What to Do If Your Pet Is Lost

Posted April 26, 2007 3:23 p.m. EDT
Updated April 26, 2007 4:26 p.m. EDT

Who to Contact
If you live in Wake County and you've lost a pet of any kind, phone in a Lost Animal Report to the SPCA Lost & Found Pet Center at 772-3203 (FAX 772-8968) and fill out a Lost Animal Report online at the Wake County Animal Shelter Web site.

If you find your pet, please call in a Cancellation Report to the SPCA Lost & Found Pet Center at 772-3203 (FAX 772-8968) so we will know we no longer have to worry about your lost pet and fill out a Cancellation Form online at the Wake County Animal Shelter Web site.

Lost a Pet In Another County
If you live outside of Wake County, call the shelter in the county in which you lost the animal, as well as the shelter in the county in which you live, if these are different.

What Information Is Needed

When you call or visit the shelter, make sure you give the pet's name, breed, size, sex, color and markings. Special features such as floppy ears, length of tail, or eye color can be helpful. If possible, leave a photo of your pet at the Adoption Center with the lost pet report.

Make a Lost Pet Flyer
Make up a flyer with a picture of your pet and all pertinent information on who to contact if found.

Visit the Shelter(s)
It is best to also visit the shelters in person because shelters receive many animals every day and it is difficult for shelter staff to identify your pet from a telephone description. In addition, even though your pet was wearing an identification and/or rabies tag when it was lost, the tag may become detached from the animal's collar, and your pet may arrive at the shelter without a tag. Ask the shelter the minimum amount of time they hold a stray, and visit them at least that often. In Wake County, it is important to try to visit the shelters at least every four days, since stray animals can be placed up for adoption after they have been in a shelter for five days. Please note: If your lost animal is at the SPCA Lost & Found Pet Center, reclaim fees may be paid in cash or with Mastercard or Visa credit or debit cards. We do not accept personal checks for these fees.

Helpful Tips:

1. The minute you notice your pet is gone, set out on foot in the neighborhood, calling the pet's name. Most dogs will hang around the area where they were lost for 12 to 24 hours. As you go, ask neighbors and every child you see to look out for the pet.
2. Make up a flyer with a picture of your pet and a description and post throughout your neighborhood and/or the area where you lost your pet. Put these up at any location that has a steady stream of people, i.e., supermarkets, pet stores, public telephones, gas stations, bulletin boards in police stations, veterinary offices, drug stores and other places where children might hang out, for they are more likely than adults to notice a seemingly lost pet. These notices should include a color picture of the animal, where and when lost, a full description of color, size, breed, age, sex and identifying characteristics and your phone number. DO NOT put an address on them.
3. Call your local daily newspapers and place an ad, offering a reward, for your lost pet in the lost and found column in the classified section. Often these ads can be placed free of charge. Check all Lost and Found ads on a daily basis for possible responses. Some newspapers let you place ads online like The News & Observer. The News & Observer runs a 5-day ad in the paper and 10-day ad online. The easiest way to place a Lost and Found pet ad with The News & Observer is to call 919-829-4600 or 1-800-662-6040.
4. Call all local veterinarians, in addition to placing a poster at their offices. Also check the local after-hours pet emergency clinics. If you live in Wake County, call all three emergency clinics at 781-5145 (Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh), 233-4911 (Tryon Road & Kildaire Farm Road in Cary) and 462-8989 (Old Apex Road and Cary Parkway in Cary).
5. Notify your local police station and/or sheriff's office. Some people do report found pets to local authorities first. Leave a stack of posters.
6. Call the radio stations listed in the yellow pages of your local phone book and ask if they will announce lost pets as a public service. If they do, give them a description of your pet.
7. Give your mail carrier and pizza delivery drivers a copy of your lost pet poster. These carriers travel your neighborhood 6-7 days a week.

Additional Tips

1. For your own safety, if you receive a response to your inquiries, remember to use your head - not your emotions - when making arrangements to claim your lost pet:
    a. Do not have the caller come to your home. Suggest meeting in front of your         local police station. If the call is not legitimate, this will immediately discourage         the caller.
    b. Do not meet the caller alone. Arrange for a friend or relative to go with you.
    c. Do not give in to attempts callers may make for you to meet at their home or anywhere else. Insist on meeting at an agreed upon destination.

2. Whenever you have a possible match, do not rule out the possibility because the pet was found a good distance from where it was lost. People often transport pets great distances, then put them out again (or they get out on their own).

3. If you find your pet, or have other pets, take action to make sure your pet doesn't get lost in the future. Put permanent identification tags with your name and phone number on your pet's collar, and always make sure your pet is wearing its collar. Speak to your veterinarian about giving your pet a microchip identification number, repair your fence, lock your gate, and keep cats inside. It is easier to avoid having your pet get lost than it is to go through the heartache of trying to find a lost pet.