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Eight ways to find a missing pet

What to do when your pet goes missing

A pink dog collar hanging on a fence

Many pet owners have experienced that heart-stopping moment when they realise their pet is missing. It's all too easy for your pet to get spooked and run away or even be stolen.

Latest figures from the Dogs Trust Stray Dog Survey shows that over 81,000 stray dogs were seized by local councils in the year to 31st March 2016.

Thankfully over half were subsequently reunited with their owners, and most of the others either 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 missing pet, but it can help you be reunited with your lost pet much quicker. And in some cases it can help to reduce the cost of your pet insurance.

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 with the name and address of their owner on it when they are out in public.

But it's not only dogs that can be microchipped. Cats, rabbits and horses can be chipped as well. It shows that you're the legal owner of the animal and you can therefore reclaim your pet easily when it gets lost.

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

Eight ways to find a missing pet

1. If your pet is microchipped, phone the database they are 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 are in Scotland you will also need to notify the police. They are 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 is 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 that list missing pets. Some location services are free, but others ,such as petslocated.com that the RSPCA use, 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. It's important to remember that if your pet is found, you take the details of the person that has found them and that they sign the receipt if they were paid a 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 that you suspect is lost, first check to see if it is wearing a collar with the contact details of the owner.

If it is, then 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 will come and collect it from you. You are 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 a local vet for advice. The vet will be able to scan the animal to see if it's microchipped and hopefully reunite it with its owner that way.

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

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