What to Do if You Find a Lost Pet: A Step-by-Step Guide

Finding a lost pet can be a heart-wrenching experience, both for the pet and for the person who discovers them. Stray pets are often scared, hungry, and disoriented, and they may even need medical attention. If you come across a lost pet, knowing how to ensure their safety and increase the chances of a happy reunion with their owner can be helpful. Follow our step-by-step guide to aid a lost pet in finding their family.

Step 1. Assess the lost pet’s situation

If you find a pet who appears to be alone, approach with caution to avoid frightening them or provoking a defensive reaction. Look for signs of distress or injury, such as limping, bleeding wounds, or difficulty breathing. If the pet appears aggressive or severely injured, call animal control or a local animal rescue organization for professional assistance.

Step 2. Check for pet identification

Once the pet is calm and approachable, check for collar identification (ID) tags. Most pets with owners have a collar with a tag that includes the owner’s contact information. If the pet has an ID tag, call the number immediately and inform the owner that you have found their pet.

Step 3. Take the pet to a veterinary hospital or animal shelter

If the pet doesn’t have visible ID, take them to a local veterinary hospital, animal shelter, or animal control office. These facilities have microchip scanners that can read embedded microchips. A microchip is a permanent ID device that links to a pet owner’s contact details, without imparting sensitive information.

Step 4. Notify local animal authorities

Inform local animal shelters, animal control agencies, and veterinary hospitals about the found pet. Provide them with a detailed description, including the pet’s breed, size, color, and any unique markings. These organizations often have a missing pet list and can also help spread the word and increase the chances of the pet being reunited with their owner.

Step 5. Post the pet’s photo on social media

Social media platforms and online lost-and-found pet databases can be incredibly effective in reuniting lost pets with their owners. On social media platforms, post a clear photo, description of the pet, including where you found them, and join local community groups and lost-and-found pet pages to share the information. Websites such as Petfinder, PawBoost, and LostMyDoggie also allow you to post found-pet alerts.

Step 6. Create found-pet flyers

Create flyers with a clear photo and description of the pet, including the location and date they were found. Post these flyers in high-traffic areas such as grocery stores, parks, community centers, and veterinary hospitals. Flyers are particularly useful for reaching pet owners who may not use social media or online resources frequently.

Step 7. Care for the pet

While you’re searching for the pet’s owner, ensure their safety and well-being. Provide food, water, and a safe place to stay. If you can’t keep the pet in your home, reach out to local animal shelters or rescue organizations that can offer temporary foster care.

Step 8. Beware of pet scams

Unfortunately, not everyone who claims a lost pet has good intentions. Be cautious if someone claims to be the owner without providing adequate proof. Ask for specific details about the pet, such as unique markings, behaviors, or photos. Reputable pet owners will usually be able to provide this information readily.

Step 9. Consider all options for the pet’s well-being

If you are unable to find the pet’s owner after a reasonable amount of time, you may need to consider long-term solutions such as keeping the pet, finding them a new home, or working with a local rescue organization to place them in a suitable environment. Always ensure that any new home is a good match and that the new owner is capable of providing proper care.

Step 10. Protect your own pet

Finally, reflect on the experience and consider how you can help prevent your own pet from becoming permanently separated from you. Ensure your pet’s ID tags are readable, schedule a microchipping appointment, and regularly update your contact information.

Finding a lost pet can be an emotional and sometimes challenging experience, but by following our recommended steps, you can significantly increase the chances of them being happily reunited with their owner. Prevent the same situation from happening to you and your four-legged friend by scheduling a microchipping appointment with your AAHA-accredited veterinarian.



Subscribe to Your Pet