The following survey was conducted over the course of several months in late 2015 to early 2016. The first day was June 6, 2015 then sporadically onward through February 2016. The purpose was to learn the percentage of owned dogs and cats in the United States that are reported lost, and of these reported lost pets (specifically dogs and cats), the percentage that are reclaimed by their owners (those that reported the pets as lost). This was for 'our' research purposes only and it should be taken as such. Nevertheless, it serves as the most comprehensive analysis on the subject to date of the sort.
We surveyed in person a total of 4048 people and we narrowed our qualified sameple set down to 1356 qualified pet owners with a total of 1409 qualified pets*. Pet owners and pet sample set was based on whether or not the survey respondant ever owned a dog or cat as a prior pet within the past ten years. The total amount of which was 1409 pets reported missing. 34.8% of the total pets in our culled down sample set were reported missing at some point. (48%) of which were dogs 676 total and (52%) were cats 733 total. 86% of which were never found. 96% of the cats that were reported missing were never found. 77% of the dogs that were reported missing were never found.
* The number of qualified participants was not proportional to the percent of pets that were included in our culled down sample set
The problem over missing pets in the United States is broadly recognized, but ‘actual’ statistics are hard to come by as no national reporting structure exists. Animal care and control agencies are not uniformly required to keep stats on the number of animals that are taken in, adopted, euthanized, or reclaimed.
According to the American Humane Association 1 out of 3 pets become lost at some point in their lifetime and close to 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the US every single year  and according to the Coalition for Reuniting Pets and Families, less than 23% of lost pets in the United States are reunited with their owners. 
We felt the most recent data was out of date and to assume the above ratios would still hold seemed unrealistic. Numerous technologies have since been developed and continue to be developed in the pet space since the latest data was reported and Americans spend billions of dollars annually  on their pets and ways to secure them with these various technologies. Further, with the advent of new technologies in the computing space, data management, document management, and retention, coupled with standards of accountability (that the private sector is held to). Especially when taken into account with what we know and gather from the quantifiable data reported on pet owner spend, and consumer behavior we theorized the numbers could have only improved. Never the less, in summary and to our astonishment, our results were spot on to what the earlier sources told us and the epidemic hasn’t improved despite any of the aforementioned technological advancements.
Taking into consideration what pet owners want to know
- If my dog is lost or stolen what is the likelihood I will find him?
- Is puppy theft a real problem?
- If my dog is lost, what is the likelihood of me ever finding it?
- What is the ratio of pets that go missing and are found in the United States?
- What is the likelihood of finding your pet?
- How many pets go missing in the US?
- Where can I find missing pet statistics in the US?
- What is the return rate of missing pets?
- How many pets are killed in shelters each year?
Indicative Sample Set of the US pet owner population as a whole
According to the APPA geography, demographics, interests, income, and lifestyle differences do not reflect differences in pet owner spending. Nevertheless, a sampling indicative of the entire US population was required.
What we did not do
We did not aimlessly and randomly dial telephone numbers or survey pet owners online. Online surveys are significant to an extent, but in this instance, the results could have quickly become skewed. Inbound respondents more likely to click a Facebook Advertisement would have more than likely had a pet stolen at some point whereas a vetted list would have prequalified respondents from biased sources such as social media followers of missing pet pages or animal welfare organizations. Randomly dialing phone numbers in every township in say the top 20 markets would have also been extremely time consuming and poor use of resources. Ironically we did this locally.
We stood outside a PetSmart location in Buffalo, NY and surveyed people walking into the store. From a macro view, this may appear to be a limited sample set. However, the location we chose and the pool of shoppers it draws from is indicative of a national sample set. Buffalo is financially and culturally diverse, right up the middle in regards to the top 100 US markets, and overall sample set indicative of the US pet owner population as whole.
Aside from the occasional snowstorm, the area is free of hurricanes and other natural disasters which would skew results. Peeva is also based here.
PetSmart was chosen as is it is the leading brick and mortar pet retailer in the United States. Standing outside a pet store in general increased the odds of finding pet owners.
There are several PetSmart locations in the Buffalo region, but the location we chose borders on a blue collar working class neighborhood to the West, a middle-class neighborhood to the East, and a wealthy area in the Central Park area of North Buffalo to the South. There is also a bus stop at the plaza where the store is located.
We surveyed a total of 4,048 customers entering the store over a sporadic period beinnning on June 6, 2015 and continuing onward thorough November of 2016.
Participants were disqualified
- if they never had a pet before in the past
- if they relinquished the former pet to a shelter (there were a total of 31 relinquished pets among our 617 survey participants)
- if the former pet was a foster
Participants were qualified based on whether or not they ever owned a dog or cat in the past before their current pet (if they had one).
4048 total surveyed 426 had dogs and cats at time of survey that had microchips implanted
1356 qualified survey participants (reported a missing dog or cat in the past)
1409 total qualified former pets (total number of pets that were reported missing)
100% of the respondents reported their pet missing to various shelters within 20 miles of where their pet was last seen
(48%) were dogs 676 total-
(52%) were cats 733 total
203 total pets relinquished to a shelter in the past were not included in survey analysis, foster pets were not included in this survey, the number of fosters was not recorded.
Of the 733 cats that were reported missing at some point
704 were NEVER found
54 in total had microchips
of the 29 total cats that were found
17 had microchips
- 2 were found by a vet that scanned the chip
- 15 were found at a shelter that scanned the chip
9 were found from missing pet signs in neighborhood
1 from newspaper
Of the 676 dogs that were reported missing at some point 521 were never found
115 in total had microchips
of the 155 total dogs that were found
78 were found with a microchip
- 26 were found at a vet that scanned the microchip
- 52 were scanned at shelters
Of the pets that were not found by a microchip
- 31 were found by pet owner calling the shelters (relentlessly)
- 38 were found by signs
- 6 were found from advertisement in newspaper
- 2 were found from social media
We estimate the number of pets euthanized in U.S. shelters every year to be between 9.4 to 9.6 million.
One-third of all dogs and cats go missing in their lifetimes
Over 80% are never found.