Dr. Pawz: What to do if your pet is lost

Katy Nelson, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Three weeks ago, on Fort Evans Road in Leesburg, Va., a tiny rescue pup, McKenzie, escaped from her foster home and has yet to be seen.

McKenzie’s foster parents have done everything they can to try and track her down. They’ve posted fliers, called veterinarians, set a live trap and even hired a professional animal tracker — but they have had no luck. They’re starting to lose hope.

What can you do to protect your pet from suffering this same fate if it escapes the confines of your home?

First things first: Try and do all you can to prevent your pet from being a “runner.”

Have your pet spayed and neutered to prevent the desire to stray. Train your pet to come when called so that if it does get out, it’s more likely to come to you or another friendly face. Have your pet microchipped to allow for unmistakable identification when it’s found.

Keep recent “headshots” and full-body shots of your pet on-hand at all times. And finally, always have a collar and identification tag on your pet. This not only provides a positive ID; it also allows a potential rescuer to grab on to your pet when he/she comes to them.

If your pet does get away, what steps should you immediately take to try and ensure that your pet is brought home safely?

1. Contact local animal shelters and animal control agencies immediately. These organizations have a procedure you will need to follow, but they will try their best to help you bring your pet home.

File a lost pet report with every shelter within a 50-mile radius of your home and visit the nearest shelters, daily, if you can. If there are no shelters in your immediate area, contact the local police department and provide the department with a full description and photograph of your pet.

2. Advertise everywhere. Post colorful, eye-catching fliers at veterinary offices, post offices, pet supply stores, community centers, coffee shops, grocery stores and any other business that will allow you to get your pet’s picture in front of the public.

Place an ad in local newspapers, on Craigslist and with local media organizations.

When providing a description of your pet, always leave out one identifying characteristic so that when someone claims to find your pet, they will only be able to describe your pet if your pet is actually there.

3. Speaking of the internet, try these sites to help you relocate a lost pet:

4. Hit up your neighbors! Make your way around the neighborhood several times a day. Ask your neighbors, delivery people, postal carriers and anyone else you can find if they’ve seen your pet.

Carry fliers with you to hand out and pass them out to friends and co-workers to distribute. The more people who know about your pet, the more likely you are to have a happy reunion.

5. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! There are animal trackers in most areas of the country. Hiring one immediately after your pet is lost may help you to find your pet. Animal psychics have been known to have great success in reuniting owners with their pets.

Create a lost pet Facebook page to share with your friends. And, finally, if your pet is treat-obsessed, consider setting up a “live trap” in the area where your pet was last seen. Put plenty of treats, some clothes that smell like you and even a favorite toy to lure them in. You may catch critters you weren’t looking for, but you can always release them and reset for the next day in case your pet may come wandering through.

Finally, always be extremely aware of pet recovery scams. If anyone calls you saying they’ve found your pet, but demand that you give them money up front for the return of your pet, contact the police immediately. Always ask about that one identifying characteristic that you left out of the advertisement before you agree to meet with anyone claiming to have found your pet.

If anyone does have any information about little McKenzie, please call 703-618- 3647 or contact A Forever Home Rescue Organization at www.aforeverhome.org. They’re hoping to reunite this girl with her extremely worried foster parents and continue the process of finding her a “Fur-ever” home!

Dr. Katy Nelson is an emergency veterinarian in Alexandria, Va. Tune in to “The Pet Show” with Dr. Katy every Saturday at 11 a.m. on Washington D.C.’s News Channel 8, and listen on WTOP for her Dr. Pawz segments every two weeks. Have questions for Dr. Katy? You can follow her on Twitter @drkatynelson, on Facebook or email her at askdrkaty@wtop.com.

Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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