By Amy Wence
It can even happen to dog professionals. It was a Saturday afternoon, not too long ago, when I got a frantic call from Laura that her 16 year old border-collie mix, Tasha, had gone missing. Her husband had accidentally left the yard gate open and then let Tasha out through the sliding glass doors, not realizing that she could walk right out of the backyard. Once it was realized that Tasha had wandered off, a team of people quickly gathered and started scouring the neighborhood. We asked everyone we saw if they had seen her. We searched until dark, when finally Laura got the call from animal control that Tasha had been found. A lady had Tasha in her backyard, but was not able to contact Laura directly because Tasha had not been wearing her collar at the time she went missing. Luckily, the woman called animal control and they were already aware that Tasha was missing, so they called Laura immediately. Tasha was brought to the humane society where Laura was reunited with her. Tasha was unharmed, but was incredibly exhausted from the ordeal. Although this experience ended positively, there is still a lot to be learned from it. Should such an unfortunate event occur to you, there are a number of precautions that can be taken to ensure that you are prepared and that your dog can be recovered as quickly as possible.
Before your dog gets lost
- Identification: This is an absolute must! Your dog’s collar should have ID tags with at least two, preferably three, contact numbers. You can also order collars with your phone number stitched into them. If your dog is an escape artist or likes to dart out of doors, then it is advised that he wear ID at all times, even indoors. However, if your dog should get loose without his collar, microchips are an excellent back up means of identification. Microchip implanting is a very minor procedure and very inexpensive. Lastly, be sure to keep all contact information up to date on both the ID tags and with the microchip registry.
- Shelters: Find and store the contact information for animal control and all of your local animal shelters. It is a good idea to find out how long your local animal shelters will hold stray dogs. Keep a list by your phone of the addresses, telephone numbers, and holding times of each shelter, so you are not looking them up in a panic.
- Flyers: Make a stack of emergency fliers with your dog’s photo and your contact information to hand out immediately if he gets lost. Offer a reward on the flier and keep them in a safe place for possible future use.
- Training: A good recall is very important. “Chase me” is a great game to teach your dogs and can come in handy if your dog ever gets away from you. You can also buy a whistle, and teach your dog to associate the sound with a reward of very high value, such as chicken. This can be an
invaluable tool for emergencies.
- Safety: Check the perimeter of your fencing regularly for any possible routes of escape. Also, it may be a good idea to put locks on the yard gate to avoid accidental release. A common cause for escape is when service men leave the gate open. A “Dog on Premises” sign may be helpful in
- Print out and fill out the card with the information for your area. Cut it out and put it in a place where you can find it easily in an emergency, such as on the refrigerator or by your phone.
After your dog gets lost
- Immediate Action: Don’t panic. Get busy! Enlist the help of family andbegin the search immediately. Bring your whistle, emergency flietreats, and your dog’s favorite squeaky toy. If youdog has any canine friends, take them along too. Split upand search within a 2-3 mile radius. Handout the fliers
residents, mail carriers, children, and anyone else you may see. Ask everyone you see if they have seen your dog.
- Work the Phones: During the search, it is wise for someone to stay at the house in case the dog should return. This person can use the time to call animal control and the local animal shelters to inform them that your dog is missing. This person should be able to provide detailed information about your dog such as, name, sex, age, breed type, weight, color and distinctive markings. It may also be a good idea to call any local veterinary hospitals should someone bring your dog in if it has been injured.
- Fliers: Use a scanner to scan the photo and create the flyer. If you do not have a digital photo or scanner, print out the poster leaving room for the photo, then take the poster and photo to a copy shop. Make as many copies as possible. The flyer should be a simple format with large type and a color photo of your dog. It should include only key details and preferably two contact numbers. Post your fliers everywhere (pet supply stores, groomers, gas stations, restaurants, veterinary offices, grocery stores, around schools, etc.)
- Call the newspapers and place “lost dog” ads.
- Call your local radio station to see if they will make an announcement about your lost pet.
- Check in with your local shelters and animal control department at least every other day. It is also a good idea to visit the animal shelters in person.
- Use lost pet posting sites on the Internet.
- Enlist the help of a lot pet specialist or pet-finding service. These are professionals trained in finding lost pets.
- Most importantly, don’t give up! Many lost animals eventually find their way back home.