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We are stronger together than we are alone!

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 I’d like to start off this article with a real life story. This story is of a family with two Boston Terriers, male and female.

One summer evening in 2007, a windstorm came through and knocked down part of their fence.  Without realizing it, the owners let the dogs out after the storm had passed and they slipped through the damaged fence.  The girl was found a week later by someone down the street where the owner had previously knocked on doors searching for them.

 The poor girl was weak, thin and scratched up, but she made it back home alive.  The male was seen running loose with a black lab at a nearby elementary school during a soccer game. He was was loaded into a van by someone who claimed they were taking the dogs to the shelter.

 The black Lab was found in the after hours drop off, but the dog matching the description of the missing Boston Terrier was not there. Despite ads, flyers, and posters put up all over the neighborhood including by the school where he was last seen, the family never saw their dog again.

 Playing “finders keepers” toys with the emotions of those who have lost their pets.  But driving the dog straight to the shelter starts a clock ticking. That clock starts counting down the time that dog has to be claimed by their owners or by someone else before potentially being euthanized. If you have a safe environment for the dog to be housed while you do a search; you will give them a fighting chance to get back home. Any additional time you can buy them is a precious gift for a lost dog.

The first step in trying to get that dog back home is obviously to check for a collar and tag with a phone number.  Even a rabies tag can indicate the vet who gave the vaccination and looking up the tag number can often yield contact information for the owner.

Remember not to judge.  A dog that is skinny and doesn’t look cared for, or one that has wounds or scratches is not necessarily an abused or neglected dog that no one wants.  Being lost and without food or water can be hard on a dog.  They may also encounter unfriendly animals or other dogs along the way. It’s uncertain how long they’ve been on the streets. It may have been hours, it may have been months.

No tags? Take the dog to a vet to be scanned for a microchip. Microchips will give you the contact information of the registered owner or possibly someone who used to be a registered owner. If they never registered the chip, the number can be looked up by the chip company to determine who purchased it and often who implanted it. They in turn should have the contact information of the owner. This is not a guarantee, so it’s important for the owner to register their chips and keep them updated.

There are several sites such as where you can look up chip numbers and see the registered owner, however I tested out the effectiveness of these sites by searching my own dogs’ chips but my searches came up blank. The best route is to contact the chip company directly if it is not registered and you are not able to find the owner information online.

No chip? Report the found dog to local shelters and rescues.  You do not need to turn the dog over in order to put the word out. Local shelters often take information on found pets and can include it on their websites or on their found pet recordings. Flyers can also be put up in many shelters for those who may be checking them for their dog.

Check the local lost and found ads.  Place an ad but be careful to still leave enough information out of the ad so the real owner will still need to identify the dog.  Scammers often try to claim valuable lost pets so they can be resold.  Don’t worry about the cost, local newspapers will often allow someone to place an ad for a found animal for free, so inquire if they have such a program. If there is a cost, most pet owners are willing to reimburse the cost of the ads (within reason). Be sure to check   as well. The ads there are free and the site is often the first place people go when losing or finding a pet.Blake2011

Ask around, knock on doors.  It could be that the dog just lives in your neighborhood or someone may know who owns it.  Our family found an older golden retriever a mile from our home. What was just old age, arthritis, and wear and tear for him, looked to us like he had been wandering the streets for weeks.

We loaded him up and took him home to “save” him.  We took him to the vet, scanned for a microchip (none found), did a check up and put him on medication for his aching joints. We placed ads and consulted with people in the area who were involved in rescue, trying to determine what was best for him. We later came to find out, he lived two houses away from where we found him and often slips out of the yard to go potty at the neighbors.

Had we left him alone, he would have walked right back home. What if we hadn’t tried to find his owners? If we turned him over to a shelter or rescue, he might have been immediately euthanized due to his age and joint problems.  If a sincere effort isn’t made to find the owners before making major decisions about the dog’s future, in my opinion there is a line being crossed.

After you have exhausted all resources and have done all you can to find the owner, call your local breed rescue to see if they have room.  If they are unable to find the owner, they can search for a suitable home for the dog. The last thing someone should do is just drop a found pet off at the shelter.  That will give the dog a very minimal chance at continuing to live a long happy life, much less ever return to the home it knows and misses.

Approach the situation with the Golden Rule of “Do unto others…”. What if it was your dog that was found by a stranger? What kind of effort would you want someone to give in order to return your dog to you? In doing what is best for the dog, remember that every lost dog once had a human family whom they miss, and who misses them.