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Michael Hamilton By Michael Hamilton • February 9, 2019

What to do if you find a lost dog

1. Leave the pet alone

Chances are likely the pet either wandered outside, and the pet’s owner hasn’t realized it yet, but they will soon. Pet’s are loyal and do not run away. They merely wander outside because they are curious and are stolen or taken to a shelter before they can find their way home.

According to a 2012 study published by the ASPCA “Frequency of Lost Dogs and Cats in the United States and the Methods Used to Locate Them” (that included pets that were found before being reported lost):
Of the recovered dogs, almost half were found during a neighborhood search
Dog owners waited up to a whole day before searching for their pet
Cat owners waited as long as three days
Of the recovered cats, 59 percent returned home on their own; 30 percent were found during neighborhood searches

2. Do not under any circumstance call rescue control or take the pet to a shelter.

A shelter will be more than likely:

  • Wrongly classify the animal by its breed at intake, and the pet will get lost in the paper shuffle
  • The pet will not be scanned with the correct microchip reader as there is no universal standard and not all
    microchips can be read by all microchip scanners
  • Determine the pet owner that shows up to retrieve it is a neglectful pet owner and not give the pet back
  • May assume you are the actual pet’s owner and you are relinquishing it
  • Adopt the pet to someone else that is not the owner
  • Relocate the pet to a rescue or foster group
  • Euthanize the pet

Instead, leave your contact information with each shelter and rescue within a 60-mile radius of where you found the pet. The pet owner may then be put in touch with you. Do not leave a pet in any shelter unless the owner is there to meet you.

3. Walk around the neighborhood

Ask everyone you see if they know who the pet belongs to. Chances are, the owner is out frantically looking for the pet as well. You may also learn who the pet’s owner is.

4. Check the pet’s collar for an ID tag and call the telephone number on the number on the ID.

A responsible pet owner will have their phone number on their pet’s ID tag, but don’t assume the pet was abandoned just because it doesn’t have an ID. ID tags and collars can fall off or be taken off. Many pet owners don’t keep their pet’s collars on while they are inside.

If there is no answer, leave a voice mail. If the mailbox is full, you may need to call the number back a few times. The pet owner may be out looking for his or her pet and not have their phone in their possession, they may not have paid their phone bill, the phone could be on silent, or out of power. Don’t assume the pet owner is screening or dodging the call.

5. If there is no ID or collar, take the pet to a vet to be scanned for a microchip.

Beware that not all microchips can be read by all microchip scanners. Ask the vet what brand of scanner they are using. Peeva is the surest bet for reading a chip. Datamars and Home Again have universal scanners as well, but they can not read the Avid encrypted microchip.

6. Find a vet in the Peeva network.

If the pet is registered with Peeva, the pet’s owner will be instantly notified by text and email with the exact address, telephone number, and a map of wherever their pet was scanned in seconds so they can get their pet back. Find a Peeva vet.

Peeva will instantly notify the pet's owner when the microchip is scanned. 

7. Do not become too attached.

Do not let yourself or your kids become too attached to the pet. Remember, you found somebody else’s pet. Don’t mistake kindness for a connection or assume the pet was abandoned.

Hang up signs up around the neighborhood with detailed info about the pet (but not too much detail ) with your contact information. The pet owner will be able to share more, and you can be more confident that the pet belongs to the owner.

Take a picture of the pet and upload it to an app like DoggZam! to learn what kind of breed it is. Remember, most pets are not purebreds, but it will be helpful to know to narrow it down.

A pet owner will be able to tell you more specific details about the pet when they contact you.

8. Utilize social media and #hashtags

Hashtag with characteristics of the pet and check social media for similar hashtags
Check online Lost and Found Pet Databases. There are lots of them. PetFBI.org is a good one that lets pet owners of missing pets to upload descriptions, photos, and locations of lost and found pets. 

9. Make sure the person is the pet’s real owner.

Ask the pet owner to provide descriptive details you left out when getting the word out about the missing pet. The pet’s owner will be able to answer your questions.

You can also notice how the pet responds to the “owner” in person, see how the pet If the pet doesn’t seem to recognize the person or seems scared or unsure, trust your gut.

Ask the pet's owner to show proof with photos or veterinary records. They will be happy to show you. Anyone that acts on the defensive and makes excuses claims they lost their phone or got a new one is more than likely a red flag. A pet’s owner will have their phone on them to meet up with you. Pet owners will have photos online or on social media or in google docs. You can also offer to call the vet from your own phone.