What do I do if my pet goes missing?

Having a pet go missing can be an upsetting and stressful experience for the whole family. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know what to do should your pet wander off.

Be prepared

Consider the following points which could help you find your pet if it goes missing:

  • Making sure your pet is collared - attaching an ID tag with your pet’s name, your address and phone number to a collar could significantly increase the chances of your lost pet being returned.
  • Microchipping - a microchip implant containing information relating to your pet as well as your contact details can be an excellent way of retrieving the animal should it be lost. The microchip is no bigger than a grain of rice and is placed under the pet’s skin. For more information, including a list of places where you can have the procedure carried out, please see our guide to microchipping.

Additionally, since non-sterilised pets are more likely to wander off in search of a potential mate having your pet spayed or neutered might be worth considering as a preventative measure.

You might also think about preparing a ‘lost kit’ containing:

  • recent photos of your pet
  • a thorough description which includes its age, weight, colour and details of any unique characteristics.
  • a collection of useful numbers, including local animal shelters, veterinary surgeries and the local police.

Steps to take if your pet goes missing

If you are faced with the situation of your pet going missing, they are a number of things you can do to hopefully retrieve it as soon as possible.

Explore your property and the local area
Make sure to search your home and local area thoroughly. Consider enlisting friends and family to help in order to cover the widest area possible. It could be worth taking a torch with you as frightened animals might try to hide so you’ll want to be able to search every nook and cranny.

Check local shelters and local authorities
Lost animals, or animals believed to be stray, are handed in to shelters daily so try to check in with your local shelter frequently while your pet is missing. In England and Wales, members of the public can report stray dogs to the council so if you’re looking for your canine companion, it might be worth checking with your local authority,

Use scents and sounds
Using familiar scents and sounds could help retrieve your lost pet. As well as calling out its name, shaking a bag of its favourite treats or squeaking a favourite toy might encourage your pet to return. Similarly, recognisable scents, such as those found on your pet’s bedding or your clothes, might help your pet find its way back home.

Inform professionals
As soon as you discover your pet is missing, make sure to inform the relevant organisations as soon as possible. These could include local veterinary surgeries, animal shelters, and humane societies. Groups such as the Pet Owners Association offer a comprehensive list of organisations across the UK so consult its website to find ones in your local area. Provide each organisation with a photograph, a detailed description of your pet, its microchip code (if applicable) and your own contact details.

Flyers and posters can be a good way of encouraging residents of your local area to keep an eye out for your pet. Some insurance policies will assist in covering the cost of advertising and a reward should your pet be found.

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