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How to find a lost dog by Sharon Ivey

Frequently, our Club is called upon to help members find lost bull terriers. If you have ever been through a lost-dog event, it can be very traumatic. Knowing what to do when your pet goes missing isn’t always information you have at your fingertips.

Last year Brian and Rachael Bourque’s beloved Cooter went missing from Irving, Texas. He was found and returned eight days later. Also last year, Gregory Anderson’s beloved bitch, Grace, was stolen from his fenced yard. She was found in a shelter more than one year later. Over five years ago, someone released Cleo and Mojo from our backyard in Joliet, Illinois. Cleo was found by a police officer that same day. Mojo was turned into an animal shelter two days later via an anonymous phone tip. The shelter staff knew we were were frantically searching for Mojo and phoned as soon as they had retrieved Mojo from an alley where he was tied to a telephone pole.

These cases encouraged me to research the best practices related to finding a missing pet. What seems to matter most in these situations is quick, ongoing action. The primary challenge is to get the word out in your local area in a timely manner. So, based upon real-life experience, lessons learned the hard way from club members, and a little research on the internet, I’ve compiled a few tips for producing a happy ending to what can be a very sad beginning.

1) Canvas the neighborhood as soon as possible with as many volunteers as you can muster. Knock on every door and hand everyone who answers a flyer. If they haven’t seen your dog today, they may see him tomorrow.

2) Immediately have a flyer made and attach to the door knobs of your neighbors who are not home with a rubber band. Never leave flyers in mailboxes (technically a federal offense) or on door steps (they’ll blow away or be overlooked). (These first few hours are critical. You’ve got to get ahead of the dog and make contact with as many people as possible.)

3) Visit local schools. Ask to have the flyer posted in the school. Kids love dogs and vice versa. Let them know there is a REWARD!

4) Post flyers with a picture of your dog, your contact information (a cell phone is your best bet), ensure you have both the words: REWARD and NEEDS MEDS prominently listed. Post these flyers everywhere:

- telephone poles.
- on stakes at busy intersections (just like those campaign signs)
- bulletin boards in grocery stores (Cooter’s sign at a grocery store got him home).
- bulletin boards in laundry mats, community centers, gas stations, dry cleaners and restaurants.
- Commit to checking back with them at least weekly to let them know how your search is going. When you find your pet, take every one of them down and thank folks for their help.

This site has some good sample flyers to post, use door to door and for Animal Control/Shelters: http://www.basenjicompanions.org/health/lost-dogs/ 

Remember it’s hard to make a flyer without a current picture of your pet. We have an advantage due to the unique look of Bull Terriers but remember in many cases no one can locate your five year old dog from a puppy photo. (Initially, though, on the first trip through the neighborhood, a flyer with the basic info will do. Don’t waste a day creating an award-winning flyer. Time is critical.)

5) Fax or deliver the flyer to local veterinarians and shelters. If your dog is chipped, tell them. Distinguished markings, tell them. Tell them you will follow up in a day or two and do it!!!

This site can be used to develop a list of shelters and rescue organizations in your area: http://lairds.org/Kyler/old_Purdue/animal_rescue/ 

6) Call the POLICE! Insist an officer visit your home and take a report of your stolen property!! Unfortunately, in most states, pets are simply property. If you had to sue to recover damages, you can recover the cost of the pet but not the pain and suffering and other damages. In other circumstances this works against you, but in this situation, use it to your advantage.

Explain to the officer that you fully intend to press charges if your pet is found in another’s possession. Explain the value proposition: Bull Terriers are relatively rare and even rescues often command five hundred dollars for an adult and more for puppies. Many of us have paid in excess of $1,000 to get our pet.

7) Notify local utility companies or rubbish disposal in your area. Especially important if you have meter readers or curbside service. These folks get around in your community. The local ice cream truck driver has to get a flyer.

8) Postal Employees. Talk to them, but they might not take a flyer. In some cases they have helped return dogs to their owners, but it’s a delicate situation for them.

Now, a word of warning:


There are many con-artists and scams out there, people who will try to take your money or perhaps even your liberty.

1) Never meet someone alone to pick up your dog. Have someone go with you and wait outside the car – visible to the other party for the exchange. Ask the local police go with you. Have the finder drive your dog to a public area like a Wal-Mart or they can call the local animal control to pick up the pet for transportation to the shelter

2) Do not give any REWARD money until you have your pet back.

3) Do not give directions to your home – meet them in a public place with lots of activity. For example, a school parking lot may be busy on a school day but deserted at 4:00 p.m. Same with municipal buildings, but there is normally someone at your local police or fire station.

Telemarketing can help: Gary Hack at 800-274-2556, a national telemarketing petfinder, will put together a telemarketing call list and call house-to-house in an area where you feel your dog is wandering. This type of direct calling by a live person is probably very effective on weekends especially and within the first 24 hours of your dog going missing. For roughly $100, you can call a 40-block area. If you have a good idea he's in a certain area this service is effective, if you have no clue, it's a shot in the dark and maybe your flyers would be more effective.

A few websites where you can post a missing dog advertisement.


Most of them are free, and there are some cheap upgrades on them (like statewide alerts to humane societies and vets).

REMEMBER – when your search is over or your flyers are worn – go pick them up! Remove them from all public areas. When you pick up your flyers from stores, schools, and vet offices, thank them for your help. If you still haven’t been reunited, you can repost fresh flyers. Many communities have banned the posting of homemade signs and flyers due to inconsiderate folks not picking up after themselves. Don’t abuse the privilege.

Brian and Rachael noted:

"Doing all this work produced an average of one call per day. These calls allowed us to track Cooter across the southern part of town, from Loop 12 in the east almost to the western Dallas/Tarrant County border.

Those calls were the main thing that helped keep our hopes up, the fact that we received random calls that he was okay and still on the move.

Days after Cooter was returned the calls kept coming in. It's amazing how far he traveled in the amount of time he was loose."


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