Lost Pet

Jun 23, 2024   ComfortAtHomePetServices   Pet Safety

As a pet parent, it's your worst fear – your precious fur baby is lost! The moment you realize your beloved pet is lost, your heart starts to race and your mind is a blur of scattered thoughts trying to figure out what to do first! As much as it seems impossible at the moment, don't panic! Right now, you have to stay strong for your pet and have a plan ready!

As much as we all like to think it won't happen to us, accidents happen no matter how hard we try – delivery drivers leave gates open, cats push out screens, storms and fireworks spook animals into running and pets have even gotten away after car accidents. It's imperative to have a plan together before you notice a pet is lost! At a time when you're stressed and your mind is drawing a blank, it's good to have a proper plan ahead of time to follow. That way you'll be organized and won't lose any precious time in finding your pet.

There are a few steps you can take now to make sure your pet has a better chance of being returned if it is ever lost:

  • Collar IDs with up-to-date information such as addresses and phone numbers, including cell phone numbers. If you're out looking for your pet, you will most likely have your cell phone on you and if someone is calling your home, you won't get the message until much later.  Pet collar IDs are widely available in places like pet stores, Walmart and even online and are very inexpensive to purchase.  

  • Pet License ID tag: All counties require a pet license, which comes with a collar ID tag. The tag will be dated for that year and numbered, corresponding with your pet's license number. On the back of the tag will be the phone number for the county where the license is assigned.  The pet's information can be accessed by the license number. 

  • Rabies Tag: A veterinarian provided tag will include the year of the rabies vaccination, the veterinarian's phone number. The veterinarian's office can access the pet's information from the tag number.

Microchip! Some rescues and humane societies offer microchipping as part of their adoption fee. If your humane society or rescue didn't microchip your pet before adoption, Veterinarian clinics can do this very easy, inexpensive procedure in a short visit. If you do adopt your new family member at a Humane Society or Rescue, make sure to register the chip information with your current information when you bring your pet home! Even if the company tries upselling you, registering your pet is completely free!

Again, current phone numbers, including cell phone. Also, if you ever move, make sure to update your pet's microchip with your new address! Veterinarian clinics, animal shelters, dog wardens and even some police stations are utilizing microchip scanners now! They access that information through your registration. A microchip with current information greatly increases your chances of reuniting with your pet!  Make it a habit to have your pet's chip scanned at your pet's yearly wellness visit.  

  • Be aware, that although rare, some chips can migrate from their placed location. Most microchips come with a collar tag that includes the microchip's number and your information can also be accessed with that as well, so having the microchip tag attached to the collar with the pet's ID is recommended.  Microchips do NOT have GPS and can't track your pet. The chip must be scanned or the chip ID number inputted. 

  • For indoor/outdoor cats, you might consider ear clipping. Outdoor cats, and even well taken care of feral cats, will have clipped ears to show they have been spayed or neutered and are loved and belong to someone.  This will let someone know your pet belongs to someone should they be found. 

For dogs: Always check and mend fences. Fix weak points and broken locks. Check the fence line for holes. Even if your pet isn't a digger, another animal could be trying to dig under the fence. Know the whereabouts of your pet at all times and be out with them, even if you have a fence. Dogs can jump fences, and if an animal gets scared or sees something it wants bad enough, it will run through an electric fence. If you do have an electric fence, make sure batteries in electric collars are good. If you have children or visitors, make sure they are closing the doors behind them. If your dog is door dasher, invest in baby gates to block the dog. Make sure your pet's collar and/or harness is fitted properly – no more than 2 fingers should fit under collar or harness.

For cats: Check windows screens for proper placement and holes. A cat leaning on a window screen to get some sun or view the birds could easily pop out an unlatched screen.  When not at home where you can keep a close eye on your cat be sure to close all windows. If your cat is a door dasher or is skittish, use extreme caution coming in and out of your house.  If you are moving or have workers at your house, your cat should be locked in another room while the door is opening and closing.  If your cat was an indoor/outdoor cat before adopting or was a stray, keep a close eye on the door for a possible escape in the making. Have a list ready of all numbers for local animal shelters, animal control agencies, veterinarians, animal hospitals, humane societies, and administrative numbers for police departments. This will save you time.

Preventive measures are fundamental!
If you have a pet sitter, let them know during the meet and greet if your pet likes to rush the door or is a known fence jumper!  This way your pet sitter will know to keep an eye out for these issues and can keep your pet safe in their care. 
If you're boarding your pet, make sure your boarding kennel is licensed and knows how to keep your animals safe. Unfortunately, a small dog recently escaped an unlicensed boarding kennel and has been missing for days.  Always double check that your pet caregiver knows what to do in the worst case scenario!

Now that you've already done what you can to increase the chances of being reunited with your pet before your pet goes missing, let's look at the steps to take after a pet is missing! Contact local animal shelters, animal control agencies, veterinarians, animal hospitals, humane societies, and local surrounding police departments. File a lost pet report with every shelter within a 60 miles radius of your home, or where the pet was lost. If at all possible, visit the nearest shelters daily. Fill out the lost-and-found report at PVSEC (Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center). They will notify all area vets by fax.

Pittsburgh and Surrounding areas important phone numbers

  • Animal Control Services 724-746-4344
  • Animal Friends 412-847-7000
  • Animal Rescue League 412-661-6452 x-216
  • Beaver County Humane 724-775-5801
  • City Animal Control (if lost within city limits) HOURS OF 7AM-3PM CALL: 412-255-2036 3PM-11PM CALL: 412-255-2935
  • Dog Warden Allegheny County (Steve Stoehr) 412-418-2163
  • Dog Warden Westmoreland County (Jerome Shepler) 724-496-9421
  • Gaydos Animal Control/Humane Officer 412-720-9477
  • Hoffman Kennels 724-468-5505
  • Monroeville Animal Control 412-856-3355
  • Sable Kennel: 412-660-2350
  • South Hills Cooperative Animal Control 412-279-6911
  • Washington County Humane Society 724-222-7387

Print out Lost Pet flyers, lots of them, at least 200 flyers to start! Include current contact information and the best way to reach you! A clear, greyscale current picture of your pet! Also, if your pet is skittish or easily frightened, add ‘do not chase' to your flyer and instead ask to be contacted with the pet's last verified whereabouts.  Post flyers on every few telephone poles, grocery stores, community centers, veterinary offices, traffic intersections, and pet supply stores. The words “Lost” and your phone number should be as big as possible to be read by passing motorists. If its bad weather or you know bad weather is coming, put your flyers inside a gallon ziplock bag to keep weather out. Do NOT put in mailboxes. Not everyone gets their mail out of their mailbox on a daily basis and if they do, they often don't read it.

Most animals won't go far, especially if they are scared, elderly or have health issues. Search your neighborhood! Lost animals will get scared and hide and small dogs and cats can hide in the smallest of places. Look under porches, sheds, bushes and cars. Talk to your neighbors, let them know your pet is missing and give them a copy of your Lost Pet flyer. Hand out flyers and talk to the mail carrier, newspaper delivery person or delivery service drivers - they are all over your neighborhood on a daily basis.

Utilize the Internet.  There are hundreds of lost pet groups on Facebook that are specific to certain areas of your city! Other pet parents know the fear and are more likely to share your information with others! The more eyes on your flyers the better! The best groups to try locally for dogs are  Lost and Found Dogs-Pittsburgh, PA, Reuniting dogs with families Pittsburgh area and Lost Dogs Pittsburgh . For cat inclusive or specific groups, try Lost & Found Pets in Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Pet Helpers, Lost/Found Cats Pittsburgh and Lost and Found Cats Pittsburgh, PA

Download the app PawBoost, it's free and you can view, share, and report lost & found pets. You can also choose to get notified when a local pet is lost or found near you, and contact the owner or finder with helpful information.  There are also many websites designed to help you find your pet, such as FindToto.com,  PetAmberAlert.com and LostMyDoggie.com

At home, put out anything that will have your smell on it – blankets, clothing, and old pillows and pillow cases. Set out the dog's smelly food, water, crate, and bedding. For cats, put out dirty cat litter and litter box. Highly smelly foods like cat food, tuna and meat. If you have a slow cooker, set it out on the porch with smelly foods cooking. Try grilling hot dogs. If you have a baby, put out dirty diapers. Place a baby monitor or security camera outside by the food to see if someone is returning to eat or is checking out stuff. A lot of times animals will be more active at night. Keep refreshing and renewing food. 

Panic is normal; it's best to stay calm. Drive your neighbor looking but someone has to stay home if the animal returns. It's a waiting game. Sightings are very valuable. Keep track of all sightings – use map, pin mark to see radius, where to focus your effort and where to put flyers.  Start with a 3 block radius of where your pet went missing or was last seen. If you don't get sightings expand the territory. You cannot get your pet home without flyers, check in with shelters, vets offices.

Don't drive around calling for your pet! Your pet will try to follow your voice and you've already moved on.  This will leave your pet more disoriented and confused. Only call your animals name from your property.  If your dog loves squeaky toys, squeak the toy in your yard while calling their name.  If your cat loves rattles and bells, use them while calling their name. Again, only do this from your own property!


Disclaimer: use extreme caution if someone says they have your pet. Verify pet by asking about specific markings, or color of collar. Always go with someone to pick up your pet, never go alone to meet someone who says they have your pet.  Don't offer reward, it brings more problems and a robbery risk if someone knows you will be showing up with money. It will also generate a ton of false leads.

Don't give up! Make sure flyers stay readable and replace those that are torn or weather damaged.  Keep talking to neighbors and posting online. Keep checking in with shelters and vet's offices. Keep the odds in your favor!

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