It’s easy to think when you find a dog or cat wandering your neighborhood that it’s a stray – either because it always was or because someone decided he or she didn’t want a pet anymore and turned the animal out to the hard, scary streets. But even the most rough-looking animal might simply be lost and its family is looking for it.
It isn’t uncommon for a dog or cat to slip out unnoticed and find itself disoriented and frightened enough that it wanders away from its home and can’t find its way back. Owners should do what they can to make it easy on anyone who finds a lost pet to find where it belongs. This includes a registered microchip – many shelters hold clinics where you can get a chip for cheap or even free – and identifying tags. The tags should include contact information and you should make sure it’s legible at all times. Dogs have a tendency to sink their teeth into anything they can find and chew it to bits. Some of them have the dexterity to do this to something hanging around their necks.
Any veterinarian’s office of animal shelter has the equipment to scan for a microchip and contact the owner. Also, if the animal doesn’t have a tag with the owner’s contact information but has a tag with its veterinarian’s contact information, you can usually find an owner by calling the vet.
But if you are the finder and the owner hasn’t provided any easy way to identify the animal, there are still steps you can take to try to track the owner down. First, call local shelters to find out if someone has reported a missing pet and if not, leave the animal’s description and your contact information so the shelter can reach you if the owner makes contact.
Next, make use of the Internet. You can post about the animal on Facebook – your personal page works, but most areas also have Facebook pages dedicated to the area’s lost pets. Those looking and those finding can use the pages to locate each other. Craig’s List (www.craigslist.com) also has space for advertising lost and found animals. If you make use of Craig’s List, be careful to make sure if the owner finds you there that it really is the owner. Do not post a photo of the animal and hold back a specific descriptive detail that only someone who knows the animal would know. One example is if the animal had on a collar, ask the person to describe it or ask about a unique pattern on the animal’s coat. You can also ask for someone who contacts you to send a photo. Put up posters in the neighborhood if you wish.
And finally, while becoming a bit antiquated, local newspapers remain a good source. Most newspapers will put a free ad in their lost and found section – both in print and online – for found animals. Use the same precautions as you would on Craig’s List.
Once you’ve exhausted all of these methods and you still can’t find who the animal belongs to, it’s safe to assume it belongs to no one, even if it once did. Sadly, many people will turn an unwanted animal out without a second thought or because they cannot care for it anymore and think it’s better off on the street than in a shelter. At that point, you’re free to keep the animal or turn it over to a rescue.