Find a photo that is a good likeness of your pet, and make up a poster that will alert the public about your missing pet. Make sure the photo is of good quality and ideally shows the whole pet (not just the head!) If your pet looks different from different angles, include a few pictures! If you can, print off the posters in colour, as details aren’t as obvious in black and white, and you want it to be eye-catching to the public. Make sure to include: your pet’s name, age, breed, approximate weight (for dogs), area your pet went missing, and date your pet went missing. If your pet was wearing a collar and tags, add this info. Draw people’s attention to any unique physical characteristics. You should also include a note about the pet’s temperament (timid, friendly, etc) as this will help the public in approaching your pet if they find him or her. List at least one reliable telephone number where you can be contacted! It’s a good idea to list to also list an alternate phone number and/or email address. Optional items to include: You may to advertise a reward if found. Some people feel that listing medical conditions or the fact that a pet requires daily medication will encourage someone to come forward who may have taken the pet in or worse, stolen him or her.
Print off your posters and get to work distributing them in the area your pet has gone missing. Place them on poles on the streets, at parks, community bulletin boards, and high traffic areas. Target pet related businesses – pet supply stores, obedience schools, groomers, daycares. Make sure all local veterinary clinics and shelters have a copy – often found animals are brought by good samaritans to these establishments to be scanned for a microchip in the hopes of finding the owner.
Timing matters – don’t delay, waiting to see if he or she will turn up. As soon as you know your pet is missing, start searching. Gather some friends and family and divide and conquer. Search the area your pet was last seen. Arm searchers with treats your pet loves and items which smell like the pet’s home/you, as well as posters that can be put up and handed out. For dogs, especially search areas the pet is familiar with – the local dog park, places you’ve walked together, etc. For cats (especially indoor cats that are not used to the outside world) – make sure to look under cars, in garages, alleys and other hiding spaces. Don’t give up!
Let them know your pet has gone missing and confirm the address the telephone number on your file is still correct – and update your contact info if it’s not. It’s surprising how many chipped pets are found but have out of date contact info, so the finders have no way to reach the owner. People move, numbers change, and sometimes updating this information is forgotten.
Social media is huge, and fast-reaching. Post an electronic version of your Lost Pet Poster on Facebook, and update your Twitter. If you don’t use social media – reach out to someone in your friend circle who does. Once your Lost Pet Poster is out there in cyberspace – it can easily be “shared”, and you’ll reach more people than you know, in no time, who will be keeping their eyes peeled for your baby while you’re out searching.
Don’t just post on your own Facebook profile – most local pet businesses and rescues have Facebook pages as well – with hundreds of subscribers who are already seeing their notifications. Share on their pages. The more you share, the greater your online support network will be. If your pet is a rescue, definitely contact the organization who hooked you up with your pet to share on your behalf! If you got your pet from a breeder, contact them so that they engage their own contacts in the pet world!
The Toronto Humane Society (www.torontohumanesociety.com) has an online bulletin board where lost pet info can be posted – make sure to upload your pet’s photo and info there. They’ve also got a “Found Pets” bulletin board – be sure to look there to see if anyone has listed your pet as Found.
Toronto Animal Services: file a lost pet report with Toronto Animal Services by calling (416) 338-PAWS (7297). Check the lost and found pets in the City Animal Control system at http://www.toronto.ca/animal_services/lost_pets.htm. If your pet is missing outside of Toronto, contact the nearest city animal control office for help.
Helping Lost Pets (www.helpinglostpets.com) is a free online database of Lost Pets in North America – be sure to take advantage of their service. Posting your pet will automatically send out notifications to all local subscribers – which include many shelters and other animal businesses. They post your pet’s information on your behalf to their entire subscriber list of concerned pet people and businesses in the geographic area where your pet has gone missing. You want them working for you – it’s easy and only takes a few minutes! (You can actually pre-register your pet on this site even if he or she is safe at home – create a profile and then in case of the worst, all you have to do is login, change your pet’s status to lost, and add the last seen details.)
Call or walk in to vet clinics and shelters in the area that your pet went missing to inquire if any pets matching his or her description have arrived. Be sure they still have your Lost Pet Poster or listing on hand, and they know how to contact you should your pet show up. Local Toronto shelters have a waiting period that they hold found pets before they go into adoption. Be relentless! In the suburbs or outside of the city, not all shelters are open 24-7 to the public, but many do have staff on site feeding and exercising pets. If they don’t answer the phone, show up and knock on the door!
If someone contacts you having possibly found your pet, check it out even if it seems too far away to possibly be your pet. Animals have been found miles from where they were originally lost.
While we hope it never happens that your pet goes missing, following all these steps will greatly improve the chances your beloved pet will be reunited with you.