Reader Submitted

Show me the way to go home: Bedford’s Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire offers tips on what to do if you lose a pet or find a stray animal

Friday, February 21, 2014

Submitted by the ARLNH

When you hear the term “stray animal” what comes to mind? The term can mean different things. In the animal welfare community, we recognize a stray animal as one that has been displaced from its home. An animal may slip out an open door, escape from a vehicle or take off after being frightened. They may get lost while chasing another animal.

In some instances, an animal may initially come to the Animal Rescue League as a stray and information down the road indicates that the animal was actually abandoned or simply let go.

The way in which we receive strays at the ARLNH varies. We work with police departments, animal control officers and citizens who contact us about finding a stray animal and then transport the animal to us for holding and care. Upon arrival, a concerted effort takes place to find the owner.

Initially, we check for a collar, tags and a micro-chip. Then we call the phone number that was registered with the micro-chip company or listed with the town for licensing. Sometimes, this leads us to other numbers. We keep calling until all options are exhausted.

We also check missing animal reports. Using social media outlets like Facebook, we post a photo and information, such as where the animal was found. We are also able to post information about stray animals on our own website, www.rescue

Additionally, we work with other rescue organizations. There are also groups who dedicate themselves to locating lost animals. We contact them in the hopes they may either know the animal or can alert their constituents.

The ARLNH tries every method to reunite families and their pets. However, the concern is always: Does the owner know the animal is missing yet?

Was this animal found in a location that is even close to where it lived and therefore would an owner think to check the ARLNH for their lost pet?

In 2013, we accepted 142 stray dogs and 270 stray cats. Any animal, mostly domestic, but sometimes farm animals can become lost and be labeled a stray.

In 2013, we reunited 13 out of 270 stray cats with their owners or 5 percent of cats that we saw as strays. Our return to owner number for dogs was better at 120 out of the total of 142.

Twenty-two stray dogs were left unclaimed at the ARLNH in 2013. We are grateful and relieved for every stray animal reclaimed, but we cannot help but wonder: Where are the rest of our stray animals’ owners?

We understand there is no single way to react as an owner if your animal goes missing. Many police departments don’t employee an animal control officer, and many departments are understaffed and busy with emergencies, so calls about lost pets will be passed along with good intentions but may get lost.

Not every animal has a micro-chip. Not everyone lives in the same area where they lost their animal. Calling local veterinarians is great, but they may only be able to advertise your lost pet to their own clientele.

And if it’s your pet’s veterinarian, they may only be able to help if a Good Samaritan happens to bring your pet to its actual veterinarian’s office. You can see how complicated finding a lost pet can be.

The ARLNH wants to be a resource to you if you lose your pet.

Our staff is trained to take a report, they will check to see if your animal is already in our care and they will tell you all the next steps to take to properly search for your pet. This will include: 1. Calling your local police department or animal control officer. 2. Calling your local veterinarian’s office (not just your own) 3. Contacting your micro-chip company if your pet has a micro-chip and 4. It may include recommending you contact all the possible humane societies and rescue groups in the area, including groups whose sole mission is to help owners look for their lost pets.

It is important to keep in mind, pets travel. So, if your pet was lost in one town, it doesn’t mean they won’t travel to the next town. What if someone finds your pet and in an attempt to drive it to a PD or animal shelter, your pet escapes? Now your pet may be displaced even further from home.

The ARLNH recommends that you don’t think the worst, but also that you don’t assume your pet will find its way home on its own. Pets don’t speak human, they can’t tell a passerby where they are from, and unless you keep a collar with identification tags on your pet at all times or get them micro-chipped, then your pet has no identification and has no ticket home. This is when your pet becomes a stray.

If you, or someone you know, has lost a pet, recommend that they call the ARLNH or the shelter or rescue group closest to them. Every shelter or rescue group can assist pet owners with identifying the next best steps to help relocate their animals.

If you find a stray, consider bringing it to your local animal shelter. A shelter is the most common place to begin a search for a lost pet. If you find a stray and keep it at your home, hoping to find its owner on your own, you may very well be doing that pet and its owner a great disservice.

Consider this: You wouldn’t take a lost child home and keep that child until you found the parent. Please don’t do this with a stray animal.

Consider contacting the ARLNH at 427-3647 if you lose your pet and consider bringing a stray animal you have found to your local animal shelter.

Until there is one recognized way to report a lost pet and one recognized place for all strays to go to to be reunited with their owners, we will continue to wonder: Where are all the lost pet owners?

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