3 Ways to be Reunited With Your Lost Dog or Cat

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A lost yellow lab dog sits in a field looking worried and scared.By G. Elaine Acker for Pets Best, a pet insurance company for dogs and cats. Elaine is the author of the Pet First Aid and Disaster Response Guide. Elaine and Dr. Larry Newell are developing an online Pet First Aid course, which will launch in early 2014.

On New Year’s Day a couple of years ago, I was reminded how priceless an identification tag can be for pets. For a lost animal, that inexpensive, tiny scrap of metal can mean the difference between being home in time for supper, and spending the weekend (or longer) in a cold, lonely cage at the local shelter.

My husband and I were sitting peacefully in the living room watching a fire crackling in the wood-burning stove, when we heard a strange sound from the bedroom. A quick head count told us that our own dogs and cat were already present and accounted for, so my husband made his way down the hall and peeked around the bedroom door. “Um, there’s a dog in here,” he said.

Nothing was working in this poor dog’s favor. Our new arrival wore a rabies tag from an out-of-town vet, but the numbers on the surface were scratched almost beyond recognition. It was New Year’s Day. The dog was visiting from out of town. His veterinarian’s office was closed. The city’s office was closed, and there was no place open locally to help us scan for a microchip.

Luckily, he was sweet, friendly, and very tired from his time spent roaming the streets. After he ate a snack and took a nap, we took him out for a walk looking for “lost” signs, and found his owner’s daughter frantically papering every telephone pole in the neighborhood. We learned she’d been dog sitting for her dad, and the pup had been frightened by the New Year’s fireworks. He’d run away in the middle of the night.

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They were reunited, and all was well. But, I could imagine plenty of not-so-happy endings. He could’ve been hit by a car; he could’ve been found and adopted by someone else, never to be seen again; he could’ve been chased away or injured by someone who didn’t understand the words “pet friendly;” or he could’ve been dumped in one of the holding cages at the shelter until someone arrived to shuffle him off to another stinky, cold pen.

Don’t let the worst happen to you and your pet. Here are three easy ways to be reunited with your pets if you’re separated:

1) Always keep current, readable ID tags on your pets.

2) When you travel, in addition to your regular phone number, add a temporary tag with a local contact phone number.

  • For instance the number of who is watching them while you’re out of town.
  • Or if you’ve taken your dog on vacation with you, add the phone number of where you’re staying.

3) Ensure that your pet has a microchip, and that you have updated your contact information with the microchip registration company.  Most microchip companies also provide a tag for the collar with the chip number and contact information for the company.

Update your pets’ tags today!

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