What to Do If You Find a Lost Pet.




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.

Local Veterinarians

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.



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    14 Discussions


    2 years ago

    This is very great post for those who find someone's lost pet and what steps to be followed to handover that pet to the owners. I want to add one more thing " What to do if one lost his pet" as this might also help to those who are passing through this stage. You must follow these steps in such case:-

    • Contact your local vets with the description of your lost pet.
    • If you have lost your dog, you can contact the dog warden through your local council.
    • Put up posters in your area with the picture of your lost pet.
    • Advertise in your local newspapers about your lost pet.

    If you are not satisfied with this solution you can also contact here http://www.qwiknumbers.com/rspca-contact-number


    3 years ago

    Follow #Unothewonderdog on instagram. He's a dog who helps save puppies and kitties

    Glad you have a happy ending! I've reunited my fair share of lost pets with their people! I would mention for pet owners to keep in mind, if you have moved recently or changed your phone number, make sure you keep your pets tags and microchip updated. Pets can get disoriented and stressed after a move and can escape and get lost more easily!

    2 replies

    Danger is my middle name,

    That's a great point!

    Another recommendation that's related, if you live in two places is to have multiple tags. I am at college right now so I have a tag for me at college (eastern washington) and for my parents back home (western washington). That way my dogs are covered if they get lost on either side of the state.

    Almost every dog I have found wandering the streets when I have finally found the owner had been relocated recently and the owners hadn't closed a gate well enough or there was a hole in the fence of the backyard that they didn't know about or something. Fortunately these days people have cell phones and don't have to change their numbers when they move anymore!


    3 years ago on Introduction

    This was very inspiring to me. You provided great steps on what to do when you encounter a lost pet. Microchips are an incredibly vital part of owning any pet, be it cat or dog.

    You really made a difference in Hank's life. Keep up the fantastic work!

    1 reply

    3 years ago on Introduction

    I'm glad your story had a happy ending. Microchips are very important, not only to have, but to keep up to date. Any time a person moves or changes phone numbers, they need to contact the microchip company and make those changes in their record. We found a lost kitty this fall and he was microchipped, but the owner never bothered to put their own info on it! It still had the info of the rescue it came from. With a lot of extra work we were able to locate the owner through backdoor methods. They could have had their pet back a lot sooner had they just put their phone # on the chip!

    3 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    NO! Don't bring them to a shelter. And please don't use craigslist. People snatch up animals and do terrible things to them that way. Call a rescue organization. They will help you place your animal.


    Hi kquitter,

    Thanks for posting and re-emphasizing the point I made about craigslist. I am lucky enough to live in a small town where craigslist is very safe. But often times you are correct, craigslist can be a dangerous place. I will also add this, if you meet someone on craigslist for any reason meet in a public busy place. Police stations make great craigslist meet up locations. If you suggest a police station and they suggest something else, you know exactly what you are dealing with.

    I'll re-post my warning here:

    "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."

    Also, thanks for bringing up rescues, they can be a great resource.

    As far as shelters go, there are good shelters and bad shelters, as I said in the instructable make sure the shelter you are going to is a no-kill shelter. If there is a rescue organization in your area with the resources to take on the dog you found that's also great. However, when looking for their lost pet people are more likely to check the local humane society than a rescue organization that they may not know about.


    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    kquitter--I don't think you meant to respond to me directly, so you may want to repost your comment to the general Ible so the author can see it. I agree with you that craigslist is almost always a terrible idea. No kill shelters do exist, however, so those can be an option or help you get in touch with a rescue in the first place. :)


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Step 5:"Take it to a local shelter"

    must not have actually read the Instructable, because AT NO POINT does it say to
    take the dog to your own home...
    Not sure how he got that idea!?

    Great instructable, btw!

    In no way does this instructable suggest theft of property. I suggest exactly as you do, to take the dog to the Humane Society. All of the steps prior can be taken without taking the pet home. I followed all of these steps, and then called the humane society right away. I only took this particular dog home because the humane society was closed and I couldn't take him until they were open in the morning, as was suggested by the humane society.

    The steps I include here are exactly what the local vet, and humane society told me I should do.

    Checking for tags and a microchip, as well as letting the community know that you found a lost animal is in no way theft of property.

    My intention in writing this instructable was to maybe try to prevent some of the things you suggested. I see people in my community finding pets all the time who don't know what to do, other than just take the pet in. I am simply trying to help people reunite lost pets with their owners.

    I myself have two dogs and I would only hope that someone would follow these steps to try and find me if someone found my pet.


    3 years ago

    This a a good instructable. I would like to recommend that if you find a lost pet with a neglect and a chain (sometimes only a single rope, DO NOT TAKES IT OUT OF THE DOG/CAT NEG), the animal might runaway and get out of control. And if you find an abandoned animal, you might want to adopt them