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What to Do When You Lose a Pet

Did you lose a pet ? 3 Must-Do Steps

Stage 1: Planning Ahead

  • Please Spay and Neuter Your Pets
    You can’t control squirrels, fireworks or thunderstorms, but spaying and neutering your pet reduces their urge to roam and eliminates the chance of an accidental litter.
  • Visible ID at All Times
    Collar and ID tags with two up-to-date phone numbers (including area codes) is the main way that lost pets get home. It is also a good idea to attach a license and rabies tag in case your dog gets picked up by Animal Control. You can also order collars with your pet’s name and your phone number stitched onto them. If your dog has a talent for ditching tags or if they are shy and may react to a person reaching for their tag, an embroidered collar may be a better choice.
  • Microchip Your Pet and Update Your Contact Information in a Registry
    Animal shelters report that microchipped dogs are 2.4 times more likely to be reunited with their families, and microchipped cats are reunited 21.4 times more often! It’s a quick and inexpensive procedure, and you can have your vet check to see if your pet has already been microchipped if you aren’t sure. Microchips do not function as a tracking device, so you must register the microchip number for it to be traced back to you when your pet is found and scanned by an animal care professional. Recently changed cell phone providers? New work number? New apartment? Ex still listed as an alternate contact? Help us reunite you with your pet by making sure everything listed is current everywhere you registered that microchip. The Found Animals Registry® is 100% free, and any brand of microchip can be registered. You can add all your pets under one account, upload photos, and add special notes about health and temperament as well as any medications your pet may be taking.
  • Take Lots of Pictures
    Take good, clear pictures, so you have recent photographs to share in case they go missing.
  • Survey Your Space
    Make sure gates are closed and window screens are in good condition. If you have gardeners or live with a lot of people, tape up reminders like “Close windows before leaving;” or “Lock gate behind you.” Does your pet love to dig? Are they excellent jumpers? You know their hidden talents. Periodically check for escape routes.

Microchips do not function as a tracking device, so you must register the microchip for it to be traced back to you when your pet is found. The Found Animals Registry® is 100% free, and any brand of microchip can be registered.

Stage 2: When You First Notice Your Pet is Missing

  • Verify Your Contact information on Your Microchip Registry Account
    You can reset your password if you forgot it, as long as you remember which email you originally registered with. Double check that everything on your profile is accurate in case your pet gets picked up sooner rather than later. If a found pet alert already started going out to your old phone number while you were out looking, our registry will automatically send the rest of the alerts during that four-day period to your updated contact information
  • Tell Friends and Followers on Social Media
    You’ll need help looking, and soon. See if anyone comments that they’re available to help you look. If you want to be all formal about it, create a Facebook event to ask friends to search the vicinity. Have them retweet all those recent photos you took. You know how this part works.
  • Start Searching
    If the whole family is available, leave someone home to answer the landline if you put that number on the tag. Also a good idea in case your pet suddenly shows up back at home after 20 minutes and needs to be let in before they go running off again. Have the fort holder start calling neighbors personally, too. When you are out looking, bring plenty of bait. Treats, yes; but do they also have a favorite squeaky toy?

Stage 3: Broadening Your Search

  • File a Lost Pet Report
    Your local animal shelter, humane society, SPCA, rescue league, etc. should have an online form to fill out to post a lost pet ad on their site.
  • Prepare and Post Your Flyers
    LOST CAT/DOG. PERRO/GATO PERDITO. Something standard, giant font, clear image of your pet, with contact information. Put them on any and all public bulletin boards and telephone poles. Try getting permission for shop windows, or any other private property where you think your flyer should be seen. It’s recommended you not specify the amount of any reward. And no, you will not be wiring some suspicious caller any money. If you live in a multilingual neighborhood, your poster should be multilingual too. Don’t speak Armenian or Korean? Translate it online – even a broken translation is better than nothing.
  • Post Elsewhere Online
    CraigsList. The Center for Lost Pets. Pet Amber Alert. There are too many regional sites to mention, at least here in L.A. Give them a shot; hopefully your community will get involved.
  • Check All Nearby Animal Shelters
    Do a circuit every day or two; see any new intakes in person. Bring more posters when you first visit. Not to be insensitive, but also check the list of deceased pets.
  • Post a Lost Pet Ad in the Paper
    Sure people still read the paper – not everyone is online. It couldn’t hurt! Check the found ads, too.

Don’t give up! If your pet is microchipped, your contact info is all current, and something devastating happened to your pet, Animal Control would’ve probably set off the microchip registry to alert you by now. No news is still better than that! Remain diligent. If your pet is missing while you read this, we wish you the best of luck in your search.


The Michelson Found Animals Foundation's mission of saving pets and enriching lives is made possible by the generous contributions of Dr. Gary Michelson and Alya Michelson.

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