What To Do If Your Pet Goes Missing

Judging by the amount of missing pet fliers hung all over the Fargo-Moorhead area, lost pets are a growing problem; one that is especially concerning in the wintertime. Luckily there are precautions and courses of action that can be taken to secure the safety and security of pets, and increase the chances of finding them if they go missing.


One precaution that owners can take is getting their pets microchipped; and luckily here in Fargo-Moorhead, the Humane Society provides a microchip clinic.

Microchipping is a painless, non-surgical procedure that greatly increases the chances of finding a lost pet. Each chip contains a numeric code that is logged into a national database. If a lost pet makes its way to an animal hospital or shelter, their chip would be scanned for identification, revealing the owner’s name, address, and contact information.

Another precaution is making sure your yard is secure and never letting pets out of the house unattended. Secure a fence so that your dog can’t dig underneath it and your cat can’t climb over it; and of course, a leash can keep them in one place.

Finding a Lost Pet

If your pet goes missing, start off by organizing a search party and scanning the area where they was last seen. Notify neighbors of the disappearance and ask permission to look in their garages, sheds, and yards. (Bear in mind that a scared cat may hide under bushes or shrubs.) Bring along a favorite toy, treat, or another object that would lure them out.

If you do all that and you still can’t find them, there’s a chance your pet was picked up by a shelter or animal control, was reported to police or brought to your local vet’s office; in which case the next course of action would be calling those facilities to check. Online databases, such as Lost and Pound, LostPetUSA, and Pet Amber Alert would also be worthwhile places to look.

Once they have been missing for 24 hours, it’s time to intensify the search. If you have pet insurance, contact your company to see if they’ll provide financial assistance for the search efforts. Next, create ads with a recent picture of your pet, their name, physical description, breed (if known), and your contact information. It is recommended that these ads get printed through a photocopier, as printer ink will run if it rains, whereas photocopier toner will not.

Remember that missing pets may change in physical appearance, depending on how long they’ve been gone. If they haven’t been groomed, a dog’s fur may grow shaggy and matted. Both dogs and cats are vulnerable to attack by other animals, so they may be frightened or injured, and thus hesitant to approach even humans they recognize.

If you find your pet but are afraid to approach them, your best bet is contacting animal control so they can use tranquilizers to wrangle them up if need be. Once they are returned to a secure environment and receive proper medical care, chances are your pet will come back to its old self.

Keeping an Eye Out for Scams

Sadly, owners of missing pets are often vulnerable to scams, especially if they set a reward for their pet’s safe return; therefore it’s essential that owners know how to recognize a con artist.

One method of recognizing foul play is to make up a distinguishing characteristic for your pet. For example, if someone calls saying they’ve found your cat or dog, ask them a question like, “Does he have a black patch on his foot?” when in fact it does not. If they honestly answer “No,” there’s a chance they’re legitimate. If they say “Yes,” hang up.

Some scammers may try to blackmail you into providing a bigger reward, and may refuse to show you the animal until you give them the money. Others may claim your pet was found in a different state and request that you pay for airfare.

If something doesn’t seem right, you can always contact the authorities to have these claims investigated. If you decide to meet this person, do it in a public place. Bring someone with you—preferably a lawyer or police officer—to avoid being extorted.

Success Stories

Back in December 2012, a dog that had been missing for seven years was found, having run away from his home in North Carolina when he got spooked by a thunderstorm. After a microchip scan identified him, he was sent to Arizona, where his owner now lives, and where they were reunited.

Just last week, a woman in Scotland found her cat that had gone missing back in 2005. She recognized him on a Facebook page for an animal charity, and a chip scan proved she was his owner.

The key thing to take away from success stories such as these is that there’s always a chance of being reunited with a lost pet, whether it’s been a week, a year, or even a decade. Don’t give up the search and don’t give up hope, because your pet is worth it.

– Särah Nour

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