What to do when your pet goes missing

2 minutes

Losing a pet is heartbreaking and stressful. Here are eight steps you can take to be reunited with your pet sooner. 

  • Why you should get your pet microchipped
  • Make the most of social media and online forums 
  • Stay positive - pets often turn up 

If your pooch has ever wandered off on an extended walk, you're not alone. The Stray Dog Survey in 2017 by Dogs Trust showed more than 66,200 stray dogs were seized by local councils (1 April 2016 - 31 March 2017).

Thankfully, more than half were reunited with their owners. Many of the others were rehomed or passed on to a welfare organisation.

But no owner wants to lose a beloved pet, so what can you do when your pet goes missing?

Get your pet microchipped

It won't prevent a walkabout pet, but it can help you to be reunited with your lost pet faster.

From April 2016, it's been a legal requirement to get your dog microchipped and registered on an approved database. Dogs must also wear ID tag with the name and address of their owner when they're out in public.

But it's not only dogs that can be microchipped - cats, rabbits and horses can be chipped, too. A microchip is proof that you're the legal owner of the animal, so you can reclaim your pet easily if it gets lost.

A microchip is proof that you're the legal owner of the animal, so you can reclaim your pet easily if it gets lost. 

Eight ways to find a missing pet

1. If your pet is microchipped, phone the database they're registered with and report them as missing. Make sure the database has your latest contact details.

2. Call the local animal warden service and local authorities. If you're in Scotland, you'll also need to notify the police. They're responsible for stray dogs and may have picked up your lost dog. If the warden service finds a dog, they will kennel it until they can trace the owner, or until it's rehomed.

3. Contact the RSPCA, other animal charities and local rehoming centres. They may have taken in your animal from the animal warden, or they can advise where to go for help.

4. Get online. Social media is a great way to spread the word about a missing pet. There are also many lost and found sites listing missing pets. Some location services are free, but others, such as the RSPCA-approved, will charge a fee.

Your pet insurance may be able to help cover the cost of paying for advertising and even offering a reward for the safe return of your pet. If your pet is found by someone and you pay them a reward, don't forget to take their details and ensure they sign a receipt for the reward. 

5. Ask your neighbours to check their gardens and outbuildings in case your cat has got stuck inside or your dog is hiding there.

6. Put up posters where your pet went missing. Someone may be able to provide some information about what happened to your missing pet. You can also put up posters where other pet owners will be, like local dog-walking sites or pet stores.

7. Contact vets in the place where you lost your pet. People who find stray animals often take them to the local vet.

8. If you think your pet has been stolen, contact the police.

What to do if you find a lost pet

If you find an animal you suspect is lost, check to see if it's wearing a collar with the contact details of the owner.

If it is, the easiest way to reunite owner and pet is to call the owner. Ask them to bring some identification with them when they collect their pet.

If you find a lost dog, call the local animal warden service. They'll come and collect it from you. You're legally responsible for letting the warden know about a lost dog. If you keep the dog, you could be accused of theft.

If you find an injured stray, try to take it to a local vet, or call them for advice. The vet will be able to scan the animal to see if it's microchipped and hopefully reunite it with the owner. 

You could also log details of the pet you've found on a lost and found website or on social media.

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