Lost Pets - Prevent & Prepare!

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our beloved pets escape from our care and the safety of our home. Handling a lost pet situation oftentimes results in frantic calls and sporadic searches. Preventing and preparing for such a situation is an important part of responsible pet ownership.


There are several different steps that you can take to prevent the loss of a pet.

· First, never let your pets outside unless they are secured on a lead or within an enclosure such as a fenced-in yard. Periodically check collars, harnesses, leashes, and tie-outs for wear that could result in breakage. Replace any of these that are damaged or worn. We strongly recommend that cats remain indoors. Free-roam, outside cats face many dangers while not under your care.

· Inspect your home for possible escape routes. These can include loose window screens, wobbly door and fence latches, and fences with loose earth underneath. Repair or reinforce any weak areas.

· It is also important to educate your family and any visitors about the importance of closing exterior doors and being mindful of the household pets when coming and going.

· When travelling, be sure that your pet is secured within the vehicle by either a pet carrier or a harness-style seat belt attachment.


Being prepared for the loss of a pet is extremely important in increasing the chances that your pet is returned to you.

· The simplest action is to make sure that you have clear photos of your pet that you can quickly access. Include photos of your pet from all sides. Take photos of any unique, identifying marks, such as a funny shaped spot or a crocked tail.

· Also be sure to have a collar or harness on your pet at all times. Cats should only wear breakaway collars so that they do not get caught while climbing. Collars and harnesses should always have an identification tag that includes, in order of importance, (1) your phone number, preferably equipped with voicemail, (2) your address, and (3) the pet’s name. The collar should also include the pet’s most current rabies vaccine information and, for dogs, a county license tag. Be sure to license your canine companion each year. Although important, do not rely upon a rabies tag and county dog license tag to properly identify your pet. A custom ID tag is the most useful and quickest tool for directly contacting you. Even then, collars can easily break, fall off, or be removed. They are not failsafe.

· We strongly suggest that your pet be equipped with permanent identification by microchipping. A microchip is a tiny device (about the size of a grain of rice) that is injected under the loose skin between the shoulder blades of your pet. This can be done by your veterinarian for a one-time fee of about $50 and causes minimal discomfort. There are several different companies that provide microchips, so ask your vet for his or her recommendation. VIP Petcare, a walk-in community veterinary clinic, provides microchipping for only $15, along with other very affordable pet care services, at local Pet Supplies Plus locations. The unique microchip number must also be registered in your name and phone number in order for the microchip to be effective in identifying your pet. Be sure to do this. Oftentimes, animals adopted from rescue groups or animal shelters are already implanted with a microchip. All of the dogs and cats adopted from PAWSibilities are microchipped and registered to their new, adoptive family (provided by 24PetWatch)! If you are not sure if your pet is already microchipped, you can ask your vet to scan your pet. Keep the contact information registered to the microchip up to date. If you need to change your phone number, contact your microchip company as soon as possible. Keep a secure, easily-accessible record of your pet’s microchip information. Please note that microchips do not track the location of your pet; this is a common misconception.

We encourage you to consider all of these preparatory options, as each will greatly increase the chances of you being reunited with your pet.


Even though you have tried to prevent the escape of a pet, it can still happen. According to a survey conducted by the ASPCA, 93% of lost dogs and only 74% of lost cats are recovered by their owners. Being prepared for this unfortunate situation will greatly increase the odds of you finding your pet.

· Conduct an initial visual search of your neighborhood or the area in which your pet escaped from as soon as possible. Bring with you your pet’s favorite treats, food, or toy and a pet carrier or leash. If you see your pet, approach calmly. It is most likely frightened and anxious.

· If your pet is found by a good samaritan and has a collar with your contact information, you will hopefully receive a phone call, so keep your phone on and nearby. For dogs, county license tag numbers can provide the person who found your dog with your address and name. You can find the searchable database here.

· Make a “Lost” poster for your pet that includes a clear photo, a description, the area that your pet went missing, and a phone number to contact you. Post copies in and around your community and hand out to neighbors.

· Notify your local shelters that your pet is missing. Be sure to give an accurate, detailed description of your pet, when and where it went missing from, and how to reach you. Ask if anyone has brought in an animal that may be your pet. You can also email or bring in copies of your “Lost” poster so that workers know exactly what your lost pet looks like. For Summit County residents, we suggest you first contact Summit County Animal Control as they always accept healthy strays and it is the most likely place for your pet to be brought if someone found him or her and cannot contact you. You can also leave a detailed voicemail for PAWSibilities on the “Lost & Found” line and we will keep a record of your lost pet. Contacting One of a Kind Pets is also a good idea. All contact information is provided at the end of this article. If you live outside of Summit County, contact your county’s animal control facility and any local rescues.

· Notify your pet’s microchip company. If your pet were to be brought to any shelter or veterinary office, it should be scanned for a microchip. The handheld scanner will provide staff with the necessary information so that you can be contacted. As long as you have kept your information attached to the chip up-to-date, you will be notified that he or she has been found.

· You can also reach out to various online resources to report your pet lost. For example, the Summit County Missing Pet Network allows you to post a description and photo of your pet. There are also social networking groups specifically designed to return pets to their owners. Searching on Facebook would be a good start to find these.

· If you suspect that your pet was unlawfully stolen, contact your local police department through their non-emergency phone line and ask to file a police report.


· Always use caution when attempting to approach a stray animal. Interpret the animal’s body language.

· If the animal allows you to approach it, try to locate any identification tags and contact the owners.

· If there are no identification tags, assess the condition of the animal. Healthy strays should be brought to Summit County Animal Control. The pet will be held at the facility for the owners to reclaim. If the stray pet is found after business hours, we suggest you hold the animal until SCAC reopens the next day. If the stray animal appears to be sick or injured, you can bring it to PAWSibilities. Our mission is to rescue the sick and injured strays of Summit County and at this times, we do not have the resources to accept healthy stray animals. A severely sick or injured animal that is found after hours that appears to need immediate medical attention should be brought to a 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital such as Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital. All animals are scanned for a microchip when brought to an animal shelter or veterinary hospital.

· Dogs at-large that do not allow you to approach or appear to be vicious should be reported to your local dog warden.


Summit County Animal Control and Dog Warden: 330-643-2845

PAWSibilities Lost & Found Voicemail: 330-487-0333, option #2

One of a Kind Pets: 330-865-6200

Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital: 330-666-2976

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