Make a flyer; be sure it has a good photo


Your pet is gone. You don’t know what to do. You just want your dog or cat back home and safe. But can that happen?

It can, and it does. We’ve all heard horror stories of pets missing for weeks, months, even years.

Many animals do return home.

But getting your pet back takes work, experts say. So take a deep breath, stop panicking, and act.

First thing: Make a flyer.

Keep it simple, says Liz Zeek Hueg, director of Orange County Shelter Pets, which helps keep pets in good homes when owners don’t think that’s possible.

Most important, she says: “A big, clear picture of the pet.”

Mike Noon, who helps people track and find lost dogs – and has found more than a few whose owners had given up hope – says to post flyers at chest level on all four corners of intersections.

“Flyers should be posted so they are visible to drivers making a right-hand turn.” Include a phone number that you will monitor 24/7, he adds.

Take those flyers everywhere, Hueg says.

“Post it around your neighborhood, on the paths that you walk with your pet, nearby vets’ offices, restaurants. … Pass them out to neighbors.”

At home, leave worn garments, socks and shoes in your yard in hopes the pet (particularly dogs, with their keen sense of smell) will notice the scent and return, Noon says. Walk the neighborhood, looking and listening for movement.

If you spot your pet, do not chase it, he says.

“Even calling out can scare your dog.” Assume your pet is scared and is not going to act as you might expect.

Instead, remain calm, Noon says.

“Position yourself where the wind will blow your scent in the direction you believe your dog to be and sit for a while. It is counterintuitive, but it works.”

The dog will catch your scent and be more likely to move toward you than if you are chasing it.

Visit shelters within a 60-mile radius of where the pet was lost, Hueg says.

“Get the staff and volunteers invested in finding your pet. Bring cookies or treats so they remember you.” And look in every kennel at every facility.

Animals can travel farther than you might think. Or, she says, “a good Samaritan will take a pet to a shelter closer to where they are traveling or live.” There’s no guarantee an animal will end up at the facility that serves your city.

Don’t forget social media, Hueg says.

“I highly recommend the Facebook group From Lost to Found (for Orange County dogs).” Nextdoor, Instagram and community Facebook pages are also helpful.

Several websites – – send emails with information about lost and found pets to people who sign up. You don’t have to sign up ahead of time; the services are available to anyone.

Most important, Noon says: Never give up.

He tells the story of Shelby, who escaped at a veterinarian’s office. Her owner was told Shelby had been found, dead, likely the result of a coyote attack.

“I caught that ‘dead’ dog 6 miles away in another canyon.” The owner had been afraid to look and had taken at face value what she’d been told.

If you find a pet

The process is similar, Hueg says. Make and hang flyers.

Post on social media or through the lost/found websites.

Take the pet to a vet’s office, where it can be scanned for a microchip and reunited with the owner through the chip provider.

“If your area is serviced by OC Animal Care, it is important to take the pet to the shelter,” she says. “This is where people go to find pets.”