Lost and Found: What To Do If You’ve Lost A Pet In Atlanta, Georgia
If you’ve ever lost a pet, you’ve probably felt helpless and frustrated. The sad fact is that most people who lose their pet will never see them again, especially if the pet wasn’t wearing identification. Without ID tags, only two percent of cats and 16 percent of dogs ever see their owners again. Despite this statistic, there are steps you can take to increase the odds that you will see your beloved pet again.
When I lost my cat, Celeste shortly after moving to a new home, I took little comfort in the fact that she was wearing an ID and Rabies tags, and I immediately visited local animal shelters. When you first realize your pet is lost, visit the shelters in your area. You can find a list of shelters located in the metro Atlanta area by going to: www.spotsociety.org/directionsmain.htm. This site lists shelter phone numbers, addresses and website addresses. Some area shelters put up-to-date photos of animals in their facility on a daily basis, so you can use the web addresses to look for pictures of your pet too.
Some pet owners make the mistake of thinking their pet will find its way back home (which rarely happens), and they wait three-to-five days before searching for them. By that time, their pet may already be past the stray waiting period in an animal shelter and may have been euthanized. Visit shelters as soon as you notice your pets missing.
Besides looking at shelter websites and visiting local animal shelters in person, you should put flyers on shelter bulletin boards. As depressing as shelter visits are, you should visit shelters at least once every five days. Be sure you ask to check their isolation areas and also ask employees if your pet is on their “dead list.”
Another step I took to find my cat was to run a free “Lost Pet” ad in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution (404-577-5772). You may also want to run ads in other local newspapers and neighborhood newsletters. Also check the “Found Pet” ads in the papers daily.
The night Celeste disappeared, I went to Kinkos and had color photos of her copied onto a “Lost Pet” flyer. I placed dozens of the flyers around my neighborhood, at the major road intersections near my home, and around nearby neighborhoods within an eight mile radius. Don’t just hang signs in your subdivision, since most pets leave their subdivisions within the first couple of hours of being lost. I once found a dog wandering down a busy highway and was able to locate the dog’s owner by hanging up “found dog” signs. It turned out that the owner had put up one sign at the top of their subdivision and was looking all over their neighborhood. However, when I picked up the dog, it was six miles from home just four hours after it was lost! Also, when making your flyers, be sure the lettering is big and easily read by anyone driving by in a car. I offered a reward on my flyer, since rewards tend to spark interest, and I duct taped the signs around telephone poles, so they wouldn’t fall off.
Additionally, I searched my neighborhood twice a day. You should search your neighborhood daily by car or bike, calling out your pet’s name. Be sure to enlist the help of your neighbors by letting them know your pet is missing as you’re driving around.
The final step I took in my quest to find Celeste was to call the vets in my area, including the emergency clinic, just in case she was brought in. If your pet is wearing a rabies tag, make sure you also call the clinic where he was vaccinated to make sure that the vets have your correct phone number.
If you find your pet, there are things you should do to prevent him or her from ever getting lost again. First, have your pet spayed or neutered as soon as possible. Both male and female pets that are not spayed or neutered are much more likely to roam while looking for companionship and to produce unwanted litters. Next, make sure that your pet has on a collar with a rabies and current ID tag AT ALL TIMES. Cats can wear stretch collars with flat tags that are riveted directly into the collar. Microchips are also a good idea for a backup method. Finally, keep cats indoors, and only let your dog outside in a fenced backyard or on a leash. Leash laws apply to cats as well as dogs.
Unlike most lost pet stories, mine has a happy ending. After four miserable days without my cat, I found Celeste while driving through the neighborhood searching for her one evening. Since we had recently moved into a new neighborhood, she had gotten lost, and I found her sitting in someone’s yard several streets over from mine. Once we got home, I sat on the kitchen floor all teary-eyed telling her how happy I was that she was safe. Celeste pranced around me in a circle for almost 15 minutes with her tail held high and head erect, lifting her paws up and rubbing on me, telling me that she was happy I found her too. She must have been very happy, because she let me turn her into an indoor cat without any resistance, and to this day has been living safe and sound inside my house.
Karen Hirsch has over 15 years’ experience working in animal rescue. Some of her rescues have included ferrets, rabbits, dogs, cats, chickens, flying squirrels and birds. She currently has two cats, three dogs and two birds.