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Thursday, August 01, 2013

Kiwi’s Journey: Tips for Finding a Lost Pet

The Hill’s Judy Kurtz has a touching video interview with Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., whose lost dog, Kiwi, is back safe with her after a 13-month absence. The 9-year-old Shih Tzu mix bolted from the congresswoman’s enclosed yard in New Mexico when she was frightened by the noise from a hot air balloon. Fortunately, Kiwi had been microchipped, and even after such a long absence, when she was brought to an Albuquerque animal hospital, they were able to track down her family.

It’s a good reminder that microchipping our pets can save their lives when they get lost, in case their collars and identification tags come off. It’s important to use both visible ID tags and microchipping, preferably with a cell phone number, and keep your contact information current for the chip’s registry—if a scanned dog’s information leads to a disconnected phone number, they won’t be able to find you. Families can register with the microchip company, and also register with universal search groups such as Found Animals.

Congresswoman Lujan Grisham says she is implementing some additional layers of protection, such as a GPS tracking device for Kiwi’s collar. (Some of my colleagues use the Tagg tracker, which attaches to your pet’s collar, allows you to monitor activity through your computer or mobile device, and sends you email notifications on their whereabouts.)

But despite your best efforts, what happens if your beloved dog or cat slips out an open door and disappears? Here are some tips from The HSUS that can help you find a lost pet:

1. Contact local animal shelters and animal control agencies. File a lost pet report with every shelter within a 60-mile radius of your home and visit the nearest shelters daily, if possible.

To find your local shelter, search online or check your phone book. If there is no shelter in your community, contact the local police department. Provide these agencies with an accurate description and a recent photograph of your pet. Notify the police if you believe your pet was stolen. Ask the shelter if they have an online lost and found service to search.

2. Search the neighborhood. Walk or drive through your neighborhood several times each day. Ask neighbors, letter carriers, and delivery people if they have seen your pet. Hand out a recent photograph of your pet and information on how you can be reached if your pet is found.

3. Advertise. Post notices at grocery stores, community centers, veterinary offices, traffic intersections, at pet supply stores, and other locations. Also, place advertisements in newspapers and with radio stations. Include your pet’s sex, age, weight, breed, color, and any special markings. When describing your pet, leave out one identifying characteristic and ask the person who finds your pet to describe it. Here are some tips on how to make an eye-catching flyer.

4. Try the Internet. These sites may be able to help you out:

Consider using a lost pet alert service such as findtoto.org to contact homes in your area. Use social media and post flyers on local and state Facebook pages for lost pets.

5. Be wary of pet-recovery scams. When talking to a stranger who claims to have found your pet, ask him to describe the pet thoroughly before you offer any information. If he does not include the identifying characteristic you left out of the advertisements, he may not really have your pet. Be particularly wary of people who insist that you give or wire them money for the return of your pet.

6. Don't give up your search. Animals who have been lost for months have been reunited with their owners—just like Kiwi coming back to Congresswoman Lujan Grisham after 13 months!

Remember that a pet—even an indoor pet—has a better chance of being returned if he or she always wears a collar and an ID tag with your name, address, and telephone number. Ask your veterinarian or animal shelter about microchips, which provide more permanent identification in case their collar and tags come off, and keep your contact info current. It made the difference for Kiwi, and can make the difference for your beloved pet, too.

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