Recently I found a chihuahua running around a grocery store parking lot, and I went through the steps of trying to find his owner. This has not been the first time I've tried to reunite a lost pet with its owner so it got me thinking. I see posts on facebook all the time of people who've found a pet and don't know what to do, so I figured I would throw this instructable together, and hopefully it will help reunite more lost pets with their owners. I could only hope that if either of my dogs were lost someone would do all they could to reunite us.
The picture is of the dog I found.
Step 1: Approach With Caution
This is a very important step!
If you see a lost pet on the street and you are good enough to want to help it, approach with caution. Not all dogs are friendly, and not all dogs are vaccinated. Make sure you read the body language of the dog and make sure you approach slowly. Always let the dog sniff your hand before trying to touch them.
If the pet is injured, take it to the nearest vet immediately. If they are a good vet they will take in injured lost dogs and care for them.
Step 2: Check for Tags
Once you have the lost pet, check the tags. Hopefully the owner has tags on the dog, and those tags have survived whatever the dog has gone through since being lost.
If the tags have a phone number call that number and see if you can return the dog. If the tag only has an address, take the dog home. Always with caution.
Step 3: Check for a Microchip
If the pet doesn't have tags, the next thing you can check for is a microchip. If the pet is a dog or a cat hopefully they are microchipped. If they are, you can take the pet to a place where they have a microchip reader. If it is microchipped the microchip will have the owners information.
Generally vets or animal shelters will have microchip readers. When I found the most recent dog I took him to a vet to check if he had a microchip. Unfortunately he didn't. I also had the vet check for fleas, because my dogs have a perfect record for no fleas.
If the dog has a microchip then you can reunite it with its owners! If not, continue.
Step 4: Post That You Found This Pet Everywhere!
If the pet doesn't have tags or a microchip the next best chance you have of finding the owner is spreading the word.
When people are looking for their lost pets they will check a variety of places.
If you post on craigslist, be very careful. If anyone asks you for money it's probably a scam. Always ask for proof of ownership. If this is truly the owner, they will have some sort of proof including pictures, vet records or paperwork from when they adopted/bought the pet.
If you have a facebook post that you found a pet on facebook and ask your friends to share. When I posted it got shared 300 times! Along with your friends post on pages or groups that are designed for lost and found pets. For example "Lost and Found Pets Washington State." I found the most recent dog in Idaho so I posted in all the Idaho sites. Again, if someone contacts you, ask for proof of ownership and be wary of anyone who asks for money.
Local shelter (Humane Society, ASPCA, etc)
Often times if someone has lost their pet they will contact the local shelter. They generally have databases of lost and found pets.
If the person who lost their pet is local it's likely that their vet is local as well. You can call the vet with a description of the pet and they may recognize it. My vet recognizes both of my dogs.
The photo is of the little dog I found and my dog.
If you still don't hear from the owner it's time to take the next step.
Step 5: Take It to a Local Shelter
Do some research and find a no-kill shelter.
The shelter will have some sort of protocol. At the shelter where I took the dog I found they hold the dog for 10 days for the owner to come forward, and then put the dog up for adoption.
Hopefully the owner will come forward and if not hopefully the pet will be adopted. Take comfort in knowing you did everything you could.
In case you are wondering what happened to the dog I found. We tried everything and the owner never came forward. So, we took the dog to the shelter. After the ten day hold period he was named Hank and my friend adopted him. So, happy story in the end.
The photo is of Hank and his new toy at his new home.