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Lost and Found, Part 3: Finding a lost pet

January 29, 2013
Handsome Samson

Samson a few months after I found him

It happens to many of us… we see a dog running loose in the street, or a “stray” cat starts hanging around our house. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the animal has been abandoned, but it could simply be the case of a runaway or lost pet. I admit, when I found Samson a couple years ago, I didn’t do everything I’m going to recommend because 1) I didn’t know as much as I do now and 2) It was pretty clear he had been dumped. I found him near a trail head miles from any houses and he was skinny and tick-infested… it was obvious he had been out there a while. In any case, the steps you take when you find a lost animal could make the difference for someone who is looking for a beloved family member.

If the dog or cat is wearing tags, returning it to it’s owner is often as simple as calling the contact number listed. However, sometimes people fail to keep their contact information current, or the pet is not wearing tags at all. In that case, finding the owner may take a little more detective work on your part.

The first thing I recommend is to take the animal to your nearest vet or shelter to have it scanned for a microchip. If you find the animal after hours, bring it inside for the night (or at least the garage with some blankets) so it can stay warm and safe. If it’s not microchipped, and you’re able to hold on to it for a few days, put up fliers and notify local shelters and veterinarians that you’ve found someone’s pet. Many shelters have a Found Animal Form that you can fill out and keep on file at the shelter. This is especially important since many people who have lost a pet will check their local shelters. You should also post ads in your local paper and on Craigslist, as well as your social media sites. You may also want to consider driving your neighborhood looking for lost pet flyers the owner may have put up.

If all else fails and you can’t keep the animal at your place, your best bet is to take it to the shelter. In California, all shelters are currently required to put the animal on a 72 hour “stray hold” before evaluating it for possible adoption. Some shelters may even have a longer waiting period.

Although it may be tempting to keep an animal you’ve found, especially if it’s cute or well-behaved, you should make every effort to find its owner first. Someone may be out there desperately searching for their best friend.




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