Finding Fido: Recommended Steps to Recover or Reunite a Lost Dog


photograph of a brown mixed breed dog running down a road surrounded by empty field

Life throws curveballs. All is well and calm with Fido content by our side until the dreaded day arrives. He makes a panic-induced run out the door/gate/car, leaving you desperate and worried. Or this: you’re driving along a busy four-lane or a street in the suburbs and there he is… that dog, any dog, cute, scraggly, big, small… It doesn’t matter because it’s a dog and you are, well, you. Leaving him is not an option. In either scenario, what do you do?

Dogs, like people, are quirky, neurotic creatures who don’t always make wise choices. The idea of them getting hurt, or worse, causes our hearts to constrict. They are our Achilles heel and the path to our humanity. The idea of losing or finding a dog is daunting, but know that you can control the situation and replace helplessness with resolve and good tactics. Keeping your common sense and remaining calm and creative will help get Fido home safely again.

Below are recommended actions to take when you find yourself either searching for your lost dog or you’ve found someone else’s lost dog.

You’ve Lost a Pet:

  •  Inquire with and advise the local county animal shelter immediately. Provide a description and contact information if Fido shows up after your notification.
  •  Contact your local law enforcement. Animal control is often within the sheriff’s jurisdiction, and they will know for what to look or which pets have been found.
  •  Register with a lost/found agency (see below).
  •  Canvas the surrounding area where he went missing; call his name, frequently and loudly; hang posters with photos; and leave notices at homes/businesses, with postal carriers, veterinary offices, dog parks, and local pet supply stores.
  •  Although it’s your instinct to do so, never chase after your lost dog! And ask that others helping in your search don’t chase her, either, and only report Fido’s last seen location.
  •  Lost dogs may be experiencing a ‘flight or fight’ response and a chase can scare them. Carry high-value treats with you and stay close to the area where he went missing, especially if you’re not close to home. Fido may try to come back to the last place he saw you.
  •  USE SOCIAL MEDIA! Post on Next Door, relevant pet or neighborhood group pages on Facebook, Instagram, and any other social media apps you leverage. Ask your friends to share and post about your lost Fido on their social accounts. These are excellent avenues to success. Include any personality details that will help them approach your dog.
  •  Sign up with automated services that can reach thousands of area residents and businesses.
  •  Consider humane trapping if Fido has been sighted in a particular area. Use enticing food (i.e., high-value food, such as boiled chicken, cheese, hot dogs, etc.) and a piece of your clothing to draw him in. Set up motion cameras.
  •  Check online for more advanced technical avenues and ideas.

You’ve Found a Lost Pet:

  •  Check for an ID or tag.
  •  Have a local vet scan for a chip.
  •  Contact local authorities and advise the local shelter and rescue groups with a description (in the event an owner is looking for them).
  •  Again, use social media.
  •  Keep the pet safe and, at a minimum, provide water. If you cannot keep her in your home while you search for owners, take her to the local shelter or rescue. Know the shelter policies. Most pets are placed on a lost pet hold for a set number of days, after which he will be placed for adoption. (Dispel misgivings that shelters immediately euthanize. They do not.)
  •  Research and understand your state and county laws concerning found pets and the things to consider should you decide to keep them. You may be their forever home or the avenue to which they find it.

Always remember to chip and tag your pet. At their annual exams, have your vet confirm the chip is still readable. Keep your contact information updated.

Local Resources in Northwest Florida:

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