Lost Pets: A Guide To Prevention & Rescue

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Animal companions have been a meaningful part of human existence since prehistory and this fact still endures in contemporary times. 

Losing a beloved domestic animal can be a devastating experience for every pet owner. But if there is one thing more troubling than the death of their beloved pets (natural or otherwise), it is their sudden disappearance.

There is no peace in the hearts and minds of any anxious pet owner until the beloved missing pet is found alive and unharmed. Unlike those who mourn for deceased animal companions, the burden of owners who are still seeking their lost pets only gets heavier each passing day without resolution.

Chapter - 1

Missing Pet Facts & Statistics


Between the two most popular animal companions in the country, it appears that cats are more likely to go missing at home than dogs. In terms of the recovery likelihood, finding a lost cat is the most difficult process. The same previously mentioned research has confirmed that lost dogs have a recovery rate of 93% while lost cats only have up to 75% guarantee.

A recent 2018 study found out that only a third of the reported missing cats get to be reunited with their owners within 7 days. Roughly up to 61% of all these missing cats were eventually recovered by the end of the year. Between a totally indoor cat and a feline with free outdoor access, the latter tends to wander at a comparatively greater distance. 

dog and cat loss statistics

The results of this study have also underscored the stark mortality risk of lost cats unrecovered beyond the span of 90 days. Despite that, a thorough physical search can significantly increase the chance of finding a lost cat alive – with up to 75% success rate for those that are located at certain areas within a 500-meter radius from their escape point.

The success in finding the lost cats alive is (literally) a matter of time and distance. However, it is important to understand that the relatively higher risk of losing a pet cat also points to the degree of spatial restriction owners put into effect.

Curiously, however, it is relatively more troubling for a dog to be missing than a cat. Much to their owner’s relief, it is commonplace for cats to come back home after their long escapade (or after a prolonged hiding somewhere in the residence). Lost dogs, on the other hand, may either be stolen or captured by animal control like many unwanted strays.


Key Reasons Why Pets Escape

Every incident involving pet disappearance has a trigger that rarely crosses the minds of most people. As it happens, there are a number of relatively similar scenarios that cause both dogs and cats to leave their homes.

However, it is also important to consider some circumstances that are unique to each species. A keener understanding of these triggers may provide pet owners with clues and solutions to prevent their pets from wandering away. 

For both cats and dogs, reasons for absence include the following:

  • Fear or Panic
    • Both cats and dogs are repelled by loud noise (e.g. firecrackers).
    • Cats are easily stressed by a negative social atmosphere.
    • Cats are usually jumpy around many strangers (humans and animals alike).
    • Dogs are usually uneasy inside moving cars and may jump off the window.
  • Hunting Instinct
    • Cats (even well-fed ones) are hard-wired to track down and kill vermin and small animals (e.g. birds) in large numbers.
    • Aggressive dogs are drawn by the sight and scent of visible prey (e.g. wild goose) outside the house.
  • Sex Drive
    • Both unsterilized cats and dogs have overpowering sexual urges.
    • Male cats can be lured away by the scent (pheromones) of nearby female strays.
    • Female cats are likely to wander outdoors and leave their scent for male strays.
    • Female dogs are driven by the impulse to mate and reproduce.
  • Escape Routes
    • Cats can sneak out of the house through several various exit points – from wide open windows to broken vents.
    • Cats can quickly leap out of doors opened by unwary people or climb over fences/walls (regardless of the height).
    • Dogs can jump over low fences or dig through the earth beneath it.
    • Dogs can rush out of gates opened by unguarded people.
  • Familiarity
    • Cats may leave the new home in search of their separated dear ones (e.g. biological mother/sibling or even previous pet owners).
    • Cats may also leave the new home in search of a comparatively more viable/comfortable zone in their previous territory.
    • Dogs are very uneasy with unknown settings (e.g. new home) and vibes (e.g. prolonged absence of owners), often prompting them to run away.

Exclusively for cats, reasons for absence include the following:

  • Exploration
    • Due to their independent nature, cats usually cannot resist the thrill of absconding.
    • These tendencies are more prevalent after dark (e.g. 3:00 AM. zoomies).
  • Neglect
    • Cats will flee from home if their food and water bowls are empty for a long time.
    • The outdoors can easily provide them with food (prey) and recreation.
  • Territorial Claims
    • Cats have a very strong sense of territorial/spatial comfort.
    • If the house interiors do not make them feel safe, they seek it elsewhere.
    • This problem is usually prevalent among multiple cats (not of the same litter) vying for comfort zones, with one or several of them failing to assimilate and eventually being driven away.
    • This problem is also very notable among feline home invasions, where the owner’s pet is chased away by a hostile trespasser (ironically, it can be a neighbor cat).
  • Injuries/Infection
    • As born efficient hunters, cats hide when there are very sick or wounded so they would not become vulnerable to larger, faster, and/or stronger predators.
    • The extent of their concealment (in terms of distance and duration) is relative to the seriousness of their infirmity.
    • Cats prefer to leave and/or hide from their owners if they suffer a mortal trauma/infection as a last ditch effort to conceal their own weakness.

Exclusively for dogs, reasons for absence include the following:

  • Theft
    • Nearly 2 million pets are stolen in the United States every year.
    • Purebred dogs are stolen because of their profitable street value.
    • Dogs are either kidnapped for ransom money or sold to interested buyers (as pit fighters, test subjects, or puppy mill breeders).
    • One of the most insidious methods of dog theft is accomplished via “free to good home” sheltering – a cost-effective but extremely risky alternative to conventional pet hotels or kennels.
  • Restlessness
    • Dogs develop attitude problems (e.g. aggression) if they do not have enough exercise to release their pent-up energy.
    • Energetic variety of dogs require up to 120 minutes of exercise, while docile ones require at least 30 minutes.
  • Guardianship
    • Dogs are highly protective of their owner’s territory.
    • A mere hint of intrusion can set dogs on the edge and chase strangers away.
    • The German Shepherd, Bull Mastiff, and Boxer are among the top 10 guard dogs in the United States.

Chapter - 2

Ways To Prevent Losing Pets



The healthy coexistence of humans and animal companions begins with a tangible form of acknowledgment. For the cats and dogs, they rub (imprint) their scent onto their owner’s skin. In their language, it means “I am safe with you.” Inversely, people sanctify their bond with their pets by dressing them with personalized collars. In our language, it ought to mean, “You are safe with me.”

This safety is best understood in terms of being the most rudimentary means of rescuing lost animal companions. If a cat or dog winds up in a strange place, the ID collar is the only obvious indicator of existing ownership strangers will see. Some may quickly notify the real owners while others would simply turn them over to animal shelters to absolve themselves of responsibility. 

  • About Cat & Dog Collars

The legible details inscribed on the cat’s/dog’s collar must be strictly intended to increase the chances of being reunited with its owner. Aside from their given names, the other fine points to be engraved in their buckles or plates include the owner’s contact details and even specific medical conditions (e.g. deafness). The latter especially aims to underscore certain protocols that animal rescuers must observe in order to avoid causing adverse effects.

The earliest use of cat collars dates back as far as Ancient Egypt (2,500 to 2350 BC). Dog collars also came into existence roughly at the same epoch and civilization, although the earliest modifications that suit practical purposes were realized in Ancient Greece – particularly in their use of dogs in warfare and hunting.

Many people are led to believe the myth that collars are not for cats. However, a 2010 study published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) confirmed that 391 out of 538 subject cats managed to successfully wear their collars for more than 6 months.

391 out of 538 subject cats managed to successfully wear their collars for more than 6 months.

Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) Tweet

It was discovered that the owner’s attitude (optimistic or not) and initial exposure training determines success despite the cat’s perceived stubbornness.

It is also important to consider what type of collar cats are wearing. Contemporary veterinarians suggest a variety with a ‘safety’ or ‘breakaway’ main feature. The leading cause of injury (if not death) directly associated with cat collars is often due to accidental entrapment. Safety cat collars are designed to loosen itself off the neck if it gets caught, therefore preventing asphyxiation. 

  • About Pet Documents

Murphy’s Law is an axiom that best exemplifies the principle of (arguably) healthy paranoia. It states that “Whatever that can go wrong will go wrong.” Under this principle, anyone thinking about the possibility of losing their beloved pets will most likely experience it. Hence, an individual may go through greater lengths to prevent this from happening.

In the context of losing pets, some of the possible worst case scenarios that owners might experience include natural disasters, theft, and divorce. Reclaiming lost and found pets following these particular unfortunate incidents always require solid proof of ownership. Here are the following documents pet owners must have:

  • Updated Photograph: preferably glossy with 5×7 dimensions
  • Pet Ownership License: depending on the particular US city/county
  • Veterinary Records: clean bill of health and a certificate of vaccination and sterilization 
  • Microchip Records: a formal document of microchip tracking registry details
  • Legal Pedigree Registries: Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) for cats and/or American Kennel Club (AKC) for dogs

Health Check

Annual visits to the vet clinic not only keep pet owners informed of their animal companion’s physical well-being. It is also instrumental in preventing the possibility of pets escaping their owner’s home. As instinctual creatures, their health directly affects their behavior.

As mentioned earlier, cats usually run away from home when they are undergoing extreme and/or persistent physical pain. Preliminary tests may be able to detect or rule out chronic diseases (e.g. feline HIV) that can likely trigger their escapist tendencies.

The overpowering sex drive is a common cause of flight by both cats and dogs. If there is one medical service that best addresses the problem of escapist pets, it is the surgical removal of their reproductive organs – also known as neutering (males) and spaying (females).

Sterilization effectively eliminates the raging hormones that bring out the feral side of cats and dogs. Hence, animal companions become more docile and well-behaved. While this procedure is generally safe and highly recommended by veterinarians, pet owners must also be wary of ruling out conditions that result to fatal side effects:

  • Age: it is risky for young pets to undergo sterilization due to the potency of anesthesia and the lasting physical and psychological harm of ‘stunted puberty.’
  • Vaccination: veterinarians highly recommend a waiting period of at least two weeks from recent immunization before going under the knife to avoid chemical adverse effects.
  • Last Supper: food and water intake the night before the operation can cause nausea or an accidental intrusion of digested substance into the airways. 

Microchip Tracking

For every responsible and meticulous pet owner, no other measure best puts Murphy’s Law into practice than surgically implanting microchip tracking devices into their beloved animal companions. This technology is specifically designed to project a real-time geographical trajectory, allowing owners to efficiently conduct physical searches.

One cannot locate a tagged lost animal if the device is broken. Thus, it is crucial to determine how well this device operates at an average frequency. In the same 2010 study by JAVMA, 477 out of 478 of the sample microchips scanned on recovered cats remained functional. As per technological usefulness, veterinarians have an overwhelming support for microchip tracking.

Another aspect that determines the efficiency of microchip tracking is the rate of returned animals at the onset of recovery. In a research conducted by the University of Ohio in 2009, it was discovered that roughly 63.5% of cat owners and 74.1% of dog owners are reunited with their animal companions.

The aforementioned study identifies the inconsistencies with data mapping as the leading problem in terms of reuniting people with recovered pets. Many tend to overlook the importance of renewing the address encoded in the database of their previous local animal shelter/s whenever they change residence. Thus, pets remain unclaimed after being sent to wrong addresses.

When it comes to the general health concern, the positive assessment of microchip implants significantly drops. 

Roughly up to 10% of the laboratory animals (rats and dogs) develop malignant tumors due to microchip implants in their body.

Harvard University

Some pet owners might wager against the possible health perils, especially if their cat or dog is a serious flight risk. But there are others that simply won’t jeopardize their animal companion’s physical well-being. Alternatively, there are high-tech GPS collars for both cats and dogs that are able to deliver the same functionality of microchip trackers – yet absent of potential health risks.     


As pointed out in the earlier part of the article, a radical change in the domestic environment often triggers severe distress that forces animal companions to flee their new home. In the particular case of cats, simply being introduced into a new environment can be frightening. It often takes a lot of effort for cat owners to help their fastidious fur babies to adapt and overcome this anxiety.

It certainly benefits most cat owners to acclimatize their pets to a completely indoor lifestyle. According to ASPCA Alabama, the average lifespan of outdoor-access cats does not exceed five years. A number of reasons that contribute to their mortality include the following:

  • Being hit by speeding vehicles
  • Ingesting a poisonous substance (e.g. mistletoe, antifreeze, etc)
  • Being attacked by other animals (e.g. dogs, raccoons, etc)
  • Contracting deadly infectious diseases (e.g. feline HIV)
  • Being captured by furious or cruel people

Cats that are completely sheltered and safeguarded from these dangers can sustain an average lifespan of 20 years or more. The first step to introducing cats in a new home is to allow them to freely roam every corner of the house interiors. Letting them explore every room expedites the process of becoming more familiar and comfortable with their surroundings. 

While the cat’s strong territorial consciousness helps in navigating ‘safe zones’ inside the house, it can be very detrimental in their acclimatization if they are faced with a newcomer (another cat outside its kin). Depending on their behavioral profile, indoor cats would either flee from an unwanted guest or chase them away.

One must take note of establishing and gradually reducing spatial boundaries between two conflicting felines. It may take a couple of months or more for the seemingly irreconcilable cats to become accustomed to each other’s company. It also helps to have separate food/water bowls for each cat since communal feeding can be a source of violent territorial strife.

The same hazards also apply to dogs that are given unlimited access outside the residential perimeters. But even inside the comfort of their owner’s house, certain things can traumatize them to the extent of feeling repulsed with their environment. Loud and terrifying sounds could disfigure them psychologically. Common examples of these noises include the following:

  • Fireworks
  • Thunderstorms
  • Pouring rain
  • Factory noises
  • Festive events
  • Freight trains
  • Emergency sirens
  • Motor horns

Fortunately, it is possible for pet owners to help their beloved canines overcome this particular weakness. Desensitizing your dog to loud noises entails a gradual process of exposure therapy that may span several weeks to a few months.

One can play a recorded version of their pet’s most hated noise at a lower volume during the first few sessions. Dogs can eventually build tolerance as time passes by. The increase in volume is precisely dependent on how much of the odd noise the dog can bear without objection.

Supervised Travel

People need to temporarily leave their homes for whatever valid reason. The same can be said about animal companions. Traveling is a healthy occasion in their domestic lifestyle defined by annual visits to the local vet clinic, community pet events, vacations, social appointments, or a private time of building rapport with their owners.

Pet owners must take special care in preventing any likelihood of being separated from their animal companions whenever they go outside the house. Cats and dogs either become very excited or terrified to experience the outdoors. Both of these strong feelings impel them to burst out of the door/gate and run at their top speed.

It is important to take note that chasing after jumpy pets is out of the question. Domestic cats and large long-legged dogs can run at a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour – roughly 3 miles ahead of the fastest human being on record (Usain Bolt). Supervised travel means keeping the animal companions tethered to their owners.

  • Pet Carriers

Cats and small dogs must be transported in a carrier during long trips. These small animals must be locked securely in their crates before ever opening the door. It is usually easy to travel when they are already accustomed to their temporary confinement. The difficult part is to get them habituated.

Like any form of conditioning habits, getting small animals to feel at ease inside their crate requires a slow and gradual but consistent training process spanning roughly several weeks. Experts advice positive encouragement when introducing cats and small dogs to their carriers – among which includes padding the inner surface with their favorite blanket and putting toys inside. 

Apart from the prescribed drill schedule, the learning process can be expedited by taking several opportunities to open their carrier and allowing them to enter on their own. However this progress unfolds, the ultimate goal is to extend the duration of being caged without feeling stressed. One has completely accomplished this task if their animal companions can stay locked in overnight.

  • Leash & Harness

Other than carriers, pets also need to feel accustomed to wearing leashed harnesses. It is very dangerous for cats to undergo supervised strolling if their owners merely attach the leash to their collar. Unlike dogs, feline necks are comparatively fragile and prone to strangulation. A harness ensures that tension and resistance are evenly distributed at the robust upper torso.

It may take a while for small animal companions to get used to their harness, but the conditioning is relatively shorter than that of pet crating. Cats are always required to wear a tethered harness before heading out for a supervised stroll. As advised by experts, pet owners must avoid choosing retractable leashes to prevent possible serious injuries.

Home Improvement

Vigilance is a virtue that is not only beneficial for maintaining the animal companion’s security while traveling outdoors. The same principle (or even more so) also applies to the interior environment. The physical features of the residential property can be a key to preventing the escape and disappearance of beloved pets.

Whether pet owners have just recently moved in or have lived in the residence for a decade, it can be beneficial to check the structural integrity of the home interiors. The ultimate goal in this particular strategy is to eliminate any possible makeshift exit routes. Some flaws can be amended by doing minor repairs, while other defects require a great deal of renovation.

Due to their size and flexibility, cats are capable of inching their way out of broken vents or chimneys. Some felines are able to claw their way out through a mesh screen. But forced exit is only a fraction of the cat’s overall breakout stunt. Some flights are accomplished by taking advantage of their owner’s relative laxity.

People normally forget to close windows out of habit or slight mental lapse (from stress or sleep deprivation). Cats can get away if conventional windows do not usually have a solid protective barrier at the exterior. By installing impenetrable window grilles, there’s less reason to blame fatigue as the cause of a beloved feline’s prolonged absence.

Preventing the escape of dogs is possible by installing high fences with concrete foundations. Huge hyperactive breeds like the Golden Retriever or Labrador can either leap over the low enclosures (below 6 feet) or dig under the soil. For small dogs like the Chihuahua or Pomeranian, owners must close the gap between each vertical shaft of the fence with chicken wire to block their exit.

It is important to keep in mind that there is more to domestic security than just sealing holes and improving barriers. Homeowners must also consider relatively sophisticated surveillance system to strengthen the means of deterring the escape of beloved animal companions.

The basics of a surveillance system that prevents pet getaways include a video camera and safe repellent devices. The former provides the means to monitor their animal companion’s movement and the latter functions as an extension of an owner’s preventive action during his/her absence. Pets are always needy creatures, especially against their own poor judgment.       

In terms of choosing surveillance video cameras, consider the following advanced features:

  • Motion sensor with mobile phone notification
    • Can differentiate patterns of behavior thru movement
    • Can differentiate between animal and human movement
  • Complete room/panorama visibility
  • Night vision and voice control
  • Two-way audiovisual communication

In terms of choosing a non-lethal means of warding off pets attempting to bolt through open doors/gates, one may consider these effective add-ons or instruments:

  • Coyote rollers (roll bar) lining the top of high fences deny cats and jumping dogs foothold.
  • Motion-activated repellant spray chases cats away whenever they approach a ‘forbidden’ area.
  • L-footers are cheaper alternatives to concrete flooring in terms of preventing dogs from digging through the earth under fences.
  • Dense shrubs (e.g. boxwood) planted along a relatively shorter fence (5-feet high) creates a hurdle distance that is too vast for dogs to leap over.

Lifestyle Adjustments

How people maintain their homes can significantly affect the way animal companions behave. The physical improvements in the house, either planned or accomplished, only comprises a comparatively small fraction of the overall measures necessary to prevent the sudden disappearance of beloved pets. They merely anticipate some of the possibilities one cannot control.

Lifestyle adjustments such as house rules and training can do a whole lot more in terms of maintaining a secure coexistence between pets and owners. Unlike most of the strategies previously mentioned, this part requires negligible monetary costs. But a huge investment in terms of time and energy (patience) optimizes every potential one can control.

  • About House Rules

There is no doubt that a lot of people consider pet ownership to be a burden since attendance to the animal companions’ well-being requires another fraction of their daily schedule. If one may look at it positively, owning pets is simply ‘parenting with half the related anxieties.’

Considering the independent nature of cats, pet owners may consider them to be low-maintenance in terms of socialization. Experts recommend spending an average of 20 to 30 minutes of playtime to suit their needs. While cats excel in terms of relative liberty, they have a very low threshold to transgressing their ‘general sense of order.’

A sudden change in the environment or routine can be very stressful for cats. But nothing can be quite unpleasant (enough for them to escape their ’unbearable living conditions’) than repeatedly finding themselves having a depleted food/water bowl and unclean litter box. 

As mentioned earlier, cats tend to become very disagreeable with a newcomer that feeds/drinks on their bowl. But this fierce territorial rivalry extends beyond communal feeding. Pet owners must provide multiple hiding places inside the house. This way, each indoor cat can live an idyllic life that does not result in one or few getting bullied out of the residence.

Speaking of the domestic environment, one must also inform guests to give an indoor cat ‘personal space.’ Too much noise and physical contact (e.g. hugging) can be very overwhelming. It is also crucial to inform guests to be wary of the doors and windows. Flight risk felines are quick to take advantage of any person who isn’t vigilant with unguarded exit points.

Dogs, on the other hand, are almost everything in reverse of cats. They can put up with the less hygienic environment, unbridled spontaneity, or even the absence of personal space. What they cannot tolerate is loneliness. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, separation anxiety comprises up to 40% of the clinical referrals in North America for canine behavioral issues.

The amount of playtime/exercise dogs require is often relative to their size and breed. Healthy dogs that are built for assisted manual labor (e.g. hunting, herding, or service) require at least one hour and 30 minutes of daily exercise – with 30 minutes devoted to rigorous cardio workout. Bulldogs, on the other hand, only require a minimum of 30-minute walk per day.

  • About Training

One of the few very interesting features of owning animal companions is the fact these creatures can be trained to perform tricks at one’s behest. Cats and dogs are smart enough to execute moves that are worthy of crowd spectacle. However, there are only two commands that prove very useful in terms of preventing the pet’s escapade and/or absence – “Stay!” and “Come!

Training cats to comprehend and respond vocal cues not only enforce successful recall. It also confirms whether or not the absence of a cat is merely a false alarm. As mentioned earlier, cats have a habit of hiding in several concealed areas in the residence. Successful command training spares pet owners from needless anxiety.

Command training in dogs is crucial in preventing its loss in a sense that it prevents possible theft. A research published in the Journal of Behavioral Processes in 2014 concluded that trained dogs have a faster response to commands given by their owners than commands given by strangers. Hence, it is a lot harder to trick well-trained dogs into approaching suspicious people.

Chapter - 3

Ways to Find Lost Pet

pet database

Database Registration

Pets may still disappear at their owner’s home even in spite of the time and energy spent on preventing this ill fate. An animal companion that remains missing for a day already warrants concern. A lot can happen in a span of 24 hours and every permissible moment increases the likelihood of the dreaded tragedy.

Cat owners may be able to afford a luxury of remaining calm considering that their pets are likely to return at an undetermined time – especially for those who opted for an outdoor-access living arrangement. However, two days of absence must already warrant an action.

Dog owners realizing their pet’s sudden prolonged absence ought to check their outdoor yard. A busted section of the fence (or dug out soil next to it) is a typical sign of a forceful exit. The disappearance of a beloved dog, absent of signs of forced trespassing, can only mean two things – the temporary guardians have kidnapped it or outsiders have pulled off a very clean heist.

The first course of action after the noticeable absence of the pet is to search at an online ‘lost and found pet database.’ There are a number of online services that provide an open-access catalog. But one can determine the best page if it has these two options that significantly narrow down the investigation into a handful of existing registered profiles:

  • Zip Code: to narrow down the vast nationwide scope to the most relevant localized address.
  • Microchip Number: to instantly reveal the whereabouts in case pets are already found.

As mentioned in the earlier part of the article, having a microchip tracking device surgically installed to an animal companion makes things a whole lot easier. Local animal shelters/agencies have a great advantage in terms of time and resources that allow them to recover, sort out, and expediently report a select few ‘tagged’ by their owners among the pool of unaccounted strays.

Sadly, the chances of a lost pet immediately popping out of the search database at first perusal are very slim. But even if that’s the case, one can always use the same search engine to report the absence of their pets. Apart from providing the microchip number and zip code, recent photos and ‘search range’ (usually in meters) can further boost progress for the local rescue groups.


Expert Assistance

It is simply not enough for pet owners to sit back and wait for an optimistic outcome after uploading a file into the local online animal registry. In fact, no devoted and endeared benefactor of a lost animal companion can ever do so considering all the dreadful ‘what ifs’ going on inside his/her head.

The next step individuals must take is to ask for assistance from the right people. This means being able to report to the law enforcement, animal control services, and members of the Humane Society in the city/county. Providing these people with copies of all the necessary identification documents also fuels the success of their search.

  • About the Police

Local law enforcement agencies have a canine search and rescue unit that helps track down missing people, objects, and animals. When hiring the services of this unit, it also pays to know the average ‘trail retention’ of their professional dogs. One can significantly increase the chances of tracking the lost pet’s scent at least within 24 hours of its absence.

Take note: between all the mentioned right people, only the local police are authorized to deal with theft of animal companion. It is best to consult a lawyer to rule out flaws in the assumption to confirm that the missing animal companion is a victim of such felony. Pet theft is a complex property crime involving a wide network of active perpetrators that fuel an illegal industry.

  • About the Humane Society

It is important to remember that, even with the broad capability of the local police department, they are still public servants that maintain a strong sense of impartiality. They cannot guarantee additional manpower resources or extended time regardless of the complainant’s sentiments. Hence, one can turn towards active members of the Humane Society for additional assistance.

Being the largest and most effective animal protection organization in the United States, the Humane Society can guarantee genuine commitment and passion that the police cannot officially pledge. This organization has a branch in every state in the country, all geared towards a singular cause of protecting and advancing the welfare of animals (domestic and wildlife).

Field employees in this organization perform a wide variety of services dealing with the animal crisis. Rescuers can dedicate their full working days locating lost pets and are not restricted by geographical jurisdictions (precincts) that bind all police patrol protocols. One can also take advantage of their vast network to intensify the overall effort and expect immediate feedback.

  • About the Animal Control

Unlike protection organizations, animal control caters to the interest of civil society. While human and animal coexistence is beneficial at a smaller scale, civilization is fundamentally a polar opposite of wildlife ecosystem. Animal control patrols make rounds in the streets day and night to ‘arrest’ stray animals before they cause problems for the public (e.g. animal bites).

The main reason why the animal control service is included among the recipient of their missing pet report is to inform them that one of the cats or dogs they have/might found already has an owner. When a lost pet is brought to the animal control, they are held in a pound for 3 days before they are either sold for adoption or euthanized. Owners must firmly exercise their rights.

Government-run shelters in some areas may notify pet owners but it is not a binding nationwide policy. One must be very wary of the 73-hour grace period following the incarceration of captured animals. An urgent visit must be conducted within a day after the missing report.

rescue shelters

Rescue Stopover

Speaking of visits, one must also include pet sanctuaries and animal shelters run by protection agencies or volunteers as the next destinations. Fortunately, these places do not have a deadline. Hence, there is no urgency to save their lost pets from death or permanent separation.

It is important to take note that the fight to preserve life and ownership is not a solitary burden carried by pet owners. Organizations that protect and advocate the welfare of stray animals are temporarily adopting captured animals in batches. They are at the front lines of rescuing lost and homeless pets from the harsh sentence routinely enforced by the local animal control.

There are two types of animal shelters and knowing one from another allows distraught pet owners to at least categorize which venue to visit the earliest. As featured earlier, a ‘kill shelter’ takes captured animals in large numbers and merely grants a few days of grace period before being transferred or euthanized. A ‘no-kill shelter,’ on the other hand, does not make euthanasia mandatory for healthy non-feral animals. In fact, they can stay confined for years.

Pet owners who still failed to recover their missing animal companions at this juncture ought to map the nearest ‘kill shelters’ in the neighborhood as the initial stopovers. Even if their beloved pets still remain missing, they can pretty much breathe a fleeting sigh of relief if they are able to clear these places in 3 days. 

Flyers & Local Ads

In case previous efforts haven’t succeeded and the animal companion remains missing, it is a good time for pet owners to intensify their effort by going public. This means posting flyers and using key broadcasting media. The police and rescue groups could need all the help they can get and an alliance with the rest of the local citizens/townsfolk makes their job easier.

  • About Lost Pet Flyers

Like printing out a resumé or a product ad, concerned pet owners must seriously consider precision in terms of profile presentation. Bystanders must be able to clearly read and understand what they are looking at. An effective presentation is comprised of the following aspects:

  • Clear Colored Photo: avoid using grained and monochrome pictures.
  • Accurate Details: include the pet’s name, breed, fur color, and accessories.
  • Time Stamp: the exact time pet owners have noticed the animal’s disappearance.
  • Font & Structure: the header must be above the picture and readable from a few steps away.

In addition to the aforementioned basic requirements, it also helps in to win the hearts of Good Samaritans by leaving one emotional statement. Speaking of an appeal to humanity, one may consider placing flyers in strategic locations that are close to the hearts of the people. Try requesting permission to post flyers from proprietors/custodians of these venues:

  • Bistros and pubs/bars
  • Parks, plazas, and playgrounds
  • Shops, bazaars, and street cafes
  • Community centers and sports venues

Not every person that sees the lost pet flyers with a catchy quote of anguish is easily moved to help. Hence, a person might consider money as a stronger incentive in the absence of altruistic spirit. Mentioning ‘rewards’ in the flyer details is generally a debatable issue. Should one decide to use it as leverage, it is crucial for pet owners to be very cautious and avoid posting exact figures.

  • About the Newspaper

There’s only so much printed material a distraught household can produce, especially in such a short amount of time. Even if one can singlehandedly print a hundred flyers in one day, it is only expedient if they are all posted outside. If there is one avenue that enables pet owners to distribute the information at an exponential volume, it is the local newspapers.

Placing an ad for lost pets can tremendously increase the audience and their relative odds of recovering the missing animal companion. As of 2017, Nielsen Holdings confirmed that nearly 170 million adults in the United States are reading newspapers – contributing to the highest level of engagement among the business-minded sectors of society.

Every potential client for newspaper publishing understands the costs necessary to disseminate details in a single circulation. The total expenses covered by this particular instrument will depend on the number of times the ad is being run and the size and color of the print.

  • About the Radio Broadcast

It definitely pays off to have more than one type of medium for distributing a public notice for missing pets. After all, one must consider the unfortunate reality that not every American who is capable of providing assistance knows how to read. According to recent data by the US Department of Education and National Institute of Literacy, this overall headcount is up to 32 million adults.

Literacy, however, only comprises half of the overall drawbacks of using printed material. Not everyone has the time or opportunity to read newspapers. But with the radio stations broadcasting public announcements anywhere with an AM/FM frequency, they keep the public informed even when they are too busy doing anything else (e.g. driving). 

As of 2018, it is estimated that this medium is reaching 93% of American adults per week. The only real disadvantage of using radio as a mechanism is that the ad only gets to be featured within a very restricted timeframe. Fortunately, one can choose a broadcast schedule. Experts advise paying for a slot at 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM since a morning drive yields the highest number of listeners.

Neighborhood Patrol

At this point, distraught pet owners can pretty much expect updates either from the police, rescue groups, animal control services, and shelters or vet clinics that happen to scan the microchip. If the best solutions haven’t succeeded yet, one can never completely disregard the potential of public advertising to rally aid from Good Samaritans.

Idleness always inflames anxiety and it only worsens after each passing day. Keeping oneself busy is therapeutic for depressed pet owners who are being plagued by horrific ‘what ifs.’ Regardless of the available free time, it is beneficial for pet owners to conduct physical searches in the neighborhood to abate their guilt (especially if the loss is caused by negligence).

As mentioned earlier, there is a huge chance of finding lost cats somewhere within the 500-meter radius from the residential property. Hence, an errant outdoor walk should be heavily concentrated within three-tenths of a mile. It also helps pet owners to rig conspicuous hiding spots (e.g. sewer tunnel exists) with non-lethal traps to capture their feisty beloved adventurers.

Aside from being an active part of the search and rescue effort, another useful opportunity one can find in scouring the neighborhood is to gather support from people close to home. Neighbors can be a very effective manpower resource since they are (in theory) more trustworthy than strangers.

It helps to visit nearby houses and ask questions face to face once in a while. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with the repetitive invasion of privacy. Asking for their contact details is more preferable, especially in terms of including them in the social media circle.

Online Social Media

There is no doubt in everyone’s minds that the internet is considered to be the universal communication tool. It is only natural for contemporary pet owners to use it as a billboard of their special concerns. As it happens, the first step in the process of recovering lost pets inevitably entails navigating the information superhighway.

In addition to the online local database registry, one can also take advantage of the power of social media in order to champion a non-profit cause. Facebook is still the best page since it is free of charge and it still remains as the most popular networking platform. Its viewership and engagement comprise roughly 69% of all online Americans.

There are a number of ways one can fully utilize the Facebook profile as an instrument that fuels the search. Here are some of the technical areas worth exploring:

  • Wall Posts: edit the privacy settings to ‘public’ when posting a PDF version of flyers
  • Group Chat: this works well if the owner knows every neighbor within a 500-meter radius
  • Fan Page: existing fan pages (e.g. Lost Pet Found Pet) also has a special newsfeed for any updates on reports of lost or missing pets.

The beauty of using Facebook is that it can be a productive means of verifying responses from multiple claimants. Complete strangers certainly have different and unique motives for helping than individuals belonging in a close social network. The latter is potentially more trustworthy.   

criminals asking for pets

Response Verification

For every troubled pet owner that still searches for their beloved animal companion, a great deal of the overwhelming stress comes from worry. But for each passing day that pets go missing, it is the hope of being reunited that makes every ounce of effort bearable and meaningful.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the same state of mind experienced wrongdoers want to exploit. In this case, there are two types of belligerents that plague the distressed pet owners. These are the prank callers and disguised crooks (pet thieves).

  • About Prank Callers

As mentioned earlier, pet owners have to be very careful in terms of approaching those who claim to find their beloved animal companions. Prank calls are among the few insufferable obstacles to being reunited with lost pets. There is nothing good about being at the receiving end of a sick joke, especially considering the emotional burdens at hand.

Establishing ‘confirmation instructions’ is a very clever way of identifying genuine callers and rooting out the idiotic troublemakers. After all, sincere claimants are willing to comply with any careful measures set by the pet owners.

One of the possible methods of confirmation includes instructing claimants to file a report to a legitimate third party (either the police department or rescue group involved in this case) prior to calling the pet owners directly. In this particular scenario, it is crucial to put callers on hold after acquiring their name and ask the legitimate third party to verify the caller’s identity.

Alas, effectively screening prank callers is just a partial success. It is important to keep in mind that some individuals would go through the hoops for a cash reward. Compared to prank callers, these nefarious characters are far more problematic.       

  • About Disguised Crooks

A different type of vigilance applies if there is a monetary incentive set in place. Every avid fan of crime thriller movies simply cannot help but compare this specific scenario to a climactic episode of a kidnap-for-ransom plot. The greatest strategic advantage in terms of dealing with those who respond to pet owners comes down to knowing the caller’s profile.

There’s a reason why it was previously advised not to mention exact figures when posting rewards in the flyers. Anonymity helps sift through the Good Samaritans and disguised crooks. The absence of real figures in the posted ads will either ensnare or discourage scammers.

Those who took the bait with the ambiguous reward are setting themselves up for further scrutiny. These callers have a higher chance of becoming genuine Good Samaritans provided that they pass a meticulous ‘character test.’ Experts identify a potential crook if he/she…

  • Dictates how much the reward (ransom) costs
  • Dictates that the money be wired instead of delivered by hand
  • Refuses to meet the pet owner in person
  • Avoids disclosing his/her home address for the meeting

Judging from the outline of reactions, it is painfully obvious that money trumps over the welfare of the recovered lost animal (as well as the distress of the pet owner). These conditions sound like a carefully concealed threat, for which the real dangers are magnified by “or else.” Good Samaritans never dictate terms and are always willing to personally welcome pet owners in their homes.

So what is to be done with disguised crooks? Obviously, they are too dangerous to be ignored. Moreover, it is an important civic duty to report these characters to the authorities. Apart from perpetuating an illegal enterprise, there is a strong likelihood that they indeed possess the pet owner’s lost an animal companion. This level of threat is best left in the hands of the police.