It seems not a week goes by without a new Fido-faced flier up on the post or a neighborhood association e-mail blast on the subject of another Fluffy gone astray. "FOUND," says the placard on the corner pine tree. Which means someone is trying really hard to get a pet back home to his/her family.

But trying isn’t the same as succeeding. Which begs the question: Is there anything a concerned finder can do to improve his/her chances of making a connection? Might there be a checklist somewhere to help guide the well-meaning pet finder in his/her worthy quest?

It’s a subject I handle relatively often seeing as I (a) stop my car a lot for strays, and (b) work at a place where these guys tend to end up. So when I came across this recent exchange via my e-mail inbox I just knew I’d have to bring it to you. Here’s how it starts:

Dear Tabby,

This is my first time coming across a lost dog. I found him wandering around the grounds and parking lot of the Publix on 13 Street in Downtown Miami. He looks like a cross of a Chihuahua/terrier, not really sure. He's very gentle and sweet. Here are some photos on my website: www.riverfrontcats.com. Isn't he handsome?!

I took him to vet and no microchip. Vet kindly offered to keep him overnight at no charge but asked me to pick him up next day, or they would have to contact MDAS. They said most people contact MDAS when looking for lost dog. Is that a good idea? If no one claims him, can I take him out and find alternate home?

Need your advice! What should I do? I can not keep him with our new condo rules. Are there other dog rescues? Should I put ad in paper? Craigslist?

Sigh. It’s so depressing that people want so badly to help … and yet they don’t have all the tools they need to make a difference. Luckily, this questioner was barking up the right tree. Here’s the extended response s/he got from a local animal rescuer (substitute the name of your municipality’s public animal service for ours):

Whether you find a dog or a cat, you should basically follow the notification steps:

  1. Have the animal scanned for a microchip. If microchipped,contact the registered owner.
  2. Contact Miami Dade Animal Services to notify them you have found a pet. E-mail   with the date and location where the animal was found, a complete description (species, gender, sterilization status if known, breed or breed mix if known, color, markings, approximate age) and your contact information (e-mail and phone). REQUEST THEY SEND A REPLY ACKNOWLEDGING NOTIFICATION.

    If possible, make a flyer including a photo and send it as an attached file. You can call 305-884-1101 and follow the prompts if you are not able to access e-mail. County law requires dogs be held for a minimum of 5 days before being rehomed, so this is particularly critical if you plan to rehome the animal. All other notifications should not contain too much detail (you want the caller to be able to provide relevant details to help correctly identify the owner).

  3. Place a free "Found Pet" ad in the Miami Herald. Ads must be placed via fax 305-995-8110 or e-mail [email protected].

    Example:

    Found

    White Poodle

    SW 152 St. & 107 Ave.

    305--xxx-xxxx

  4. Place a free online ad in the Miami Herald Online at www.herald.com/classifieds. Click on Place an Ad, then click on Pets (Adoption/Sale) and finally select Total Online Package Basic.
  5. Call Pet Owner's Alliance at 1-800-US-Stray, post notices on craigslist, www.lostpets.com, www.pets911.com, www.fidofinder.com, www.petfinder.com. Post flyers at local vets, grocery stores, pet stores, laundromats, and throughout the neighborhood and on posts at major intersections near the location the animal was found.

When someone contacts me and claims to be the owner/guardian of the animal, I request copies of vet records, photos, etc. to prove the animal is theirs. If the animal is not current on rabies, county license (for dogs) and is not microchipped, I explain the importance of these items, and offer to meet them at the Humane Society with the animal so they can have these services completed before turning the animal over to them.

If it is a highly adoptable dog and they refuse, I tell them I will surrender the dog to Animal Services along with their name and contact information, and have Animal Services return the dog to them. I explain they will be fined more than the cost of getting all three services at the Humane Society. In this way I hope to provide some protection for the dog should it escape again. ;-D

Keep in mind, that it is almost always far preferable for an animal to be returned directly to its owner if it has one than to go to Animal Services. If you are unable to temporarily foster an animal, and do not know anyone who can foster it, consider asking your veterinarian if he or she will board the animal. I have an advance arrangement with a veterinarian who allows me to board dogs I find (on a space available basis) at a discount.

Good luck!

Wow! And I thought I had a good checklist. I don't think I've ever read such a comprehensive approach to what to do with a foundling. I can only hope that if I ever lost one of mine I’d be lucky enough to have someone with such an animal-wonky-approach find him for me.

So how about your checklist? Got anything to add? Subtract?

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: Found - Pet Goose! by mteson

 found pet, lost pet, lost goose, looking for owner of lost pet, flyer for lost pet, lost pet sign