What to do . . . If you’ve LOST or FOUND a pet

If your pet is MISSING  

It’s so scary when a pet becomes lost — countless what-ifs, and the fear you might never see them again. Following are tips to prevent your pet getting lost, and what to do if it happens.  

Microchip and keep contact info current. The majority of reunions are thanks to microchips. Causes for separation are many — don’t make the mistake of believing it can’t happen to you.  

Keep collars/current tags on. Cats often lose collars; if yours roams, check to be sure it’s still on, and if not, replace it immediately. Machines at pet and even grocery stores make it easy (and affordable) to get a new tag on the fly.  

Keep current photos. Those on your phone can be sent to your computer to make a flier if needed. 

Fortunately, unlike humans, you needn’t wait 24 hours after a pet goes missing to report it. Start the search checking nearby places; for cats this includes all nooks and crannies — they can hide in unbelievably small spaces. Talk to neighbors, including kids, who are more often outdoors and usually love pets (and helping).  

Check local shelters and lost pet postings at local veterinary clinics, pet stores, and nearby businesses. Have fliers ready to post as well — fliers should have a decent photo, a brief, clear description, where/when your pet was last seen, and contact information.  

Get online. Post your flier, or your pet’s photo and info, on Facebook, craigslist, nextdoor.com, and any other sites with lost/found pages — including shelters and vet hospitals. Keep posts current and be available for people to reach you. Don’t give up hope. Pets go missing every day and there are many happy endings.  

NOTE:  Visit the shelter, don’t just call. Staff and volunteers carry a heavy load, and are caring for many pets — potentially making it tough for them to spot yours. You, on the other hand, will likely sight your sweetpea almost instantly if he or she is there. 

If you’ve FOUND a pet  

Finding a lost pet can be exhilarating as well as stressful. Did someone abandon him? Is s/he injured or unwell? Does s/he have a family missing him or her, or could s/he have been mistreated or abandoned?  

Social media is packed with stories of mistreated pets, so it’s easy to assume that if a pet is lost s/he didn’t have a good pet parent. But that’s not always the case. Pets go missing for any number of reasons. Fireworks. Construction or remodeling. New babysitters. Kids coming and going, leaving doors ajar.  

First things first

Will the animal come willingly, so you can get him or her to safety and investigate where s/he belongs? If yes, here are tips for helping get a lost pet home.  

-        If the pet has tags, try the contact information.

-        Have a veterinarian scan for a microchip. If s/he is chipped, contact the registered owner.

-        If no tag or microchip, hopefully the vet will do a quick wellness exam, and they or you can contact the local animal shelter who will take over from there.  

You can do more

-        Being a good citizen, you can post all the same ads you would if your pet was lost. Contact local clinics to see if they have a patient matching the pet’s description and post a description and photo(s) of the found pet on Facebook, craigslist and nextdoor.com where family — or friends of the family — might see it.

-        Most animal shelters must hold a pet for a set number of days before making him or her available for adoption. This is when the chance is greatest for reuniting the pet with its family.  

Unable to capture

If you cannot get the pet, don’t force it. Some may react aggressively purely out of fear. Also, you don’t want to spook the pet and potentially lose sight of it or put it in harm’s way. Contact animal control for help. Stay in the vicinity with the pet if you can. Try not to corner him or her, but do try luring and building trust with food or treats. If all efforts fail, from time to time a lost pet will linger in the area. Put out food and fresh water and keep an eye on social media pages. Contact shelters and veterinary clinics, and even post ‘FOUND’ posters in the area. Hopefully his or her family will spot one and comb the area. Often a pet is just waiting for someone familiar. 


Bonnie L Hays Animal Shelter, West Side  *  co.washington.or.us/HHS/AnimalServices/AnimalShelter

 Clackamas County Dog Services  *  clackamas.us/dogs

 Family Dogs New Life Shelter  *  familydogsnewlife.org

 Humane Society for SW Washington  *  southwesthumane.org

 Multnomah County Animal Services  *  multcopets.org

 Oregon Humane Society  *  oregonhumane.org

 Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals  *  ofosa.org

 The Pixie Project  *  pixieproject.org

 Make fliers:  search.petfbi.org/lost-pet-flyer.aspx