Thursday, July 16, 2020

National Lost Pet Prevention Month

Fenway Bolted Due to Frightening Gunshots

Count off two seconds with me.  One, one thousand.  Two, one thousand.  Stop.  Someone has just lost a beloved pet.  Again: One, one thousand.  Two, one thousand.  Another fur baby is missing.

This happens every day, every two seconds.  If you add it up, that is 30 missing pets per minute, 1800 per hour, and 43,200 per day.  I did the math.  That comes out to over 15 million missing pets each year.  For anyone who cannot imagine a life without animals, that is a horrifying number.

I hate to tell you this, but it gets worse.  Only 1 in 10 of those lost animals will return home.

Blessing Escaped From a Vehicle - She Has Not Been Found

Though one might be able to set aside cold, hard numbers, it is much more difficult to forget the names and faces of the missing.  Likewise, the desolation of not knowing the fate of a pet is the kind of thing that haunts a pet parent forever.

Given these statistics, it seems clear that more needs to be done to significantly reduce the number of animals that go missing, and more needs to happen to successfully reunite the lost with their loved ones.  It is no coincidence that July is National Lost Pet Prevention Month.  Over the 4th of July holiday, animal intakes in shelters across the nation increase by 80 percent.  No doubt, much of that has to do with the terrifying nature of fireworks, and how extreme distress causes so many animals to bolt in sheer panic.

Why do pets become lost?  What happens to missing pets?  Why are some found, while others seemingly disappear into thin air?  What makes the difference in giving these lost animals a better chance of being reunited with their families?

Pets become lost for any number of reasons.  They can bolt when scared or when involved in an accident (like Jade in Yellowstone National Park), escape when given the opportunity (an open gate or door), go looking for love (if not spayed or neutered), take off during a hike in the woods (in pursuit of a wild animal), become disoriented, or upset, after a move to a new home (and go looking for the familiarity of a former life), jump out of a vehicle, dig under a fence, get snatched while unattended, and so much more.

Harley Went Missing During a Move
She Was Found Eight Miles From Her New Home

What happens to your missing pet?  Many different scenarios can unfold depending on the animal's physical condition and age, her confidence and personality, familiarity with the territory, weather conditions, proximity to helpers (remote area vs. urban area), and actions taken by those responsible for finding her.

Some animals are found, but have no identification tag or microchip.  The finder doesn't know who to contact to return the pet.  That dog or cat may end up being kept by the finder, or adopted out by an animal rescue organization.  This is one reason why it is so important to notify regional shelters and online lost pet forums.  Highly visible, and widely distributed, lost pet signs are also critical in these cases.  Harley was reunited with her family last week because the finder saw her posted in a lost pet group on Facebook.

A dog missing for three weeks was found just yesterday thanks to a lost dog sign that was seen by an individual who sighted a dog dragging a leash.  Despite being lost in a major city, Coco had evaded searchers for 21 days, and was found hiding in a field one mile from where she bolted.  She ran in fear from an outside seating area at a coffee shop due to an unexpectedly loud crashing noise.  Her leash had been wrapped around the leg of a chair while her owner was picking up an order.  Just like that Coco was gone.  Never leave your dog unattended.

Coco is a Real Flight Risk

Pets riding in cars should always be restrained.  This can be done with a travel crate, a harness system that hooks into a seatbelt, or similar safety features.  Blessing escaped from a vehicle because she was not adequately secured.  Always, always secure your pet in a vehicle.  Some dogs are able to lower car windows by standing on the power window buttons (Blessing was one of those dogs).  That provides a vehicle escape route.  Be sure to activate the child safety locks in your car when traveling with pets.

Our organization microchips every animal adopted from our shelter.  It is not unusual for a pet to get away from a new owner.  Keeping your pet's chip registered and updated with current contact information is essential.

If you take your dog hiking or camping in remote areas, you might consider outfitting him with a GPS tracker collar.  Out in the wilderness, this could save his life.  It is also a good idea if you have a dog that has gotten away from you before, or that tends to be easily frightened.  A skittish dog on the run can be harder to find given the tendency toward evasion.

Some final tips: Be aware of your pet's body language.  Pay attention to the behavioral, and environmental, cues that may alert you to a potential escape.  Have a plan in place for how you will respond should one of your pets go missing.  Read up on the essentials of how to find a missing animal.  Even if your pet is primarily an indoor animal, always ensure that she is wearing a collar and identification tag.

It is said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Given the estimate that 1 in 3 pets will go missing over their lifetimes, now is the time to ensure your precious companion will not become one of those sad statistics.

It takes all of us together to ensure the safety of the beloved animals that count on us and that enrich our lives beyond measure.  Please consider supporting our new Lost Pet Search and Rescue Initiative.  Given the epidemic of lost pets, this collective effort to save lives has taken on a greater sense of urgency.  Thank you for joining forces with us.




































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12 comments:

  1. A fascinating and enlightening article and most excellent advice on ensuring the safety of all beloved pets. Every month should be Lost Pet Prevention Month and your suggestions on helping keep your pets from becoming lost are very helpful. Good luck with your Lost Pet Search and Rescue Initiative inspired by your love of animals and your loss of Blessing.

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    1. Thanks, Elf. You are so right about every month needing to be Lost Pet Prevention Month. I am always astounded by the numbers of animals that go missing every day in our little corner of the world. When you multiply that by every region of the world, the incredible loss of priceless lives is enough to make a grown woman fall to her knees. Thanks for your well wishes and support.

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  2. Thank you for continuing the initiative and the passion of the volunteers to find lost furry members of the family. I definitely could envision how a drone would be so helpful especially w the terrain in your part of the country. It absolutely takes a village to locate lost pets, our trail cam picked up lost cats twice last year and ultimately there were happy reunions (and it took a neighborhood of tips to do so). The gps tracker along with chipping, id collars are essentials. Best thoughts for the Search Initiative and all you do to reunite families.

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    1. I appreciate your supportive comments and encouragement. It certainly does take a village to do right by all of our precious creatures. Thanks for doing your part! Happy to hear about those successful reunions. This is what it is all about.

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  3. It is devastating when a pet is missing! We all love our pets. They are family members and every day companions. If they run away, we have all kinds of terrifying scenarios that play through our minds. The suggestion that someone found our baby and has taken them in as their own pet is by far the sweetest hope. I keep hoping your Blessing will be found and returned to you. I know this has been traumatic for you. Because of where our house is located in our subdivision, we see a lot of lost dogs. Most are quite anxious to befriend us when we are outside. If they have a collar, we put them in our backyard and call their owners, who are always happy and relieved to get their babies back. There have been one or two that didn't have collars. I always hate taking them to the shelter, but that is the safest place for them and most likely a place where owners will check repeatedly. We have a neighbor who found her cat just last week that had been missing for weeks. It was a joyous moment to say the least and I don't even know that neighbor. You have, of course, given great advice that all pet owners should read and adhere to, especially the collar & tag.

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    1. Every single found pet is the fuel that keeps us searching for the lost. I can appreciate how you felt when your neighbor's cat was found after being missing for weeks. I cried when a stranger's lost dog was found last week. I loved Harley even though I didn't know her before helping her family search for her. Thank you for caring about Blessing and what I have experienced ever since she went missing. It is such a huge hole in my heart.

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  4. Diana dear, the numbers and, more importantly, the stories behind them, are devastating, heartbreaking, overwhelming... thank God for people like you who have the passion, commitment, and drive to work ceaselessly to bring down those numbers and reunite family and their pets (and vice versa). I have made two donations so far to your Lost Pet Search and Rescue Initiative fundraiser and hope to be able to give more over time to this incredibly important passion project. Love you and your beautiful, generous, caring spirit, my friend!

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    1. I am beyond grateful for your loving encouragement and support. Yes... for me it is the stories because they are so very real and I have lived inside them.

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  5. Oh Diana, this needs to be read by lots and lots of people. While we don't have any four legged (prone to run) animals in our care currently, we have had them in the past. Yes, indeed a dog who bolts when frightened, can get really lost quickly. Thank you for all the tips on keeping our fur babies safe and hopefully they will never ever be a statistic.
    My heart still bleeds for you and Blessing.

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  6. I'm so happy Coco was found but my heart, like yours, still breaks into a million pieces for Blessing. Great tips and advise on securing our pets, thank you. in the 1990's our cat went missing, and to this day I think about him and wonder what happened. He was a big part of our family - I understand the worry and pain only too well.

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    1. What was your cat's name? I am so sorry you lost that much-loved family member. The questions and deep ache always remain with us. I still cry every time Blessing comes to mind (which is often).

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