It’s every pet parent’s nightmare: Your dog or cat has gotten loose and you don’t know where he or she is. Don’t panic—there are steps you can take to locate your pet. Swift action, coupled with major neighborhood networking, will increase the odds of having your furry friend back in your arms. The key is to get the word out to as many people in as many places as possible, so don’t be shy about enlisting the help of your friends and family in the search efforts.
Remember, identification can be a lifesaver for a lost pet. It’s a good idea for all your animal companions—even indoor-only pets—to always wear a collar with an ID tag that includes your name, current phone number and any relevant contact information. If you’ve chosen to microchip your pet as a means of permanent identification, keep in mind that microchips are only as good as the information provided to the chip’s company. If you’ve moved or changed your phone number since registering your pet’s chip, be sure to submit an update as soon as possible. July 1 is National ID Your Pet Day, which serves as an annual check-in to make sure your pets’ identification information is up to date.
If your pet does go missing, below are actions you can take to begin the search process.
Search Your Home and Alert Neighbors
As soon as you notice your pet is missing, talk to your family members or housemates and ask where they last saw your pet. Search your home carefully—under beds, in closets, dark places, small places, behind bulky furniture—in case your pet may be hiding or sleeping somewhere. Shaking a food dish, treat jar or favorite toy will sometimes lure animals out of a hiding place. If you are sure your pet is not in or around the home, take a slow ride or walk around your neighborhood. Bring along a recent photo of your pet and ask neighbors if they’ve seen him or her. Check under porches and shrubs, and ask neighbors to check in sheds and garages in case your pet was accidently locked in.
Work the Phones
Calls should be made to the local animal control agencies, veterinary hospitals, shelters (both municipal and private) and rescue groups in your area. One of them may already have your pet in custody. Check in with shelters daily—and pay these visits in person with photos of your pet to distribute to shelter staff. If there are no shelters close to your home, contact the police.
Tell Your Social Media Networks
Send an email about your lost pet to local friends, colleagues and family members and ask them to pass on the information to anyone they can. Then, be sure to share the news with your social media networks. Most communities have local “Lost Pet” Facebook pages where they will post information about missing pets. Reach out to those page administrators and see if they will share information about your pet. You can create your own Facebook page or digital card for your lost pet, and share it across your social networks—and ask friends and family to spread the word to their contacts.
Create a “Lost Pet” Flyer
You’ll want to create a flyer that will stand out and get noticed by people who may have seen your pet. Repeated viewings of a consistent message are more likely to stick in people’s minds, so we recommend sticking with one design for your flyer.
Start with a big, bold headline that people can read from a distance, like “LOST DOG” or “MISSING CAT.” Include a clearly printed, recent photo of your pet and list the breed, sex, coloring, age, weight, any distinguishing features and when and where he or she was last seen. Provide your name and two phone numbers: yours and a friend or family member’s in case you cannot be reached.
Blanket the Neighborhood
Good places to post your flyers include dog parks and runs, pet supply stores and pet grooming shops and veterinary offices. Various commercial establishments like grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, laundromats, bars, cafes and restaurants are other good high-traffic options.
Cover lampposts and trees near where you think your pet was lost, and around busy commercial and pedestrian sections of town. Put up flyers around schools or at kids’-eye level. Children can be more observant than adults, especially when it comes to animals.
Don’t Give Up!
This one is important! Remember that many lost animals have found their way back home.
Download the ASPCA Mobile App for Additional Resources
When you download the ASPCA mobile app, you'll receive a personalized missing pet recovery kit, including step-by-step instructions on how to search for a lost animal in a variety of circumstances. You can also build a lost pet digital flyer that can be shared instantly on your social media channels.