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Seeking Many Happy Returns (To Owners)

When pets go missing, owners can try a variety of search strategies—and shelters should play a proactive role

When pets go missing, owners can try a variety of search strategies—and shelters should play a proactive role

Pet detective Laura Totis and her tracking dog, Chewy, prepare for a search as Chewy sniffs an item with the scent of the missing animal. PHILIP NIMMO
Pets disappear for all sorts of reasons: Uncle Fred leaves the back door open. Rover spots a squirrel and breaks free during his walk. Muffy decides she prefers the tuna from the lady up the street.

It doesn’t mean the owners are bad people, but it could mean they’ll soon be visiting your shelter, looking for advice about how to recover a piece of their family and maybe a piece of their heart.

“There is no better feeling in our business than reuniting a lost pet with their family,” says Michelle Cascio, shelter services coordinator for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). “It’s even better than the feeling of a successful adoption, because your actions helped alleviate the pain a person feels when they can’t find their lost pet.”

In a world without pet overpopulation, reunions would be animal shelters’ largest task: to serve as searchers, holders, and reuniters for pets who’ve temporarily become separated from their families. Many people, in fact, will have their first encounter with an animal shelter only when they lose a pet and begin the frantic process of searching for him.

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