Here at the Animal Rescue Foundation, we focus our rescue efforts on animals at risk in municipal shelters, and do not accept animal surrenders from the public. Therefore, it is unlikely that your lost pet is at our facility, but we don’t mind pet guardians reaching out to double check!
Please see tips below for lost and found animals, and visit your local municipal shelter.
Losing your beloved pet can be a scary experience for families and pets alike. It is important to do all of the following steps in order to reunite with your pet. The best chance a pet has of returning home is a loving, concerned, and very persistent guardian.
☐ Scour Your Neighborhood
Check your front and back yard and your nearby neighbor’s yards very thoroughly. Oftentimes, a lost pet — especially an indoor cat — will hide close to home and may be too frightened to come out when called.
Notify neighbors and search areas thoroughly, especially in the evening. Door-to-door canvassing may provide leads as well. Always leave your phone number and address in case a neighbor sees your pet later.
☐ Utilize the Internet and Social Media
The internet and social media are incredibly effective tools for lost pets. Beyond posting on your personal pages, post a “Found Pet” advertisement on community websites like Nextdoor, Craigslist, and “Lost & Found Pets of [city name]” Facebook groups. Someone in your community may know the pet and guardian. Some additional sites that may be useful to post on include:
In addition to posting, check these sites daily for “Found Pet” posts from people who may have discovered your lost pet.
☐ Contact Local Veterinary Clinics
Check with local veterinarians, as injured pets may have been taken to a clinic by a Good Samaritan.
☐ Visit Your Municipal Animal Shelter
Go to the animal services shelter or shelters servicing your city and any adjacent areas as soon as possible. File a lost animal report including a current photograph of your pet. Check with the shelter to find out how long they keep lost animal reports on file.
It is very important to go in person to look through the stray population at least every three days after filing your report. Animals impounded without a current license are held for a minimum time period to give their guardians a chance to reclaim them. The length of this stray hold can vary from state to state and county to county. It is essential that you continue to personally check with the shelter, as only you would be certain to recognize your own pet.
☐ Do NOT Give Up
Do not give up hope! Many of the animals in municipal shelters wander for days or weeks before being rescued by animal services officers, or well-meaning people may have held onto the pet for some time before bringing them to the shelter.
If you find a stray animal, remember: always think lost! It is easy to assume that found animals are abandoned or homeless, but they likely have guardians who are looking for them. A lost pet is depending on you to help them find their way home.
☐ Check for Identification
Look for identification. A name/identification tag can lead you directly to the guardian. Rabies tags and shelter tags also have traceable numbers.
☐ Scan for a Microchip
If there are no identification tags, take the pet to a veterinarian or shelter to scan for a microchip (this is a free service). If it is after hours, an emergency veterinary hospital will be able to assist. If there is a microchip, the company can trace the guardian and contact them to be reunited with their lost pet.
☐ Contact Animal Control
Immediately contact the animal control agency in the area you found the pet and provide a detailed physical description along with the location and date that you found the animal. If the guardians call the shelter, the information will be on file to cross-reference. If you wish to foster and keep the pet out of the shelter until the guardian is found, inform the agency of your desire to do so – many agencies are agreeable to this.
☐ Utilize the Internet and Social Media
The internet and social media are incredibly effective tools for lost pets. Beyond posting on your personal pages, post a “Lost Pet” advertisement on community websites like Nextdoor, Craigslist, and “Lost & Found Pets of [city name]” Facebook groups. Someone in your community may know the pet and guardian. Some additional sites that may be useful to post on include:
In addition to posting, check these sites daily for “Lost Pet” posts from the guardians.
☐ Create Posters and Flyers
Create a poster giving a physical description of the pet and distribute copies widely in your neighborhood. As you travel, look for community bulletin boards in shopping centers, libraries, churches, synagogues, or anywhere else you may post a notice of general interest.
Additionally, place flyers on the streets at busy intersections (you may first want to check the legality of posting on public property). As you distribute the posters, remember to look for the flyer that the pet’s guardian may have posted.
☐ Do NOT Rehome
If you cannot care for the pet, please contact your local municipal animal shelter to schedule an appointment for intake. If you would like to foster the animal you found, you are required to file a “found report” with the local municipal shelter, have the animal scanned for a microchip, and to make a concerted effort for 30 days to find the guardians before keeping, privately rehoming, or altering (spaying/neutering) them.
Preventing Lost Pets
Even the most responsible pet owners can lose a pet due to unforeseen circumstances. Try to take every precaution to see that the animal is safely protected.
Dogs and cats with a current license and/or identification tag attached to their collars are held at Animal Services Centers for a full 10 days instead of the four days unlicensed strays are held. The owners are notified by telephone and via US Mail. Be sure to keep the county informed of any address or telephone number changes after you have applied for your pet’s license.
Your pet’s identification tag should have their name, as well as your current telephone number and address. Some people also like to include a message such as “Help me, I’m lost” to encourage people to follow up with contacting them.
Microchips are another method of identification that can be a life-saver. Implanted under the skin, these small devices can be scanned by animal control, animal shelters, or veterinarians to reveal contact information for a pet’s guardians. They’re cheap, safe, and highly-effective. In fact, every pet adopted from ARF comes with a microchip already in them!
There is no better protection for your pet than to be kept indoors, in a fenced yard, or enclosed kennel area. Do not let your pet run loose. It is illegal in the state of California to let your dog roam unattended unless in designated off-leash areas. And while cats are legally allowed to be outdoor pets, the average lifespan of an outdoor cat is 2-5 years, compared to 10-20 years for indoor cats.
If your dog is an escape artist or has poor recall, consider aditional dog training. Many local organizations including ARF offer low-cost training classes.
Finally, one reason your pet may wander off is in search of a mate. You can decrease this urge by responsibly spaying or neutering your pet. Spaying and neutering dramatically reduces and can eliminate, the attraction of males to females.
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