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The 101 Department: How To Find Lost Pets: A Primer for the Public

If pet owners come into your shelter searching for lost animals but come up empty-handed, you can still help by handing them a copy of these tips.

If pet owners come into your shelter searching for lost animals but come up empty-handed, you can still help by handing them a copy of these tips.

1. Understand the dynamics of lost pets.
As every devoted pet owner knows, animals are individuals. The behavior of a lost animal depends on more than just species and breed. Her circumstances and personality—and the way our own species responds to her—can affect both where she goes and how you search for her. Here are some general tips about the behaviors of particular kinds of cats and dogs. You may recognize your own pet in these descriptions.

DOGS
It is difficult to predict how far lost dogs will go if they get loose; there are too many variables. The distance a lost dog travels depends on his individual temperament, the environment (terrain and weather), and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance. Another complicating factor is that people who pick up stray dogs often transport them out of the immediate search area. But generally speaking, your target search area will be within a mile radius of your home.

Friendly dogs and purebreds
In general, wiggly-friendly dogs who seek attention from strangers, along with dogs recognizable as purebreds or rare breeds, will be picked up more quickly than mixed breed dogs, who often go unnoticed. The average, non-rescue-oriented person who sees a mixed-breed dog trotting down the sidewalk may not think much about it, but when the same person sees a dog of “value,” they’re more likely to realize something is not right and pull over. (They may want to keep the dog, but hopefully they’ll try to help find the owner, especially if you have placed ads and posted signs around the neighborhood.)

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