What to do if your pet goes missing

The metro area’s population explosion hasn’t been limited to humans. Thousands of pets have come along with their families, some eager, many nervous about starting new lives in unfamiliar territory.

Sadie wedged herself into the back seat when John S., two buddies, and all their gear made the trip in February from Connecticut. She was comfortable enough on the cross-country drive, but shortly after they arrived in Denver, she slipped away, no doubt intent on returning home. She wasn’t on the loose for long when a neighbor spotted her and called the cell number on her tag.

The key to Sadie’s quick return was that all-important ID tag. Without it, the neighbor’s options were more time-consuming, more inconvenient. The tag attached to her collar made it simple. Sadie was back in John’s care within an hour or two.

It’s a fact: Pets are less secure and thus more apt to become a flight risk when their routines are interrupted, particularly when they are away from familiar surroundings.

A microchip implant is another important identification tool. A tiny chip, the size of a grain of rice, is inserted under the animal’s skin and can be read at any shelter or veterinarian’s office. But even if a pet is chipped, he or she needs to wear a visible ID tag.

If you are among the many pet-lovers who have recently put down roots in our community, welcome! And if your cat or dog manages to leave home before you’ve had an opportunity to get it licensed or update its tag, here are some tips to help get it back safely.

First, act fast! Walk or drive your neighborhood and tell everyone you meet. Be sure to give out your phone/text number. Hang (and date) posters wherever you are permitted. Include your pet’s photo and offer a reward. Utilize social media sites like Nextdoor.com. Broaden your search through Craigslist, Twitter and Facebook.

Next, check the shelters closest to where your pet was lost. Visit in person to file a report, and take along a photo. Check outlying shelters, too. Find locations on the Metro Denver Animal Welfare Alliance website at mdawalliance.org.

On the flip side, when you see a stray pet, be a good neighbor, like the one who helped Sadie. If there are no ID tags, take the animal to the nearest shelter right away. The shelter staff will scan it for a microchip and provide a safe haven, while they work to reunite it with its people.

If taking the pet to a shelter is not an option or you want to keep it temporarily at your home, you’ll still want to have it checked for a microchip and file a “found” report with the shelter.

Then, distribute fliers and post a “found pet” notice on internet sites, but be cautious. Don’t include a photo, and be sure to withhold some key information, so you can be certain anyone who contacts you is the actual owner.


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