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Helping lost pets find their way back to their owners or into a new home

Lost and found pets need your help to find their way back home.
Lost and found pets need your help to find their way back home.Gila Todd

You don’t have to be a professional rescue organization to help stray or abandoned pets. People do it all the time, whether they realize they are doing it or not.

Animals wander up to our homes, we find them along roadsides, and they show up in parking lots and the places we work. We rescue them as soon as we take them in, and by doing so, we make an unspoken commitment to do the best we can to either get them back home, help them find a loving home, or keep them as part of our own family.

The efforts are rewarding. Privately rescuing an animal keeps them off the streets where they may suffer and perish from injury, illness, starvation or the elements. It also keeps them out of underfunded, overpopulated, or high kill shelters that may not have space for another pet.

Keep in mind that if you find a pet that does not appear to be in the best health, don't automatically assume the pet has been abandoned purposefully, or is abused or neglected. There is no way of knowing how long the animal has been astray from its owners, who may very well be wonderful pet owners, that simply lost their pet. Animals run away from home frequently and sometimes become lost for days, weeks, or even months, before they are every found and/or taken in, by anyone. They may have broken free from a leash or lead, escaped through an open door, or dug out of their fenced back yard; animals escape their owners all the time so please, try not to judge too harshly.

Many times, animals are kept or re-homed before any effort is ever made to find the original owners who may be worried sick and really want their pet to come home. And when you make the decision to “rescue” an animal from being stray or lost, it is your responsibility to find the owner of that animal before you attempt to re-home it or keep it. After all, if it were your pet, you would certainly want someone to try to contact you to let you know they have it.

Following are a few suggestions on how to get the word out about a pet you have found and help you find their original owner.

If you have the capability of making a flyer, do so with all the information you have about the pet that you have found. Make sure to include the following:

  • At least one good image of the animal
  • Breed of the animal
  • Sex of animal
  • Spayed or neutered if you can tell
  • Description including approximate weight, size, etc.
  • Any information you may have pertaining to the animal such as the area it was found, date it was found, etc.
  • Your first name
  • Your telephone number, email address, or both. (Please be sure to note your preferred method of contact)

If you do not have the ability to make a flyer, make the effort to contact someone that you know who can. You can print and distribute the flyer at local veterinarian offices, pet supply store, pet groomers, local businesses, postal offices, laundromats, etc. You can also use the flyer in an image form to share on social media.

Now that you have compiled all the necessary information, it’s time to get the word out. Post flyers anywhere you can.

-Contact all local veterinarians and notify them that you have found the pet. Many times when an animal goes missing, owners will call their veterinarian to report them missing. Make a “found” report with the veterinarian offices you contact. Provide a flyer is you have made one.

-Contact your local animal pounds, rescues, and shelters. Often times, pet owners will make a lost report with these agencies and they may already have a report on the pet you have found, and can put you in contact with the owner. Make a found report with these agencies for the pet you have found. Provide a flyer if you have made one.

-Look on Facebook for lost and found pet pages and check to see if someone is reporting a lost pet. If you don’t find the pet you have found on these pages, make a post to share the pet you have found. (To see a list of Southeast Missouri lost and found pet pages on Facebook, click here.)

-Lost and found pets spread like wildfire on social media and it’s the absolute best way to spread the word about lost/found pets. You share with your friends, they share with theirs, and their friends share, and pretty soon thousands of people are aware that a pet is looking for their owner. Thousands of pets find their way home, every day, through social media. You will be responsible for managing your posts which means you will need to field all calls and contacts concerning that pet.

-Send private messages to animal rescues and shelters on Facebook telling them about the animal you have found, including an image of the animal. (Use the flyer if you’ve made one) Some will re-post the information and some will simply keep their eyes and ears open for anyone missing such an animal. Never post your found pet directly on the wall of any rescue or shelter Facebook page without first asking permission. While some will allow it, others do not, and will not take kindly to the intrusion.

-Call or email neighbors and friends and ask around about anyone possibly missing a pet. You would be surprised how fast word travels by such means.

-Search your local newspaper classifieds for lost pets. If you don’t find any lost pets, meeting the description of the one you have found, run a “found” ad in the newspaper. Many times these ads are free and will provide great results.

-Talk about the pet you have found. Tell everyone you come in contact with about the animal. You never know who might know of someone missing their pet.

While this may seem like a lot to do for an animal that is not your own, you cared enough to take it in and off the streets, you certainly must care enough to do what it takes to either get it back home where it belongs, or find a loving home for it.

In the event that someone responds to your “found” pet advertisement, do everything possible to ensure that the pet does indeed belong to them. Require them to tell you about any distinguishable markings or mannerisms the pet may have, that you didn’t advertise on your flyer or social network postings. Anyone who has truly owned the pet can give you distinct information about them.

Just be careful, as sometimes people will try to collect pets, not belonging to them, that have been found by others. They may be claiming ownership for unscrupulous reasons like using the pet you have found for dog fighting, bait animals, resale, and sales to testing labs. Some people will claim animals simply to abuse them.

Once you have made every effort to locate the pet’s original owner you may either choose to keep the pet yourself or try to re-home it.

If you decide to keep the animal as your own, pull down the flyers, and remove your posts from all social media where possible, and make an appointment with your local veterinarian, if you already haven’t.

If you do decide to re-home the animal, take the following steps.

-If you have already posted the pet as “found” on social media pages, and decide to re-home it, go back to the original posting you made and edit the post indicate that that the pet is now looking for a new home. For pages that do not allowing “re-homing” posts, simply delete the original post or leave it up as “found” until you have completed the re-homing process. Often times people will comment that they are interested in giving the animal a home if the original owner is not found. Delete the post immediately if the owner comes forward.

-Search for social media pages that allow for re-home animals and post your edited flyer, indicating that the animal is available and looking for a new home. Many of these type pages on Facebook are listed as “buy/sell/trade”

-You will be responsible for managing your posts about re-homing said pet which means you will need to field all calls and contact concerning that pet. If the owner is found, the animal is re-homed, or you choose to keep it, delete all posts, and pull down all flyers concerning said pet.

If you are unable to find the pet’s owner, choose not to keep it yourself, or cannot re-home it after a reasonable amount of time, contact your local animal shelter about surrendering the pet. Try to stay away from surrendering to municipal animal pounds unless they have some sort of rescue program in place. Click here for a list of pet rescues and shelters in Southeast Missouri.