reward, offer one – as this may encourage people to actively look for your missing pet for you!
Put your posters up close to where people gather, bus stops, train stations car parks, schools. Put the small flyers in shop windows and ask if you can leave some on the counter top. Post them at construction sites and at the mall.
Think about the people who walk the area where your pet went missing. Hand flyers out to parents at schools at pick up time, many parents will walk their children home in your local area, so take advantage of this. Go to your local mail depot and hand a flyer to each mailman as they start their rounds. You can’t ask them to post them for you, but you can ask them to keep their eyes peeled. Do the same with the milkmen.
If you live in a community that has an ‘entrance’, put a large sign here that people can see from their cars, facing both directions. Put an ad in your local paper.
If necessary, use Google translate and create some flyers in other languages if you live in a bilingual community.
Leverage the Internet
Use the digital copy of the flyer you created earlier and email every relative business in at least a 50-mile radius of your home, again, hit the animal shelters and hospitals, the vets, the kennels, neighboring local authorities, the groomers and the dog walkers. You don’t know where your dog was picked up, or where he may have been dropped off. He may be in the next county or state, so use the internet to broaden your search.
Shelters may make you register your details with them, and if they ask for more information, do it! Don’t skip this step. Many shelters have a far-reaching audience and if they can help by posting details of your missing pet online and in their social circles, take advantage of this!
Use Social Media to Spread the Word
Social media can be one of the best tools you can use to help find your lost pet. Both Twitter and Facebook have thousands of groups dedicated to helping you find your lost pet. The retweet and share features can cascade and snowball, so that literally tens of thousands of people can potentially read about your missing furry friend.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you start your social campaign, it’s not as straightforward as just posting the flyer you made and hoping for the best.
- Get all your friends and family involved, use anyone who has a social media account and is happy to help
- Stay safe online, you are vulnerable right now. Do not post your phone number. Request that you are contacted via the social media that you are using.
- Rejig your flyer, replacing your phone number with your email address
- Check for responses regularly and keep notifications on. It’s no good if you get a message saying, ‘I just saw your dog at Hightown Park!’, if you don’t read that message until 3 hours later.
- People mainly use social media to read interesting stories and for entertainment. So, create a gut-wrenching story around your lost pet that will tug at people’s emotions. A beautiful photo or two or even three will catch people’s attention.
- People will follow your story, so make sure you are giving regular updates to keep their interest.
- Post your story to your homepage, make it public, and ask your friends to share on their timelines, and on the timeline of their friends. Include the best picture of your pet you can find.
- Change your profile picture to a picture of your lost pet with the word LOST, PLEASE HELP superimposed onto it. Use your profile background to add additional details, like those in your flyer.
- Search for local lost and found groups, read the group rules and guidelines and ask how they might help. Do the same for the animal shelters, vets and all those people you emailed earlier.
- Create a public page or group, dedicated to your lost pet, make it public and ask all your friends to ‘like’ it. Direct your followers there
- If you already use Twitter and have a following, use it! If you don’t, create a Twitter account as if you were your missing pet. Twitter loves this stuff, and tweet as though you ARE the missing pet. Post your tweets asking for help to get home. Post regularly and keep updating. Tug at those heart strings. You will gain a following and the idea is your followers will retweet.
- Do a search for LOST PET/LOST DOG accounts, not only in your area, but also nationally. Direct message or @mention them and ask for help, follow their rules and guidelines and ask for retweets of your lost pet flyer or details.
- Search #lostdog #lostcat #lostpet hashtags and help others by retweeting their lost pet details, and in return, they will most likely post yours.
Hopefully, you will be reunited with your lost pet soon, and that you have learned a few things here about how to find lost pets. Don’t give up… keep spreading the word and keep talking to people. When you do find your wayward pet, please comment below and share your story with us, we love a happy ending!
Then when you and your pet are reunited, please go and read my post about how to keep your pet safe. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to go through all this again, right?