What to Do if Your Pet Goes Missing

The frantic feeling of losing a pet is something many pet owners recognize.

Even if it’s only for a moment, the sudden clench of the heart is hard to forget. While the first step if your pet goes missing is act fast, it’s also important to stay calm throughout the process. With the right steps in place, a pet reunification can provide a happy ending. Alongside an ID tag and collar, a great preventive measure a pet owner can take is microchipping their pet.

What is microchipping? Why should you microchip?

When someone “microchips” their pet, a tiny transponder has been implanted into the skin of their pet by a veterinarian or animal professional. Not to be confused with a GPS system, this tiny transponder emits a radio frequency that relays relevant contact information (name and phone number of owner), which can be read by a handheld scanner.

These handheld scanners are primarily used by veterinarians and other animal resource professionals (i.e. animal shelters and animal control), and not the general public (i.e. your neighbors), making microchipping a great backup to losable ID tags and collars. Your veterinarian should be the first person to contact regarding microchipping your pet.

dog microchip


What should you do if your pet goes missing?

Even with microchips and ID tags, accidental separation still can happen. If that fretful feeling of losing a pet overtakes your day, here are some steps to follow if your pet goes missing:

Act Fast

If it’s unusual for your pet to not show up, don’t hesitate to start the search process. No need to lose your cool, but the odds of reunification are much greater in the early moments of losing a pet.

Search the Home and Yard

If your pet goes missing while at home, begin your search within the immediate area. Checking places where your pet may have gotten stuck, such as basements or garage areas, is a good place to start, as well as favorite hiding spots including under the bed or in a closet. Call out your pet’s name as you search. Mixing food together or busting out a bag of delectable treats can sometimes lure frightened pets from their hiding spaces.

Walk the Neighborhood

If your pet doesn’t show up during your home inspection, it’s time to take to the sidewalks. Call out your pet’s name and let your neighbors know they are missing—especially any neighbors know your pet. They will best recognize your pet and potentially be able to approach them without scaring them off. Share any recent photos and spread the word that your pet has gone missing.

Contact Local Animal Shelters, Animal Control Agencies, Veterinary Hospitals

File a lost pet report with every local animal shelter within a 60-mile radius of where your pet was lost. Other resources to reach out to include animal control agencies within the same radius, as well as veterinary hospitals. In many cases, if your pet is microchipped, these organizations will be able to scan the transponder and connect you with your pet.

If any of these organizations respond with a similar sounding pet to your own (size, breed, color range), don’t hesitate to go in yourself for proper identification. Write the numbers down of each organization and call them back daily. Visiting in person can also make a difference and gives the opportunity to leave a recent photo behind.

Connect with Social Media

If your online community is the same as the one you live in, share your missing pet situation with social media. Be sure to include recent photos, as well as any details that might help someone see the bigger picture (i.e. when they went missing and where). For other social media tools, communities often have “Lost Pet” pages on Facebook, and people sometimes post “Found Pet” entries onto Craigslist.

Advertise with Lost Pet Posters

A classic and proven approach to locating lost pets, posters can put a lot of visibility out there for your missing pet. Be sure to include recent photos, relevant contact info and any details a stranger should know if they spot your pet (i.e. “will do anything for peanut butter” or “hesitant pet, do not approach, call phone number instead.”) If offering a reward, be sure to scrutinize your calls to avoid scammers.

The area where your pet went missing is always a good place for posters. Other areas with high traffic and visibility include grocery stores, laundromats and cafes. Pet supply stores and pet grooming services are also good places to catch the eye of a sympathetic pet owner. After the search has concluded, be sure to retrace your steps and dispose of the posters properly.

Don’t give up!

While it can be hard to hold onto hope forever, it’s possible your pet will strut right through the front door weeks after they went missing. Microchipping your pet can make this whole process go faster, alongside proper ID tags and a collar.

missing dog poster


Other Resources to Try if Your Pet Goes Missing

If you’ve exhausted all the previous options, don’t worry! There are plenty of folks and organizations out there who can help you out.

Radio Stations

Find out if your local radio station does any community messages over the air, and if so, broadcast all the details of your missing pet to the radio public.

Helpful Websites

A collection of websites can be found online with potential resources for locating your lost pet. Check out these websites if you are still searching for a missing pet:

  • 24PetWatch — requires microchip number, searches all found-pet databases
  • Fido Finder — the largest public database of lost dogs
  • Center for Lost Pets — made possible by the Humane Society of the United States

Pet Detectives

Any comedy movies aside, there are true, professional pet detectives across the country that can track down your missing pet for a nominal fee. Often with careers in law enforcement or private investigation, modern pet detectives use tracking dogs to identify and locate the scent of your missing pet. A simple Google search of Pet Detective, plus the area you are looking in, should come up with results worth searching through.

Meet the Author: Brad Lane

Born in raised in the great state of Iowa, Brad has lived on both sides of the country, from the Blue Ridge to the Cascades. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana, Brad is always on the lookout for the next big adventure.

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