By Sarah Davin
Facing the disappearance of a well-loved pet is a frightening experience. Scouring the neighborhood in the dark, worrying if you’ll ever see you cat or dog again is not something anyone wants to experience on their own. Fortunately, we have great local resources such as the Central Vermont Humane Society (CVHS) and Lost and Found Animals of Vermont to provide some great advice to help you find your lost pet.
One of the most effective ways to help someone identify your pet is through a microchip, a device that is about the size of a grain of rice and inserted under the pet’s skin just above the shoulder blades. When someone locates the chip with a microchip reader, a device frequently found at clinics and shelters, the owner’s contact information will be read out.
Erika Holm, director of operations at CVHS said “Owners can make an appointment to come here whenever we’re open, and we will microchip their animal. It’s $25. That means we implant the microchip and register it with the microchip company.” Having your pet microchipped carries the further benefit that your pet can be identified even if it slips its collar.
Having the right collar can prevent your dog from escaping during an outing and increase the pet’s chances of being returned. Martingale collars are an excellent type of collar for preventing newly homed dogs from pulling themselves lose of their collar because the collar tightens slightly so that it won’t slip over the back of the head.
Another way to decrease the likelihood of your pet’s getting loose is attaching the clasp of the leash to the harness and the collar, creating a system in which the dog isn’t free if the collar breaks or slips. One easy way of helping people reach you if they see your pet is to write your phone number in bold, permanent marker on the pet’s collar, so if your pet is visible but unable to be caught, the person can call you.
Holm explained, “You may not be able to grab the collar and read a tag if the dog is growling and acting really scared. You don’t want to put yourself in danger. If the dog has a plain, tan collar with a big, bold phone number on there, someone can make a phone call. We do that with all the shelter dogs.”
If you lose your pet, it is important to spread the word. The first person to contact is your local Animal Control Officer. To find out who that is, call your town clerk or go to the town’s website. In Montpelier, loose dogs are handled by the police. Police Chief Anthony Facos clarified, “We only deal with loose dogs, usually when there is a complaint involved. The city contracts with the Central Vermont Humane Society for housing stray animals when needed. Residents sometimes do bring cats to the CVHS, but police do not get involved with cats.”
To increase the chances that someone will recognize your pet, make posts on the Lost and Found Animals of Vermont Facebook and Front Porch Forum. Contact local shelters and give them a description of the pet. In addition, reach out to your neighbors. Sometimes, pets will take shelter in nearby sheds or garages. Cats, if frightened, can hunker down in one place for a long period. “They’ll sit under there. They may stay there for a week or so and never make a sound and watch you,” Holm elaborated, “It’s amazing. They can even go into a state where they won’t pee, poop, or eat.”
Putting up fliers in town and leaving fliers at your neighbors’ doors will help make your community aware that your pet is missing. Your are effectively recruiting your community to help you find your pet. Place a larger version of the poster on your mailbox with your contact information easily visible. Is someone picks up a lost pet, they will frequently travel around the neighborhood to see if someone is searching for it. If you have a larger poster outside your door, then they can contact you even if you aren’t home.
Not only are there ways to help you find your pet, but there are ways to help your pet return to you. Cats and dogs are very sensitive to smell, so placing a piece of clothing that smells like you, such as a dirty t-shirt, or something that belongs to the pet such as a blanket or pet bed outside can help the pet smell its way home. If you can hang the item so that the wind blows through it that can help disperse the smell across a wider area.
The most important thing is to not give up. If your pet was healthy when it left, it will likely make it through the night. We frequently picture wild animals as the largest threat to our escaped pets. In reality, moving vehicles present a much larger threat. In general, pets can survive out there much longer than we think.
“I see a lot more examples of dogs and owners being reunited than cats and owners. One reason is, I think, people give up on cats more quickly. People have a tendency to believe that it got eaten by a coyote or a fisher cat. That’s not always the case. I’ve reunited cats that have been missing for six months. They can absolutely survive,” affirmed Holm.