Helping lost pets find their people
Dorothy says there’s no place like home, but lost cats and dogs don’t have ruby slippers to magically reunite them with their owners. Even if they did, they’d probably just chew on them.
That’s why Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center (NACC) and Portsmouth Humane Society (PHS) are participating in the Maddie’s Fund No Place Like Homechallenge. Both shelters are making comprehensive improvements to their lost and found pet procedures with the hope of reuniting more pets with their families. The shelters decided to collaborate and support each other through the challenge to be stronger together, and to help more animals get home.
Maddie’s Fund is an animal welfare organization that has awarded nearly $250 million in grants to shelters like NACC and PHS since its founding in 1994. The No Place Like Home challenge offers a chance for shelters to capture a portion of $150,000 in grant funding by taking steps to improve return to owner practices. The challenge also gives shelters the opportunity to enhance their relationships with their communities by reuniting families with their pets.
“Many of the animals we care for come to us lost,” said Michelle Dosson, Bureau Manager for NACC. “We have a dedicated team who do an excellent job at reuniting them with their families.” NACC has a “Return to Owner” collaborative initiative to help staff exhaust all reunification options. This includes cooperation between the shelter and field services provided by the Norfolk Animal Protection Unit, which frequently returns lost animals to their families before they get to the shelter by tracing pet ID tags and microchips.
The Portsmouth Humane Society is working to educate residents on what to do when they lose or find a pet. The shelter’s first step was to reframe the way it talked about lost pets by using positive language and incentives for reclaiming. “We saw hesitancy to look for lost pets due to inability to pay reclaim fees,” said Fechino. “The reclaim fees have been reduced, and found pets now go home with a leash, collar, and ID tag at no cost to help prevent them from getting lost again.”
The shelter is training a team of volunteers to act as case managers for each lost/found report received and to distribute toolkits to finders and pet owners that include flyers with images, door hangers, and social media graphics.
NACC and PHS recommend that all pets be outfitted with a collar, ID tag, and microchip. Owners of lost pets are advised to check local shelters and community boards, post flyers, and use social media to search for their animal. Anyone who has found a pet must file a report with the municipal shelter in the city where the pet was found and is encouraged to try to find the owner if they’re comfortable doing so.
“Don’t let a found pet’s condition keep you from seeking the owner,” noted Fechino. “Sometimes pets are lost for a long time before being caught, so they may be dirty, matted, or skinny. We’ve received pets that were lost for months and even years.”
To learn more about what to do if a pet is lost or found in your city, visit the website for your city’s shelter.