CHECK HOME FIRST, all around and under your house, and all outbuildings: tool sheds, garage, pump house, garden shed, closets and rooms you don't usually use. Even if you saw him running away, he may come back after dark. NEVER ASSUME! Ask your neighbors to check their sheds and garages, too, or if you can do it yourself. Use a flashlight for dark areas, its light can reflect from eyes.
BREED: There are perfectly nice people who are willing to help, but they only know common breeds. Tell what yours is, then describe it. If the breed has more than one name, put down all of them. Some people still know the Borzoi as a Russian Wolfhound. Most people aren't familiar with all the breeds, so give an additional description (Saluki: "tall, slim like a Greyhound, mostly a short coat, but longer hair on the ears, belly, tail and fringes on the backs of the legs").
If it's an uncommon breed, tell what it looks like, possibly referencing a much more common breed or popular mix. "A Havanese??? What's that? Oh, this cute little cockapoo is one?" A Belgian Tervuren looks like a Shepherd/Collie mix to most people. People see Belgian Malinois on the news and still think they're German Shepherds. Many people don't know there is anything but the Miniature Schnauzer. Many lesser-known breeds look like mutts and crosses, so you'd better say so if you want results.
GET THE SPELLING RIGHT! You can type 'dog breed list' in the Google box and somewhere there should be your dog's breed.
MIXED BREEDS: If it's a mix, call it what it looks like, not what someone told you it was. Ego has no place here. Don't use those silly "designer" dog breed names, say what it is (or is supposed to be, anyway). Make it easy for the finder to put it together. It's not a Pugon, it's a Pug X Boston.
Use additional KEY WORDS, just list them at the bottom of your ad, anything that you think someone might possibly do a search on that didn't seem to fit in the body of your ad, and possible misspellings: pit bull, pitbull; Chi, Chiwawa, Chewawa; Lab, Labrador; Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Shepherd, Groenendael, Groen; shepard, sheperd; shitzoo, afgan, Airedale, Airdale; Malamute, Siberian, sled dog, husky type, northern breed; Bichon, Bishon, Bison; Blue tick, bluetick; Bullmastiff, bull mastiff; Chesapeake, Chesapeek; Dashound, Doxon, Dachshound; etc. If yours is a pit breed like an AmStaff, is part pit, or just looks like it might be pit, put pitbull in your ad. If you're doing a search, try putting in parts or the name, or various similar names, just in case.
FLYERS - Plaster the area and do it right away. You need TWO kinds. Have them printed with WATERPROOF (laser jet) ink. Where traffic is moving fast, those flyers should be simple with very large print and no photo: "Lost Lab, M, black, (123) 346-6789". Where people will be on foot or driving slowly, you can give more details and a photo: "Lost Lab, black w/some white, neutered male, 2 yrs old, Gresham area. Call any time, day or night: (your phone numbers)".
PUTTING FLYERS IN MAILBOXES IS ILLEGAL, and will be removed by the mail carrier. But you CAN fold them and tuck them between the mailbox flag and the box. Fold them so the LOST DOG is facing outward. If you see your mail carrier, give a flyer to him/her -- they see a lot of dogs; also give them to other people working in the area.
KIDS live "closer to the ground" than adults, and probably know every dog in the neighborhood. Half-page flyers could be useful here, with one photo and the basics and your phone number. Point out that there is a reward "for return or information leading to return". If they're bored, they may cruise around on their bikes and look in people's yards. You can't buy that kind of coverage. Keep contact quick -- you don't want to be called in as a prospective kidnapper or molester. Or, pay a responsible neighbor kid to pass them around at school.
MAIL OR DELIVER FLYERS to all the vets in the area, including the emergency clinics, and as far as you can. If your dog is one that gets grooming, like a poodle or schnauzer, mail them to all the groomers in the area, and maybe all the doggy daycare places.
NO ACRONYMS! Forget the abbreviations that don't mean anything to most people. No PB, BC, ACD, GSD, ESS, WCP.
NO TEXTING ABBREVIATIONS! Spell everything out, use capitals and punctuation like periods. One garbled run-on 500-word sentence is hard to understand and wade through. If you can't do it, have someone else write it for you Make it easy for the finder who is feeding your pet in his kitchen.
COLOR: Indicate color without jargon. YOU know it's tri-color, but to many people it's just mostly black with a little brown on the face and ankles with a white chest and feet. You call it sable, others call it a goldy-brown. It's not mahogany, it's red. Keep it simple. Some people are fully or partially colorblind -- my brother can't tell an orange tabby from a brown one, even side by side.
SEX: Many people don't know how to determine if a dog or cat is male or female. I've known people who thought a neutered male was a female ("Well, there aren't any balls!"). Keep this in mind when you're searching the Lost & Found lists, esp with cats. If everything else sounds right, just assume the finder isn't sure on sex and contact them.
AGE: keep it simple: 6 weeks, 3 months, 5 years, grey on muzzle, arthritis, can barely walk. No one cares about exactness, close is good enough. Unless it's very young, 'weeks' is a confusing term.
SIZE: Approximate size can be useful. "Large" means a medium Lab to some people, a St. Bernard to others. "About 10" at top of shoulder but only weighs 8 lbs, very slim" says it all. "Thin due to recent illness", "kind of chubby", etc might help.
WHERE PET WAS LOST: If you're posting on a national website and live in a smaller town, be sure and tell what direction you are from the nearest main city. You just never know who is looking or where they are. Some people subscribe to national lists, and might make a connection between a pet lost on one list and one found on another. Make it easy for them. On Craigslist, please don't just post an intersection or a neighborhood, include the CITY.
AVOID USELESS INFO. Purebred, championship status, games they like to play, and most personality traits are usually worthless, but might be useful in a phone or email conversation. Do you really want to advertise that your missing champion show dog is worth $40,000? That's stupid. Don't entice someone into an extortion plot that can go bad.
ALWAYS HOLD SOMETHING BACK! The way to determine if someone really has your dog is to keep one or two special bits of information to yourself. Don't advertise scars, the fact that the dog is missing teeth, has a small growth, only has 3 toes on the back foot or is missing a toenail. YOU ask THEM if the dog they found has anything different with the back feet or ears (only in very general terms), and see what they say. ("His teeth? Oh, hey, he's got a broken lower fang and it has a FILLING in it!" BINGO!)
MICROCHIPS - Don't EVER post the microchip number! A scammer can call and say they've found a dog with that chip number, but they're just reading it off your ad. They don't have your dog, they just want your money. If they truly might have your dog, they can have the dog scanned free at most vets and shelters; you could offer to meet them there (take your drivers license or other ID). It's okay to say the dog is chipped, though. And call the microchip company and ask them to FLAG the dog as missing or stolen.
If you got the chip inserted and forgot to register it, REGISTER IT IMMEDIATELY, and then follow up with a phone call to the database and make sure. If you lost the paper registry info, call your vet, explain, and ask if you can pick up new paperwork. If time is too short and your vet did it, they can connect the chip with you -- tell them the pet is missing. If you got the pet chipped at one of those Chip-a-Thon things in a parking lot and didn't register it and lost the paperwork, I suspect that you're out of luck. The Database people can only track to the registered owner or the vet clinic that bought the chip.
If your dog came with a chip and you didn't change the contact info, call the chip company and ask them to contact the registered owner and give them your phone number so they can contact you if someone calls them. If your dog was chipped in another country, scanners here may not pick them up.
REMEMBER: Microchip companies usually CALL YOU THEMSELVES when someone says they found a pet with a chip; they take the caller's phone number and GIVE IT TO YOU, they don't usually give yours to the finder. However, they may give your information to a veterinary clinic, an animal shelter, or law enforcement.
AVID: 800-336-AVID (800-336-2843)
ResQ: 877-PETLINK (877-738-5465)
PHOTOS: Try to find a photo taken from the dog's head level, not aiming down at him from above. Odd photo angles distort the look of the dog. A full-body photo while standing and a close-up head shot are good. Photos of scars or peculiar defects are only used for identification purposes when you are face-to-face with the finder and the dog is in sight.
DISTANCE -- NEVER ASSUME that your pet is still in your neighborhood, town or even the state. Dogs get stolen and sold. They get picked up as unwanted strays and given to a girlfriend who turns them loose, or they can be found as strays and re-homed. A well-intentioned person can pick them up and then lose them on the way home. They can be grabbed by a vindictive neighbor and dumped miles away. Cats climb into cars and moving vans. Keep looking -- Stolen dogs have been known to escape. I personally know a poodle that came home (beautifully groomed) two years after disappearing from a locked yard. It's a sorry thing when the owners give up before the pet does!
STOLEN DOGS ARE OFTEN SOLD. Check the "Dogs for Sale" ads in your area and up and down the towns along your nearest freeway corridor, especially. If you get a line on a dog that might be yours, ask the finder to email you a photo. A REGISTERED MICROCHIP IS POSITIVE I.D. TO THE LAW, but if you're stupid about it the dog will disappear.
Keep an eye on the Craigslist PETS section and eBay Classifieds (formerly called Fijiji), where stolen pets are often "rehomed" for a fee. Check PetFinder.com and not only search the Classifieds/Found section, but also do a search like you're looking for that kind of pet. Don't use the phone number or email address that you used in your ads -- they're probably not that stupid. Ask them to send you a photo. Ask questions like a real person looking for a new pet would.
You can handle it yourself, but you'd better not be stupid. Ask questions like a real dog shopper: good with cats, kids, other dogs, does it bite, is it housebroken. Many of them are sold for $50 for drug money. Don't go alone, but don't take an idiot or talkaholic. Morons will screw up everything Leave the kids and other pets home, too. If it is your pet, don't fall apart and start calling its name and bawling! Keep your cool. The dog will probably run to you, wagging; just say something like, "Oh, he's so friendly! I like that!" Bargaining is okay, but don't be a fool and play Mr. Blustering Macho or Ms. LawAbiding Self-Righteous. You DO realize that some of these people are armed, right? If it's your dog and the price is reasonable, just pay it and get out. This is NOT a social call! When the deal is made, shut up and LEAVE.
CONSIDER PUTTING A DOG WANTED AD in local papers or on Craigslist PETS for your general type of pet. Don't be too specific. Use an alternate phone number from what you used in the lost flyers and ads. If you get a response, ask for a photo via email, meet in a public place.
A REWARD OFFER may push someone who knows something over the edge into calling. Who cares if they're lowlifes if they help you get your dog home? But meet in a public place for safety. NO PET, NO MONEY.
THE LAW doesn't give a rat's patootie about your dog. But if someone contacts you with a high ransom demand, that's extortion, which is a crime. Say you have to gather the money, ask for a phone number, email address, etc. Then call the cops and ask how they want to handle it. If they're not busy, if they like dogs, if they're in a good mood, they may help. Insisting may help -- extortion IS a crime, no matter if it's a photo, a diamond necklace, or a pet. Of course, you might have to remind them of that. And you'd better have some photos in your hand, and a registered microchip number (or at least it can be verified by your vet).
MAP & SCENT ARTICLES - Keep track of where your pet may have been seen, and when, as it may form a pattern. Mark the sightings on a local map for searches and posting flyers. Single sightings far off from the main collection of sightings are usually false ones. Leave some old recently-worn or sweaty t-shirts with your scent on them and some food to help keep the dog in the area. (These shirts should be clean to start -- no scented laundry products.) If you have another dog, take it there to pee (you could, too). If possible, do these things well off the road but in sight of the road, then make your rounds every day (or more often). If possible, go to a recent sighting location and park the car, wait and watch. One woman went to sleep in her car with the window open, and woke up when her dog tried to jump into the car. Dumb luck does figure into the equation sometimes.
SHELTERS - Don't just call or fill out a form at the local Animal Shelter. Most places have a 2- or 3-day limit, so GO THERE at least every other day. And don't depend on phone calls. Some people who work at shelters are dumber than roadkill, and wouldn't know a Sheltie if they fell over it, much less a Portuguese Water Dog. But they aren't going to admit that they don't know, they just say, "No, we don't have any of those in here right now", while your dog has a "KILL TODAY" sign on his cage or they're selling it to another person.
ASK AT THE SHELTER if they keep notebooks of pets that are being held by finders. Some people don't trust shelters, so they will care for it at home, but leave a flyer in the book. If the shelter has a notebook, check the FOUND book, add your own flyer to the LOST book. (Thurston Co., WA shelter has these books.) If you might need a trap (cat or dog) ask if they lend or rent them.
HUMANE TRAPS -- Havahart-type traps can be very useful for trapping animals (cats and dogs), IF they haven't been caught in a trap before (they're fast learners). Buy, borrow or rent one (ask shelters). I know there are traps that will hold a 70# dog. Have them show you how to use it. Put it in the area where the cat has been seen, away from any kind of traffic (junkies will let them loose and sell the trap for scrap metal). Under shelter is good (like a piece of plywood leaning against a wall), or you could carefully lay tree branches over it (be sure not to let them interfere with the release mechanism). Bait with something smelly, like canned cat food, tuna or sardines in oil. If the cat is likely to be suspicious, cut a single sheet of newspaper to fit the inside of the trap without folding it, and lay on the floor over the trip-plate, with food at the far end. If you have a two-door trap, only use one door. Make sure the door is in the UNLOCKED position when it is tripped, or the animal can push its way out. If you catch an opossum or raccoon or wrong cat, straddle the trap and open the door from behind and let them out. If they won't get out, close the door and lock down the outer panel/bar, lift the rear end of the trap and shake them out When their body hits the door, it should open and they can slide out. DO NOT STAND IN THE PATH OF AN ESCAPING ANIMAL! If you catch a skunk, bobcat or bear cub (in the dog trap) call your local Fish & Wildlife Dept. (look under State listing) and ask for advice. Off hours, call 911: "I've caught a skunk/bobcat/bear cub in a humane trap and I don't know what to do." If you do catch a bear cut, GET TO THE CAR IMMEDIATELY! Mom Bear is nearby.
WATCH OUT FOR SCAMMERS who don't have your pet but just want to steal your money. Don't pay anything unless the pet is right there in front of you.
YOUR KIDS -- Kids only have one job: taking flyers to school to post and pass out. Unless you have teenagers with functioning brains who can take accurate messages, don't let your kids take phone calls about the lost pet. Keep in mind that the person calling may not really HAVE your pet. Make sure your kids understand the situation and what they can and cannot do. If your toddlers are in the habit of grabbing the phone, you're S.O.L. NEVER ALLOW YOUR KIDS TO PHYSICALLY RESPOND TO AN AD, with or without you.
CONTACT YOUR BREED RESCUE AND CLUBS (state and national), and the breed clubs. Even if they don't have a Lost/Found page, email them the basic info.
CHECK THE NEWSPAPERS, not everyone has a computer. Put ads in the local newspapers, and ask if you have to pay extra for online classifieds. Believe it or not, some people don't use Craigslist.
PROVING THE PET IS YOURS. If the finder is sensible, he/she will insist that you prove the pet is yours. Take photos. If it looks like yours but the finder hasn't checked for the chip (and yours has one), ask them to meet you at a vet clinic or shelter where the pet can be scanned in front of both of you. You will have a psychological edge if you can do it at your vet clinic and they know you; just call ahead and tell them why and what you're doing, ask if they will address you by name to show you are a client. But the finders might want to take the pet to their clinic, which is still okay, they're being responsible. Responsible finders are like jewels.
A registered microchip is POSITIVE IDENTIFICATION of ownership. If you see your pet on someone else's leash or in their yard or car, and they are avoiding you, call the police. TELL them the animal you suspect is yours has a microchip registered to you (as long as it is). Some law enforcement agencies have their own scanners.
If you don't have photos and don't have a chip, the finder should be pretty suspicious, and rightly so. Of course, your dog (if not cat) should react to its owner differently than to a stranger, but if they know any tricks, now is the time to run them through their routines. Cats, well. . .. . ..
ONLINE LOST & FOUND PET SITES
Some of the sites below only cater to dogs or to cats, but many of them are for all pets. Don't be too specific when you're searching FOUND pages -- many people don't know dog breeds. Maybe start with your state if you can, and leave it at that. Few sites have a lot of recent posts for any particular area, but add yours just the same. You only need ONE good connection. Someone may know of PetFinder or Flealess, and not Craigslist. Keep track of where you post. If/when you find your pet, you will want to go back and remove the posting. You don't want calls about found pitbulls or tabby cats for the next 10 years. Does your local area have a blog with a Lost/Found section?
Face it, anonymous online sites attract a lot of bottom-feeders. Expect trash calls, cruel calls, and some real bozos.
Amber Alert for Pets (you must set up a free account)
http://craigslist.org KEEP CHECKING THE ADS, DON'T JUST WAIT FOR PEOPLE TO RESPOND TO YOURS! And don't try to save time by just doing a search for the breed. Too many people will post a very generic ad with NO breed information, forcing everyone who has lost a pet to call to see if it is theirs, and poor spellers will throw you off, too. Post at least every few days, a photo is good. Many people don't look past the first page. Check BOTH the LOST & FOUND and PETS sections under Community. Start fresh with each post. Never post a link to a previous post. DON'T be coy with the title, like saying "please help" -- go for the gold: "LOST Labrador -- REWARD". BEWARE: Scumbags abound here!
Flealess Market Lost Pets International
Greytalk (Greyhounds only)
eBay Classifieds (formerly called Kijiji)
Check out both the Lost/Found (under Pets), AND the list of your species for sale, in case your dog or cat was stolen or found and is being sold. BEWARE: Scumbags abound here!
K9 Amber Alert (Yahoo Groups, have to join - free)
(You can sign up to get notices via email as they come in.)
America's National Lost & Found Pet Database
Kitsap County Lost Pets
Lost & Pound (PLEASE NOTE that the colored LOST & FOUND boxes are for posting notices, the smaller gray boxes above are for searching posted lost/found lists)
Missing Pet Network (USDA)
(Listings are by TOWN first, then by date -- very awkward for a large area, so use your FIND mode, using breed or year). Click on State Name, then Browse Listings to look at lists; Click on MPN State to post a notice
Oodle This looks like a good place to find stolen pets, in my opinion. Click on photos to enlarge.
http://pets.oodle.com/all/seattle-area/ (Link to Seattle +50 mi area; I think they're, national though)
PetFinder (they only hold a post for two weeks, then you'll have to repost)
There are two places here to look: First is the CLASSIFIED, where a finder can post a found animal, or you can post a Lost notice. Next is where you act like you're looking to acquire a new pet, in case your pet was stolen or found and is put up for sale ("rehoming") for a fee.
Washington Rescue & Adoption link (maintained by Pet Guardian Angels of America)
For Washington State: http://www.pgaa.com/washington.html
Other states (near the bottom, just under RESCUE SCAMS): http://www.pgaa.com/rescues.html
West Seattle Blog -- Lost & Found Pets
Feline-Amber-Alert (Yahoo Groups -- must join, free)
911 Parrot Alert
Parrot Lost & Found:
Cockatiel Rescue/Lost & Found
Permission by Susan Munroe