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Lost or Stolen Pets:
Safety and Search Tips

Out of five million family pets reported lost or stolen each year, nearly two million are stolen for research and dog fighting. Learn ways to protect your animal companion from tragedy and how to find a missing pet.

hand holding empty leash


Out of the five million family pets reported missing every year, as many as two million are stolen. The majority of these stolen pets end up at research institutions because the multi-billion dollar animal research industry creates the supply and demand market for stolen dogs and cats. Pets are also stolen for savage dog fights and the brutal training associated with it. This is a profitable big business because of illegal gambling. Please take precautions to protect your beloved companion from tragedy.

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Prevent Lost or Stolen Pets

The following guidelines help reduce the risk of a lost or stolen pet:

If your pet stays outside on a run or in a fenced yard, make sure the gates and fences are secure. If your pet is indoors, keep the doors locked and the windows screened and secure.

Invest in a good ID tag for your dog and outdoor cat collar. Include your pet’s current rabies vaccine tag and your phone number. “If lost, please call…”

Some animal educators do not think it is wise to include your pet’s name on the collar. Knowing the name of your pet makes it easier for thieves to entice your dog or cat into a cage.

Take extra precautions during thunderstorms, parties, or fireworks because some pets become frightened by the noise and run away from it. For simple techniques to soothe your frightened pet, go to Keeping Pets Calm During Thunderstorms

Initiate or join a neighborhood crime watch and invite your neighbors to do the same.

Do not allow your dog or cat to go outside its yard space without a leash or harness. At minimum, your dog should be taught the basic commands of sit, stay and heel.

Have your pet spayed or neutered to reduce the tendency to wander in search of a mate.

Always use a carrier to transport your cat. This prevents your cat from bolting out of the car or jumping out of your arms when surprised or frightened. Dogs may travel in a portable kennel if they are not accustomed to car rides.


Finding Your Missing Pet

Traditional ways of searching for your pet

If you suspect that your pet was stolen, immediately contact your local law enforcement agency.

Place posters in a minimum of a 20-block radius of your home and offer a reward. If possible, include a large photo of your pet on the poster along with information about where the loss occurred, weight and age of your pet, whether or not your pet had a collar, spay/neuter status and your phone number.

Again, some animal experts believe it is unwise to include your pet’s name on the notice because knowing the name makes it easier for a thief to capture or control your pet. On the other hand, calling your pet by name will assist anyone trying to help the animal. Please do what you feel is in the best interest of your pet. Read more about the benefits and risks of placing your pet's name on an ID tag.

Visit your area animal shelters many times because they handle thousands of pets and may fail to recognize a stray from your description.

Notify your local radio and TV stations that offer lost pet announcements. Many of the smaller stations do.

Contact your highway department to check on dead animal removals. Or, Google search for [Your City] department of sanitation. They often perform the deceased animal pickup. Every geographic area is different, so you may have to Google "dead animal pickup in my town" to get connected with the right agency. Yes, your pet being hit by a car is a tragic possibility, but isn’t it better to know what happened?


Tips for Your Digital Search


The Missing Animal Response Network offers information about lost pet behavior, and provides solid advice on how to get your furry family member back home safe and sound. Includes where and how to place lost pet posters and distribute flyers. MARN is different from other lost pet sites because its founder, Kathy "Kat" Albrecht, has a background in search-and-rescue. She bases her lost pet techniques and strategies on the police science used to find missing persons.


Post a description of your pet at and check back often. It is a nationwide lost and found pet recovery database and is free to use. If your pet has a microchip, you can look up or register the number.

Another national database to post lost pet details is the Pet FBI: Information Center for Lost and Found Pets. It is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and all features are free. Includes strategies to protect your pet from tragedy in the first place and how to find them when they do go missing.

Beware of Lost Pet Scams: There are scammers who prey upon your desperation to find your missing pet. These fraudsters have one goal--to steal your money (or identity) without providing service.


Protect yourself from this cruel fraud:

Petco Love Lost: How To Recognize and Avoid Lost Pet Scams

If your companion animal has a Home Again computer chip, or equivalent, notify the organization where you registered your pet. Usually your veterinarian’s office can help you with that.

Be aware that early research suggests a link between cancer and the use of implanted computer chips. Ask your vet about the benefits and risks before implanting one in your pet.

I explain why I do not use social media in the About section, but if you are active on social media, you can make your connections work for you by posting information about your lost pet.

Call the animal shelters, humane societies, veterinary clinics, kennels, and pet food stores in your area that have a Lost and Found Board; or go to their websites and search if they offer a Lost and Found section on their sites. Give them a description of your pet.

Post a lost notice on any digital public service bulletin board and do not forget the physical bulletin boards found at many coffeehouses, libraries, and grocery store entrance ways. I did a Google search of "lost and found pets near me" and returned several digital bulletin boards specific to my geographic area. You can do the same.

Place a lost pet notice with the e-edition and hard copy versions of your local newspaper. Check the “Found Pet” section every day.

A Happy Ending

A few years ago, I found a Siamese cat under the bush in front of my house. She was exhausted, hungry and thirsty. The cat was wearing a tag with a phone number on it but no name. First, I gave her fresh water and calmed her. I knew she was starving, so I fed her a small amount of canned turkey cat food. It is best to give bland protein to a starving cat. I did not want to upset her stomach with dry food, which is high in carbohydrates and harder to digest. To keep her separated from my own healthy cats, I placed her in the bathroom with food, water, litter and a soft towel.


I called the number and the lost cat's human drove to my house to take her pet home. The story is most amazing because the woman had moved from my neighborhood just one week before I found her cat. Cats bond with their humans but often become strongly attached to their places, too—and the Siamese cat had walked almost five miles in search of her old home.

The owner had made the mistake of allowing her cat outside unattended before her homesick kitty was comfortable with the immediate surroundings of the new location.

To reduce the chance of a cat wandering off in search of its old home, it is best to keep a cat indoors for at least a week after a move. Then let her out on supervised visits for another week before allowing the cat to be on her own. Of course, keeping a cat indoors is best for overall health, safety, and longevity, but that is a matter of personal choice.

My little story had a happy ending because the cat was wearing a collar with a tag thanks to a caring pet parent. Not all stories finish so well. Please take care now to prevent heartache later.

Pet Safety

Missing Animal Response Network: Lost Dog Behavior

Lost Cat Behavior



Petco Love Lost: Resources on How to Find Lost Dogs and Cats

American Humane: What to Do if You FIND a Lost Pet

             Tips for Moving with Dogs and Cats

The Wheaton Blog: 6 Tips for Protecting Your Outdoor Cat After a Move

Pet FBI: A Guide to Road Tripping with Your Pets

Find Pet
Digital Tips
Happy End
Pet Safety

Hot Weather Safety Tips

Cold Weather Safety Tips

Holiday Safety and Your Pet

Travel Safety Tips

Caring for Pets During Disasters

Every year, animal shelters and rescue groups scramble to rescue pets separated from their owners during floods and natural disasters. Storms, wildfires and other catastrophes can strike swiftly and with little warning. Making a plan now will prepare you to protect your pets from danger later.

Victory: Congress Passes Bill to Help Animals During Disasters

American Humane: Preparing a Disaster Plan for Your Pet

ASPCA: Pets and Disaster Preparedness Tips

ASPCA: Pet Planning | Pet Trusts

Who will care for your pets in the event of your illness or death? Learn what you can do now for your pet's secure future.

Five Tips For An Effective Lost Pet Poster


According to the 5 + 5 + 55 Rule, you have only five seconds and five words to grab the attention of walkers, or drivers going 55 mph, passing your sign.

Use these guidelines to create an eye-catching poster:

1. Make signs and lettering huge.

2. Choose fluorescent poster board and waterproof the finished poster with lamination or clear packing tape.

3. Post signs as soon as possible at major intersections near where your pet was lost.

4. Keep wording brief, and use capital letters: HELP FIND LOST DOG! BEAGLE, RED COLLAR

5. Create vertical tabs (strips) with your phone number on each strip at the bottom of the poster. This will allow people quick access to your number without having to fumble for their phones. Make space for the tabs when you are working on the poster layout. Once you have made copies, cut in between the numbers so that passersby can easily tear off a strip.

You can also tag the back window of your car for an inexpensive, but effective, mobile lost pet message.

Source: Missing Animal Response Network: Neon Posters

Return to Finding Your Missing Pet


Did you know...


One mama cat can have as many as 100 kittens in her lifetime. Because her offspring can do the same, there are not enough homes for all the kittens born every year.

Each year in the US, about 1.5 million shelter animals are killed.

(670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats)

Alley Cat Allies: The Difference Between Euthanasia and Killing

For low cost spay | neuter programs in your area, call:



Decrease homelessness…Please spay or neuter your pets.



Low Cost Spay Neuter Programs | Adoption

ASPCA: Top Reasons to Spay | Neuter Your Pet

Adoption Tips from the ASPCA

Helping Hands Humane Society: Top 10 Reasons to Adopt from an Animal Shelter

Say No to Puppy Mills | Opt to Adopt

Paws and Reflect: Adopt Or Shop Responsibly: Breeding, Rescue, and Myths

Alley Cat Allies: Safe and Humane Help for Stray Cats in Your Neighborhood

A Closer Look at Community Cats: Common Misconceptions and Ways to Help

The Meaning of Stray and Feral: They Are Not the Same

The Difference Between Spay and Neuter

How to Evaluate a Low Cost Spay | Neuter Clinic


Be the Solution: ~Spay~Neuter~Adopt

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