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Tips for Finding a Lost Pet

What to do if your dog or cat is lost.

Search Repeatedly and Look in Hiding Places

Walk or drive through your neighborhood several times a day, showing neighbors, mail carriers, and delivery people a photo of your pet. Give out flyers.

File a lost pet report with every shelter within a 60-mile radius of your home and visit the nearest shelters daily, if possible. To find local shelters, check the phone book or do a search online.

Keep in mind that pets are often afraid when they're lost and find hiding places, usually nearby.

Dogs look for sheds or vacant spaces, and come out when it's dark to search for food, usually on roads, says pet detective Carl Washington of Augusta, Ga. 

Cats typically won't stray more than 400 yards from the house, but their hiding spots may be harder to find and to access.

Washington says pets are typically found within 48 hours.

 

Get Collar Tags

Weiss likes the old-fashioned ID tags that go on your pet's collar. At the very least, your cell phone number should be included on the tag.

"We know that dogs and cats that wear ID tags are much more likely to go home," Weiss says.

Estimating the number of pets that are parted from their owners is difficult, she says, because there's no central registry for lost pets.

"We don't know how many pets are strays or abandoned or lost," Weiss says. "There are a lot of lovely cats and dogs that appear to be lost, and then there are [people who] don't tag their animals and the animals are taken by somebody else," Weiss says.

The ASPCA is working on programs to save shelter animals and increase the number of animals returned to their owners, Weiss says. Research has shown that between 15% and 30% of the millions of dogs that end up in the nation's approximately 5,000 shelters are returned to their owners. For cats, the number is far lower - about 5% -- because they don't end up in shelters as often.

Microchips

Microchips the size of a grain of rice can be implanted under your pet's skin, usually between the shoulder blades. They transmit an identification code and the phone number of the appropriate registry via radio frequency waves.

Most shelters and veterinarian offices can implant the microchip, and most have the scanners needed to read them. The cost of the chip and implantation is typically no more than $75. In addition, the owner of the dog must submit the appropriate documents and fee to register the chip with the parent company; if this step is overlooked, the microchip is useless if the dog is lost. 

If a pet is found, the shelter or veterinarian will routinely scan for a chip and contact the registry. In turn, the microchip company will contact the pet owner.

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