It can be overwhelming and seemingly a hopeless mission to find your pet in a big city when you lose them. Millions of people, cars, places to go… Where do you start? What do you prioritize? Where do you go?
Heres a list that I hope helps to organize this process for you. 12 tips and actions you can take towards finding your lost pet within the CRUCIAL 72 HOUR initial loss time period. You’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s not impossible. You just have to remain focused, calm, and determined.
1) Craigslist it and check LOST AND FOUND on Craigslist frequently
One of the most commonly seen/used lost and found community sites in the United States is Craigslist. Posting a photo of your lost pet, description, and last seen details can vastly raise the visibility of your dog. If someone has not found your dog, you will often receive several emails from local concerned animal lovers with suggestions and offers to post out to their friends. Also, someone may have posted your dog themselves to help find the owner! Especially if they wanted to avoid dropping them at a pound or animal control center.
2) Call Game Warden and local park rangers
Many parks have other pups that may attract your own! Those parks are monitored by Park Rangers who will report loose or stray dogs as well as detail reports of other people finding them. Also, for the more grim side of things, if your dog was seriously injured and found deceased on the street or within a park parameter, they may report that as well. As sad as finding your dog deceased may be… At least you will have the opportunity to know the truth and maybe recover the body for burial.
3) Contact Animal Control
The most common drop spot for found animals is often the city local Animal Control. They take all strays and found animals from citizens, police, and other organizations. Most Animal Control Centers only hold a lost pet for 72 hours before they release them for adoption to the public or euthanize them so you need to check in with them constantly. If you’re in NYC click here for the contact sheet.
4) Give Flyers with a photo to neighbors likely the pet will return to the same general Vicinity.
If you have had your pet for a while, they will likely be familiar with HOME. That means if they have not been picked up by a police officer, the pound, or an average person… They have a high likelihood or returning to the general area. Also give flyers to nearby doormen in front of clubs, hotels, and bars. They stand out front all day/night and see everything!
5) Contact every local vet clinic even if they don’t do rescues
We managed to find our dog at a clinic that had just one doctor. One room. And no rescue kennels. They were not mandatorily required to Animal Control and left it up to the owner to help the dog find its home. Yet, they honor the 72 hour adoption rule, which meant the man who found the dog could file ownership papers within three days. Which means if we hadnt visited this obscure place… Our dog would have been his dog. Your pet could be in a place like this, small and not connected to other hospitals and shelters. Call ALL of them and leave your information, bring a flyer in if you can. Within 72 hours of losing your dog… Or your pup could be basking in the clutches of another persons arms.
6) Put it on Facebook, twitter, instagram and HASHTAG your city name, the dog breed and any names of local rescue organizations
Surprisingly your pet search could be a part of what is trending. People who are searching these hash tags often love or are in some way invested in them. Dog, city, local rescue organizations… When combined with a plea to help find your lost pet can strike the heartchords of a voyeur and help get another person on your search team.
7) Physically go to the animal control kennels and rescue facilities and do a walk through to see every single dog
Many animal shelters post photos of the animals they receive online. But that’s not that case for all of them. Your pet may have gone through a hard journey and the photo may not be recognizable or accurate in description. Also, your small pet may be held Ina. Kennel with larger breed pets and fall through the cracks. These accidents happen due to high plume of dropoffs. So go in and look yourself, your lovely furry friend may be hiding there waiting for you!
8) Retrace the steps you last saw your dog take look under lofted objects and near stinky piles of trash
If your pet is hurt or scared, they may instinctively hide. Many animals are attracted to stinky places, dark places, and covered places. Get low, look under trash dumpsters and porches carefully. Alert construction workers and landscapers on sites that are near your home and where the pet was last seen. They often work in fenced off areas not accessible to the public that are chock full of nooks, crannies, and equipment to disappear in.
9) Call and email animal rights and lovers groups like PETA and ARF.
Time is sensitive! If you live in a big city, you will need a big search team that cares about your pet just as much as you do. That’s why contacting animal advocacy groups and animal lover organizations is a great idea… Because many of the people will sympathize with your cause. They may also be a part of forums, sites, and other animal rescue circles you haven’t explored yet and can get he word out there faster. Send these organizations emails, call them, or post on their social media for maximum attention.
10) Flyer and alert local pet stores
This may seem silly, but sometimes… Someone finds a dog and decides to keep it. If they don’t already own a pet, they will need to buy new accessories and may go to a pet specific store to do so. They might tell employees that they found the pet, they may even read flyers within the store if they were available. Show a flyer to employees or a manager and ask them to keep an eye out for any new customers that may have a matching furry friend. Stories can be read from various sources that recall victories of finding pets though Petco and local pet stores.
11) Visit neighborhood dog parks… Someone may be walking your dog already.
In the case that you can not find your pet before they are adopted by someone else… Or before someone else finds them first and decides to keep them- go visit local dog parks on occasion. Inform locals there that you lost your pup and leave flyers. Your dog will likely be taken out for walks, play dates, or frolics. The frequent flyers of the region will be likely to observe new dogs playing with their own that match a description of your own… And investigate.
12) file a police report
Having a public record will vastly improve your chances of finding your pet. Many people if they are not able to catch a freely frolicking animal will call 911 and report it. On top of that, if your pet is causing any kind of commotion, running through traffic, or has been picked up by a local stranger… Many times people make the move of reporting to an officer. If you recover your pet later on and valve not chipped them or do not have paperwork indicating that that pet is yours, you can utilize the police report to help prove that you are indeed the owner.
The Story that Inspired the Article
A friend of mine recently lost her dog, a small adorable Morkie. She frantically messaged me in the evening that the dog had slipped its collar, run into traffic, got hit by a car, and ran 5 avenues through traffic before disappearing. When I responded that I’d help in the search, she was despondent- sure we would never find her beloved furry friend again because the pet was NOT MICROCHIPPED, NOT SPAYED, NO COLLAR, STILL A PUPPY, WORTH A LOT OF MONEY (as well as potentially critically injured from being struck by a vehicle.)
I knew that the first 72 hours were crucial. We live in NYC… a bustling city of millions… and the dog ran off near Penn Station. A place chock full of traffic. The likelihood that she had been picked up by a stranger or hit by a car again fatally were very high. This dog meant the world to my dear friend, and I knew that losing it would wreak emotional havoc.
But how do you find a dog with virtually no identification on it, valued at a high worth, in NYC? You do EVERYTHING. And that’s exactly what I did. After 2 days of trekking through the rain soaked streets of NYC, visiting dozens of clinics, constantly refreshing social media sites, passing out flyer after flyer desperately, spending hours on the phone with various people, and more I finally got a break.
From a Craigslist ad I had posted, I was contacted by a pet detective and animal lover. Within 12 hours of our first conversation she had a lead. An anonymous woman who was dining in a vegan cafe, Blossom, witnessed a man walk in with a Morkie claiming he had found an unchipped dog in the street. She mentioned that he had a NYFD leash and did not buy anything.
This clue lead me to visit every nearby fire department, the vegan cafe, and then after realizing that the clue of him mentioning the dog was not microchipped meant he had likely gone to a vet to scan for a chip- I went to nearby vet clinics. Sure enough, I walked into a small one room single doctor operated facility and the receptionist whipped out the finder’s number. Within a couple hours I had her back in my arms and back in her mothers arms.
The person who found the dog offered to buy the dog from me. He was convinced the puppy would be better loved in his home. Apparently according to the clinic, since the dog was not micro-chipped and had no ID tags, if no one had come to claim her within 72 hours he could have legally adopted her. Meaning that my friend would never see her pet again. The person who found her was kind and handled the return of the dog with a tearful goodbye. However- because he DID want to keep her so badly he did not report finding her to Animal Control, any other vet, or any other organization. If we had not received a tip from an alert customer in a tiny restaurant who just happened to feel compelled to write on the pet detectives forum who I just happened to meet due to posting on Craigslist that would lead me to this very very small business not known for rescuing animals…. we would have never found her.
SO- in order to help YOU in case YOU ever lose a pet in a big city… I’ve compiled a list of a dozen things that I did that ultimately lead to this pet’s finding. In my case, flyers, social media, craigslist, and physically investigating local clinics ALL TOGETHER worked. It wasn’t just one thing. If you love your pet and need to bring them back home- I hope one of these or all of these tips help!
THE FIRST 72 HOURS ARE CRUCIAL!!! If you lose your pet within the confines of a bustling city or large town, they are likely to be spotted or picked up by someone within the first 24 hours. The most common place that a lost pet will be reported to will be your local Animal Control. Many Animal Control centers have a 72 hour holding rule for found pets… And if that pet is not claimed within that time frame they are often put up for adoption to the public or euthanized. Searching vigorously for your pet within those first three to four days literally could mean the difference between life and death.