It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to frequently check in person AND online with your surrounding local shelters for your lost dog or cat. For lost cats it is less likely that your pet will be found in a shelter, but it is possible! It is important that you check all shelters in-person the first 2 to 3 weeks and supplement your in-person checks with monitoring the shelter‘s online website (if they even have one!) In some cases it may be appropriate to check the shelters for months. Remember to cover your bases! We suggest checking all shelters within at least a 25 mile radius at first.
There are many reasons why any given animal shelter may not be as responsive as desired when it comes to reaching out to families who have reported that their cat or dog has gone missing. Employees are overly-bombarded with information and cases. Shelters often have very limited resources. Typically, their energy is spent finding stray pets new homes instead of connecting them with an owner that wants them back. Sometimes there are few options for them – and often it does come down to a simple issue: Give this pet to this rescue or adoptive family versus euthanizing the animal. Most of the time they make the best choices they possibly can.
Here’s an example of a case that illustrates just why it is so important to keep up with checking with your surrounding local shelters. Kitty Pants, a beloved pet cat, went missing from home when the pet sitter left the door open.
“I'm writing today to warn others against a very unjust situation that happened to us at our local shelter. In February of this year, my husband and I were on vacation when our house sitter left the back door open and our beloved 'Kitty Pants' - a long hair Himalayan cat - got out. We were devastated. We called the shelter immediately with the information. We continued to poster the town, until one day a young girl came forward, approximately 5 weeks later, after she saw a newly re-posted sign. She called us and explained that she found the cat a couple of weeks prior, knew it was the one missing from the signs. She brought him to the shelter and clearly explained there was a local family looking for the cat and they were offering a $500 reward.
The shelter took the cat in. Instead of referring back to their "lost pets" binder where Kitty Pants' information was, they kept him for 9 days - never calling us or making an effort to check their records. If they had done this they would have found his description and our contact information. On March 18, they adopted him out to another family. When we found out what had happened to our beloved cat, this new family had had him for 2 1/2 weeks.
We naturally assumed that the shelter would happily call, explain the situation and the family would give the cat back - as hard as it would be for them. After two days of pleading with them they half-heartedly agreed to reach out to the new owners of Kitty Pants; extending our offer of $650 or a new Himalayan kitten. To our shock and horror the family refused to return him."
When checking in-person at the shelter, make sure to ask about injured animals too!
About a fifth of lost dogs who enter shelters are reunited with their owners, compared with only 3 percent of cats, according to the National Humane Society. One rescue group reports that they reunited a whopping 2,435 dogs with their owners, but only 375 cats in one year! So remember to keep a watchful eye out on your local shelters. Your cat of dog may be waiting for you there!
Contributed by Annalisa Berns, Pet Detective www.PetSearchAndRescue.com