There’s nothing more traumatising for a pet parent than to have their pet go missing. Not knowing whether you will ever be able to find your fur-baby and bring her back home can be extremely distressing.
Keeping your cool at a time like this and focusing on finding your pet can be a seemingly daunting task, but we are here to tell you it is possible! In this article, find out everything you need to know about tips to find missing pets (in this case, dogs), from prevention to action (God forbid) it ever happens to you or someone you know.
A missing pet can bring up feelings similar to those of loss, grief, worry, anxiety, and despair. While these feelings are natural to feel, the earlier you can separate your emotions from your logical mind, the higher the chances of your pet being found. Channeling that energy can be overwhelming, to say the least, but please remember that this is the time when your pet needs you the most. Giving into sadness or anxiety will hinder your thought process required to take the right action. It's crucial to start a structured search for your dog as soon as possible.
There are mainly there kinds of actions you can take,
Put in the physical effort
- Make it your priority for the next few days! Put everything else on hold and focus your energy, especially in the first 48 hours in looking for your pet everywhere. Call up friends, animal lovers in the area and family to help out. It will be impossible for you to take on this task all by yourself. Get as much help as possible and form a group/search team
- Canvas! Canvas! Canvas! and if we haven't said it enough, canvas! Talk to everyone, even children. Show them pictures and give an accurate description of your dog. Search for your pet in places they might feel safe in- under the parked cars/vehicles, in familiar parks, roads, or even in hidden nooks around your area. Talk to the guards, vegetable vendors, kachrawalas, presswalas, and basically anyone in your area who spends a lot of time outdoors
- Posters - Create a clear, coloured poster of your dog mentioning the following details:
- High quality, latest, colored picture of your dog’s face/full body (make it as clear as possible)
- Dog’s name
- Any distinct identification marks
- Last seen (area, date, and time )
- Your contact number & name
- A handsome cash reward
- It’s highly recommended to create a version in a local language as well to expand the reach.
- Put them up in your neighborhood, shelters, vet’s office, local parks, shops and so on
- Advertisements in the newspaper- run ads in local or general newspapers with all the details you mention in the poster. Run them for at least 2-5 days. Pay for a visible spot in the newspaper and get a colored print!
- Visit animal shelters- search as many local shelters as you can to see if any kind soul has taken your pet there. Inquire about other missing reports there, check all dogs, and leave your contact number with the person in charge in case your pet turns up.
- Visit the vet’s office- there is a small chance your pet might have gotten injured too, so make sure you check for any dogs matching the description at your local vet’s office. Inform them of your pet’s disappearance and of course, leave your contact details if your pet turns up.
- Frequent their regular walk routes and keep calling them out
- Continue to search all the possible areas and especially the 'last seen' spot multiple times a day, including late night. Your dog will be scared of the ongoing traffic and local dogs, he/she may try to venture out late night
- Create a clear, concise and a shareable version of the poster for the social media. If your social media reach is low, tag a celebrity or a local influencer and request them for help, especially if they advocate for animal rights. Ask friends and family to circulate the details as well
- Run ads on Instagram & Facebook taregetting animal lovers in the nearby PIN codes
- Use the power of technology and access all platforms - WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, blogs and so on. Leverage animal-focused groups on WhatsApp and Facebook to circulate the poster
- Answer every lead call. It can get overwhelming but be available to answer all calls. It's possible that many of these tips will turn out to be unhelpful or fake but do not lose hope. You never know from where you might get a lead to find your puppy back
Contact/ Take Help From The Local Authorities
- Collect all CCTV footage- scour the area well for any building having a camera, it can be a shop, a residence, a gated colony, or even a car dashcam. Collect it all with the help of security guards if you live in a suburban colony, or with your friends and family. Look for the time of disappearance and also a few days before, to see if any kidnappers have scoped the area around your house before. You can get the license plate or facial description very quickly if this is the case, and it’ll help the authorities take quick action
- FIR- kidnapping/ abduction of dogs, especially the expensive, foreign breeds, is unfortunately very common in India. Take a missing pet not only as an individual search but also as a community search. File an FIR and research similar incidents in your vicinity. Make sure to provide accurate details and keep pursuing it in case of non-action or response
What to do if you spot a new dog in your area?
Sometimes you may notice a new dog in your area. If the dog looks distressed, it's quite possible he could be a missing dog himself. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you come across a new dog in your area:
- Make sure you click a clear photograph or a video of the dog. He/she may be a lost pet dog or a street dog who has lost her way
- Circulate the picture/videos in your local animal groups (WhatsApp, Social Media etc), as soon as possible and ask proactively if anyone recognises the dog
- If possible, give him shelter until help is found to ensure he does not end up wandering off even further
- Offer food and water to the dog as he may not have eaten anything for a very long time.
Tips to reduce the chances of your pet dog getting lost
To pet parents reading this article as a preventative measure, we bring a special section of information for you! Read below to know the measures you can adopt to reduce the chances of your pet going missing.
- Physical boundaries- it is essential for your dog, even a trained one, to have a physical barrier between their safe and unsafe environment. Repetition through movement across this barrier like a gate or fence will teach them how far they are allowed to go.
Dog Collar, Harness & Leash- buy strong, sturdy and well-fitting dog walking gears such as, dog leash and dog collar or harness. It should not be too loose so your dog can easily slip out neither should it be too tight making them uncomfortable. Always have them on leash outdoor. Make sure to never leave them alone with a leash on, as that causes many accidents.
- Vet Visits - Most dogs hate going to a vet and often need to be dragged or lifted inside. Many pets go missing trying to escape from the vet. Be extra careful when you are visiting your vet and keep your pet properly restrained so they cannot escape
- Pet Boarding - Choose a pet boarding wisely. While many of us rely on recommendations, please conduct your own research as well. Visit the boarding before you leave your pet with them and thoroughly check for safety i.e. whether there are any open areas or gaps. Speak to the manager or the owner and ask for all the safety measures including spots for CCTV cameras
- Travelling with your pet - Many of us love travelling with our furry-friend or taking them out for a fun doggy-day-out! When visiting new locations, houses and properties, ensure your pet is restricted i.e. on leash until it's 100% safe for them to be off leash. Give clear instructions to everyone travelling with you to be mindful about closing any doors or windows from where you pet may escape. Even then, do not rely on anyone and take full responsibility of your pet's safety, as no one knows your pooch better than you. In addition, never leave them alone when visiting a new area
- In a working pet parent's life, the dog is often left alone and unsupervised for hours at end, which induces feelings of uneasiness and stress. Bored and anxious dogs often look for a way to stimulate themselves mentally by playing, running around, and trying to explore new places. Spend quality time with your pet and get them engaging toys. If you have to leave them alone for longer periods of time, consider dog- daycares, pet-sitters or even ask a friend or family member to help out
- Some dogs also wander off to look for a mate if they are on heat or to pursue a dog on heat. Ensuring your dog is neutered/spayed will prevent this from happening and will also keep your dog safe from potential kidnappers
- Microchipping- this is an implant placed in your dog’s body that can be read with the help of a scanner available at vet offices and kennels. It contains your information and contact details in case their collar or tag gets lost or is taken off by a kidnapper.
- Basic training- Invest time in providing at least basic training to your dog. It’s recommended to consult a professional dog trainer or a canine behaviourist to help you communicate with your dog better. A calm and obedient dog finds safety in routine and commands, which lead to their safety, especially in outdoor environments.
During the festive season such as, Diwali, many dogs go missing from their area in search for a safer place from all the noise and commotion in the streets. It is one of the most stressful times for all the animals as they do not understand the cause for sudden increase in noise. Read about these tips to keep your pets and community animals safe during the festive and the holiday season.
A Guide to Celebrating a Happy, Healthy & Safe Diwali with Pets
Despite taking all of these measures, a dog can still get lost for multiple reasons. The most important tip would be to take action as soon as possible and to not lose hope. There have been multiple instances where a lost pet has found her way back home after days, weeks and even months.
All of these tips can also be applied to looking for lost street/ community dogs.