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Avoid Lost Pets

Welcome to the pet care section of Diana L. Guerrero's Ark Animals. Avoid lost pets with simple strategies. Losing a pet is traumatic because dog and cat owners don't know where to start their search. This article discusses preventative measures and five steps to avoid pet loss. Companion animals can escape during travel or disasters so identification and "pet passports" are necessary for ALL pets. Feel free to visit the media room for press releases, recent media coverage, and related items.

Avoid Lost Pets

Looking for pet finding tips or loss prevention tips? If so, you'll find valuable information here and five vital tips to help you on your quest to avoid losing your beloved critter, or to find a lost pet.

1. Pet identification aids are required.
To ensure you get your pet back one of the most effective habits is to make sure your animal always wears an identification tag (or collar) and a physical marker such as an identification microchip or tattoo.

If you think you pet is exempt from identification rule let me remind you that all it takes is one open door, a fallen screen and an open window for a pet to escape. Natural or man-made disasters can unexpectedly destroy homes and escaped pets need all the help they can get. Incidents can even occur during travel and can be horrible nightmares for those animals without identification-not to mention the stressed owners!

If your pet has an identification tag with CURRENT CORRECT information on it, he is more likely to be returned home. Tags from the city or county will have a code and proof of rabies vaccination (if it is a dog or cat), which will allow owners to be traceable, but it is still important to have a tag with your name and number on it. Also, you might want to include a veterinary tag or a local humane society tag to assist further. If you are not available, the pet professional could provide some assistance to callers.

When moving, or traveling, have a temporary tag on the animal with a relative or friend's area code and phone number. You might also look into contacting the local shelter or a veterinarian in the area you are relocating to and include their information too. Most pet stores have temporary pet tags where you can write the information on the tag and have it on immediately. There are many new innovative products available.

Some humane societies or animal shelters will have what they call "Jiffy Tags." They are tags that can be written on and covered with a bit of plastic for immediate identification; ask about them. Also on the market are vending machines that provide immediate tags while you wait. Check some of the larger pet supply store chains for these.

On a national level, there are several pet registry agencies. They provide special pet tags and usually are embedded with an 800# that people can call. Many also have websites services for lost pets. Fees vary, but once you have a number, all you have to do when you move is supply the agency with your new information and the database is immediately updated.

Check with your local humane society for a listing or information on these services or use search engine technology by searching, 'pet registries' or 'national pet registry.' Humane groups are good sources to go for information since they want to help with pet overpopulation and pet loss; they usually recommend the best suppliers and information.

Microchips and tattoos are other good ideas to assist with finding an animal, but the average human won't know how to use those markings. (Most animal care facilities will.) Some facilities do not have a universal scanner to pick up on all the different microchips on the market and could miss it. If you do decide to get your animal microchipped be sure to use physical pet tags in conjunction with them. In the event of pet theft, they are good ways of finding a pet who has been transplanted a long way off or if they have had all other identification items removed.

New technology utilizes a Global Positioning System so you can locate your pet instantly. It is still pricey but you can also create a virtual fence and be alerted if your pet breaches the perimeter.

2. Plan for the worst.
Make an action plan and outline a checklist just like you would compose a disaster plan for your family. Taking those actions will help reduce stress during a crisis. My tips are:

Invest in Pet ID cards
There is a new wave of pet identification cards available to owners. The look like a driver's license and fit in your wallet. These contain your pet's picture, address, and state of residence.

Take photographs and keep current ones in file.
Keep photographs of your animal. The photographs should be clear, be sure to include a frontal shot, side shots of the animal, and be sure to include the whole animal, including the tail and feet. At least one close-up is a good idea.

Use half-toned photographs to copy on a copier or use the color copiers to make colored LOST posters. Include only the lost dog or cat information: a brief description, collar information, and make sure you include your area code and phone number along with a REWARD note. The rest of the information you will save for when you receive calls to determine if the animal is really yours by asking questions.

If a pet is lost distribute these posters in your neighborhood, at shelters, at local markets, at post offices and other public places. Be sure to call the local papers and place an ad. Most will print your announcement a no fee or low fee. In smaller towns, many local radio stations will do lost pet announcements.

3. Keep a pet file since you will need to provide detailed animal information.
Many animals look similar to yours and people get confused over breeds and other details. Make sure you have accurate and detailed information about your animal. What color eyes does it have, what are the ears like? What type of tail? What sex? Is the animal spayed or neutered? What weight is the animal? What is the breed or mix is the pet?

Also make sure you note any specific scars, moles, or different color toes, or unusual markings on body or tongue. Note color and type (leather, nylon, etc.) of the collar and ID on the animal. (registration numbers, etc.) This information will help identify your lost animal. You will not post this information, but animal control, rescue and shelter agencies can assist you better if you can supply this detailed information.

Most people do not know the difference between the different breeds or descriptions. A red dog may just be brown to them, or what they view as a long-haired animal could be a medium-haired animal to you. Be sure to be helpful in your description and provide photographs. If you find an animal this is important, too.

4. Develop pet search strategies.
If you lose an animal, start a search around the location where the animal was lost or last seen. Calling or whistling are good ways to try to establish contact with your animal. Try to sound calm so that an animal will not fear coming to you. Training an animal to come to a loud whistle or specific call is something you can do in your daily routine so it can be used in the event of an emergency or pet loss.

Next, spread out to surrounding areas. Slowly drive around, street by street, and call your pet. If you get real creative, a bull horn or announcement system might give you an extra edge...just make sure you are using this strategy during normal waking hours.

5. Establish a network of friends, neighbors and family to assist in searches.
Your best allies are family, friends, and neighbors. Be sure to contact them and enlist their help. Don't forget to recruit kids in the neighborhood either. They are diligent and can cover a whole lot of territory on their bikes or skateboards. Kids also have an incredible network of friends, lots of energy, and can cover ground quickly.

Make sure you give your team copies of pet photographs to show others during their quest. Also ask that they search specific areas. Search during different times of day and night, too. Most animals are more active at early morning or evening hours. Cats tend to stay close. Dogs tend to run farther and are more sporadic in their habits.

While you search also have tools to help you catch the animal and prevent escape again. For instance, use the leash to make a slip collar. Take it and make a loop through the handle. You can then place it over the animal's head and pull it secure so the animal cannot escape again. Some animals will need a kennel or a vehicle to get into in order to come. Many times they are frightened and will be jumpy. Many an animal will jump into a car if you ask them, "Do you want to go for a ride?"

Food lures do not always work with stressed animals but it is also another item to carry and have in your bag of tools. Odiferous aids, like strong smelling cat food with pull top lids, can be opened quickly and may help lure an animal to you.

Be prepared so you can avoid losing your pet.

About the columnist: Since 1978 Diana L. Guerrero has worked professionally with both wild and domestic animals. Guerrero has been affiliated with, and certified by, a variety of animal programs in the USA and Europe. Based in California, she writes, consults, and speaks. Information on her animal career programs, training courses, and her books {What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality (SkyLight Paths, 2003), Blessing of the Animals (Sterling, 2007), Help! My Pet is Driving Me Crazy (Guerrero Ink, 2007), Animal Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners & Pet Professionals (Guerrero Ink, 2007)} can be found in this web site and in the shop. Questions for Guerrero should be submitted via the blog comments or membership forum.


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