Maybe he escaped from the yard. Maybe she bolted when you didn’t have a tight grip on the leash. In a heartbeat, you are plunged into the nightmare of a lost pet.
Don’t panic. There are lots of things you can do and lots of resources at your disposal that can assist in getting your four-legged family member back home.
BEFORE YOU LOSE YOUR PET
Before discussing those action items, though, let's talk about two important things you should take care of now, before you lose your pet. Both of these things will make it much easier for your pup or kitty to find its way home if it does get lost.
Get your pet microchipped
It’s the law, and it’s the first thing that rescue organizations and animal service organizations look for when a dog is found. You can get this done at just about any veterinary office. You can also get it done for free by ACS (San Antonio’s Animal Care Services), if you live in the San Antonio city limits.
Click here to schedule an appointment with ACS to get a microchip.
Put an identification tag on your pet's collar
The tag should include your pet’s name and your contact information. If your pet has special needs, you might consider a tag from TagsforHope. You can include special needs information on the back of the tag. For example, you can indicate that your dog is deaf, or needs medication. And as an added bonus, every purchase at TagsforHope helps animals in need.
It's a pet parent's worst nightmare: Your baby lost, alone, and scared.
IF YOU LOSE YOUR PET
If you do lose your pet, here are some things you can do.
Put out food and water. This may help lure your pet home, and if it comes home when you're not around, it may be hungry or thirsty.
Put out unwashed clothes or your pet’s bedding. The familiar scents may help draw your pet home.
Walk around the neighborhood and search for your pet. More often than not, when cats wander off, they stick close to home -- often just a house or two away. And keep in mind that dogs are creatures of habit. Your pup may be wandering along a route that's familiar to it or visiting a local spot it knows, like the coffee bar where you hang out together.
Create a lost pet poster and post it around the neighborhood, at vet offices and businesses. Click here for a free online tool for creating a flyer.
Contact the microchip manufacturer. The one I use has a mechanism for reporting a lost pet online. You can upload a recent photo of your pet, create a lost pet poster, and quickly send out lost pet alerts to vet clinics, animal shelters, and pet rescues within a 25 mile radius of where your pet was lost.
Report your pet missing to your vet and to ACS (210) 207-4PET (4738).
Check the ACS website ‘lost and found’ section every day to see if your dog has been picked up (note, when doing a search on this site, only indicate ‘dog’ or ‘cat’ and don’t narrow your search with specific information like gender, color, or size. Pets are sometimes mis-categorized on this site).
Use social media. Post announcements on Facebook and Nextdoor and Craig’s List. And post on local 'lost and found' pet websites and Facebook pages. Here are several where you can report on a lost or found pet in San Antonio. Note that some of these sites require that you become a member in order to post.
One last thing I’d like to raise: Should you offer a reward?
There is a big debate over this, with experts feeling strongly on both sides. There are pros and cons to offering a reward. Here are a couple of articles you can take a look at that may help you decide whether it’s a good course of action for your situation:
Losing a pet is frightening, but don’t give up hope. The level of networking that goes on among the pet-loving community is phenomenal. Reach out to the resources listed above and let them help.
Note: much of the information in this article was provided by Lynda Ramirez (a Lavaca resident who is active in dog rescue organizations and providing assistance to animals in need) and some of the information is available at SOS-SATX Save Our Strays, a private Facebook group.
Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.