It’s every dog owner’s worst nightmare: A missing pet. Even if you’re fortunate enough never to have experienced the disappearance of a pet, it’s important to plan in advance so you’ll be prepared if your dog ever goes missing. While some missing dogs are reunited with their owners weeks, months or years later, your best chance of finding your dog is within the first day or two after he disappears. Having a plan and acting immediately will improve your chances of being reunited with a missing dog.
Your first response after your dog goes missing should be to check the areas immediately around where your dog was last seen. He may simply be hiding under a nearby bush or have been accidentally shut in a neighbor’s garage. Many wandering dogs don’t go far before they become disoriented and stop to rest and regroup. Check any parks, wilderness areas or even overgrown vacant lots. Listen for barking dogs in the neighborhood and check to see if they’re reacting to your dog passing by their home or yard. Drive around the neighborhood calling and whistling.
Shelters and Animal Control
If your initial search doesn’t locate your dog, the next step is to file a missing dog report with Animal Control and any and all local shelters or rescues that take in stray dogs. If your dog is a purebred, consult all applicable breed rescue organizations as well. You will also need to visit shelters every day. They are usually overwhelmed and understaffed. If your dog is brought to the shelter, there’s no guarantee that they’ll match him to your missing dog report successfully.
Flyers and Internet Postings
Enlist neighbors in the search for your dog by putting up flyers around the area where your dog disappeared. Post in Craigslist’s Pets and Lost & Found sections. Consider taking out a classified ad in the newspaper. Petfinder also offers missing pet listings. Hang flyers in veterinarian’s offices. If the dog is brought in by someone who found it and has decided to keep it, your vet should recognize it from your missing dog flyer and call you.
Be cautious in deciding whether or not to list a reward on your missing dog posters. A reward may encourage others to search for your dog, but it also may encourage people to attempt to scam you by claiming to have your dog but demanding the cash up front. It’s a good idea to say that the dog needs urgent veterinary care and medicine, however–this may discourage people from trying to keep or sell your dog if they find him, or encourage them to take him to a vet who may recognize him as a missing dog.