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Lost Pet Situations are Different. There is no "standard" for what to do when your pet goes missing.

A friend called me last night saying that her friend's, who lives hundreds of miles away, cat is missing, and she went to our website but it didn't tell her what she should do. That's because every case is different. We highly suggest that you do not follow the "cut and paste" advice given on social media. They mean well, but most of these people have no experience in lost pet situations, and are just repeating some of the things that they have heard or seen on social media. We tailor our advice to YOUR situation. For cats, it makes a difference as to whether they are (and have always been) strictly indoors, strictly outdoors, or indoor/outdoor. For both dogs and cats, their age and health makes a difference. The weather and terrain in your area makes a difference. Their personality makes a difference. The situation that caused them to go missing makes a difference. Also, where did the pet go missing? At home? While at someone else's house? How often have they been to this person's house? Did they jump out of a car? Are they lost close to home or far away from home? In only a few instances are foot searches recommended -- many times, they can do far more harm than good, pushing the pet away from the area. The same with calling, whistling, and clapping in order to find your pet -- most of the time, it is not recommended. All of this makes a difference. A BIG difference. So, if your pet is missing, reach out to us, give us as many details as possible, and we will come up with a plan that is tailored to YOU getting YOUR pet home safely!

If your situation does not call for an immediate foot search of the area, we do suggest that you post on the following social media/lost pet platforms (this is not all-inclusive. It's the ones that we use regularly in our area of Virginia):

* Facebook -- the Lost and Found page for your area, but, more importantly, a general page for your neighborhood if there is one.

* Nextdoor

* Neighbors app by Ring (even if you don't have a Ring camera, you will want to post here, and check regularly for posts from people who are seeing animals on their camera)

Personally, I don't like posting on Pawboost because many scammers seem to get your phone numbers and will send you a text saying that they have your pet and will want to send you a code in order to "prove" you are the owner. NEVER respond to a text like this! If someone has your pet, they should send you a photo to prove it. Period! If they don't, I have told them that I will meet them at the animal shelter or police department to retrieve my pet. That, usually, shuts them up.

You also want to file a missing pet report with your local animal shelter right away. Where we live, in Spotsylvania, VA., the shelter only keeps the lost and found reports for 30 days. So if your pet is missing longer than this, you need to "renew" your report. And go in person to check!!! Stray hold, in our town, for an animal with no identification is 5 days, and if it has identification (collar and/or microchip) it's 10 days. After that period, the pet becomes the property of the shelter and is available for adoption! If a person is holding on to your pet to foster for the stray hold, it becomes theirs after the stray hold!

Do not rely on social media in order for your pet to be found! Signs are FAR more important because they tell the people in the immediate area that your pet is missig and you are looking for it! I can't tell you how many people say to us "we are not on social media". Besides, if there are signs, then people know how to contact you if they see your pet. They are not going to take the time to look for a post on social media (or, if they do, it will be hours after they have seen your pet -- after they get home from work, after they run errands, after they pick up their kids from school and take them to soccer practice....).

And once your pet is home safely, be sure to do what it takes to make sure that they never get lost again -- repair the break in the fence, add a latch that is out of reach from dog noses and children, put a seat belt through the loop of your dog's leash, be sure your cat carrier is secured properly and in good condition, never have your dog off leash outdoors during fireworks season or a thunderstorm (yes, even in your fenced in yard!). And if the pet is new to you, keep in mind that it usually takes 2-3 MONTHS for the pet to be comfortable in their new home. Until then, they are flight risks. And even after that period, you must spend time training the dog, and practicing the training for the rest of their lives so that they remember what they learned. Keep your pets safe!

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