Protecting Your Pets from Getting Lost or Stolen

Trojan and Gitli aug 20 2012I have lost count to the many phone calls and emails from upset pet parents whose pets have gone missing and these call usually come several days if not a week later.  I ask the usual questions.  Does your pet have a collar with an ID tag?  Is your pet micro-chipped?  Do you have a current photo of your pet?  Have you put up flyers and contacted the vets, shelters, police, animal control in a 10 miles radius?

The usual answer to these questions is No.

One of the most frightening things that can happen to any pet owner is their pet disappearing. It does happen.  Some pets will run off to explore or hunt and then are not able to find the way home.  Some pet get out of their enclosures, slip off leashes, or even dart from the car or from an open door.  Some pets are lost after a vehicle accident or are stolen.  Dog theft is on the rise and the target is usually purebreds, hunting dogs or bully breeds.  The dogs get sold on the black market to labs, puppy bills, or even as bait dogs for dog fight training.

A responsible pet owner will protect, supervise, and know where their pet is at any given moment and yet after all the efforts made sometimes things just happen. We can take steps to protect our pets from becoming lost or stolen:

  • Keep color photos of your pet and of you being with your pet current.
  • Be diligent in checking the pets enclosure or fenced area to ensure that escape isn’t possible.  A fenced yard DOES NOT guarantee that your pet is safe and secure without supervision.  Dogs can dig under, jump over, and climb up and over fences.  Even a little hole can become an escape route for a determined pet or thief.
  • Most places have leash laws for dogs, follow the leash laws and do not let your dog run off leash in an unfenced area.
  • Some dogs and cats tend to run out an opened door, be careful when opening doors.
  • Avoid leaving pets alone in the yard, car, or tethered outside of a business. It really does take just a moment for a pet to vanish.
  • Make sure leashes and collars are secure.  I recently transported a dog whose collar was not fitted to him and he slipped out of it.  I am thankful the dog responded to his training and went right to the car to jump in.  I fitted his collar immediately.
  • Make sure your that the data on your pet’s collar and micro-chip are up to date.
  • Most communities issues rabies and license tags to pet owners, securely attach these to the pets collar.  Keep these tags valid, these can help trace the pet owner.
  • If your pet is tattooed make sure it’s visible and that the data at the Tattoo Registry is up to date.
  • Replace frayed, worn, or chewed collars, leashes, and cable runs.
  • Be careful with the retractable leashes, they do not normally give pet owners optimal control and when some dogs will dart when these are dropped because of the noise it makes hitting the ground and retracting.
  • Many pets turn up missing after a big noise event or loud parties, especially related to fireworks.   Make sure pets are secured during these events and never leave them outside and unattended.  Other loud triggers can be thunderstorms, construction noises like nail guns, big delivery trucks, other types of large equipment, motorcycles, gunshots, backfire from vehicles, sirens, and horns.
  • Traveling with your pets can be fun but travel safety is very important.  Take precautions and if flying the crate needs to be secure and properly identified.  Keep pets from running out of open vehicle doors and do not leave them alone in the vehicle.
  • Training your dog is important.  A solid foundation of obedience training can be essential especially a strong recall command.  Keep treats handy at all time for incentives.

Not all lost dogs will bark for help and some instinctively remain still and quiet to avoid getting the attention of wild or human predators.  Time is of the essence when a pet vanishes and pet owners must take immediate action:

  • If theft is a possibility call law enforcement immediately.
  • Post signs and flyers that has a current color photo of the lost pet and your contact information on it, be sure to include in large black letter “LOST DOG or CAT” and include a description of your pet.  If your pet is tattooed or micro-chipped mention that but do not mention what the tattoo or micro-chip number is.
  • Contact local animal hospitals, shelters, animal control, rescue groups, and other pet related businesses
  • Canvass the neighborhood and ask friends, neighbors and family members for their help.
  • Post lost dog ads in the newspaper
  • List your dog online at lost dog databases.
  • Act fast and do not give up hope
  • Don’t beat yourself up, even the best preventative measures don’t always work
  • Post on websites designed to help with lost pets.
  • Utilize Social Media like Facebook and Twitter and don’t forget to include your location which means include the city and state.  I have seen a lot of lost pet posts that don’t include this vital information.

There are criminals who will see your misfortune as an opportunity to make money so beware of scams.  Avoid posting the actual reward amount, tattoo and micro-chip information on the signs and flyers.  Do not give out your full name and address for your own safety.  If you receive a tip do not send any reward money until your pet is safely in your arms.  Never go out alone to pick up your pet from anyone you do not know and let your friends and family know where you are going.

Other tips to remember:

  • When your pet is spotted don’t chase this could cause your pet to run away whether it’s out of fear or being playful.  Make sure your search parts knows this and that they know how to approach or shy or fearful dog.
  • Leave fresh food and water, bedding with shelter and some favorite toys outside the pet’s home
  • Periodically visit each of the locations of where signs and fliers have been posted and replace as needed
  • Don’t forget to post a sign on your vehicle and ask friends and family to do the same
  • Keep tracks of all places you have posted sign and visited and remove signs immediately after your pet is home.  Keep a log of online listings as well and remove your listing when the pet has returned home.

Pets owners don’t expect to have their pets get lost or stolen yet assuming it could happen and taking steps to prevent it can help.  Sometimes all the preventive measure just isn’t enough.  Never leave your pet unsupervised in vehicles, tethered outside of business or even in their own yard.  If you think your pet has been stolen contact the police immediately.  If your pet becomes lost take immediate steps.  Most importantly, Don’t Lose Hope and Keep Getting The Word Out.

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of “Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters” and “Disaster Plan: Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.”

Keeping Dogs Safe During Hunting Season

Regardless of one’s belief of Hunting season, it is coming upon us and ensuring our pets safety is essential especially for dogs.  Whether the dog is bred to hunt or is just a companion house dog hunting season can be very dangerous.

Pet owners should take appropriate safety measure to prevent injuries and deaths during hunting season.  Dogs can be injured running through fields, caught in snares and leg traps, or even mistaken for game.




Non hunting dogs should be kept on a leash, tied out, or in a fenced-in yard and not left unattended during hunting season.    This will prevent the dog from roaming far away from home and possibly conflicting with hunters.  Some hunters are known to climb over fences and hunt on private property, though the majority of hunters abide by the laws.  Hunting is usually allowed during the daytime only, so that would be the most dangerous time of the day yet avoid letting your pets roam at night.  Become familiar with the hunting laws as well so that a clear understanding on what hunter are expected to follow is obtained.

Consider adding a bright-colored vest, sweater, bandana or a reflective and orange gear to the dog’s collar especially while in the woods.  A bell can be easily added to the pet’s collar that would allow it to be identified.  Make sure pets are current on vaccination, tags on collars, or microchip data.

The majority of hunting dogs are kept as family pets and can be found lounging around the house, on the sofa or bed or even resting in a kennel.  Keeping these dogs health in top condition all year round will allow them to effectively work during hunting season.  Actually keeping all dog’s health in top condition is essential to a long life.  Regularly exercised dogs will prevent stiffness, sores or injuries.

Have a veterinarian exam hunting dogs prior to the beginning of hunting season and make sure its vaccinations are up to date.  As part of its health regiment, ensure that flea and tick preventative is used to avoid any infestation, these parasites can cause various illnesses.  Feed dogs a higher quality of food to encourage high performance and better health and don’t allow dogs to become over or under weight.

Hunting dogs should also have a reflective orange collar and bright organize vest.  This will allow the dog to be safe and alert other hunters of their presence.  Collars and vest should be made of materials to will prevent burrs, foxtail, etc from sticking to the collar or dog.  Also consider adding a bell so that you know where the dog is. There are bells that make different sounds that can be used if there is more than one hunting dog.  If the dog tends to roam attach him to a brightly colored long lead to keep the dog nearby and safe and use a lead whenever the dog needs walk near a busy road.

When working the dog in the field keep the dog’s health and safety a priority.  Bring plenty of fresh clean water and snacks for the dog too and stop periodically to allow the dog to rest and drink so that the dog can cool off.  Hunting dogs can create a lot of body heat when working, even if it is a cool day.  Try to hunt during the cooler parts of the day for short durations.  Overheated dogs are a common problem.

Before setting out on the hunt with the dog know the area to avoid injuries including knowing where barbed wires, porcupines, skunks or rattlesnakes are.  Try to avoid these at all times.  If the dog does interact with these be prepared by brining a first aid kit for you and your pet and have a way to get extracted from the hunting grounds immediately if needed.

Dogs can be kept safe during hunting season by preparing for the season.  Keeping your dog healthy and protected and being prepared, you and the dog can make it through another hunting season safely.

Joyce Rheal is Emergency Planning Committee chairwoman of the National Association Professional Pet Sitters and with Pets-life. Joyce is also a federally certified for FEMA’s “Animals in Disasters” program, and a certified pet care consultant based in Southern Illinois.