What To Do If Your Pet Is Lost

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By Monica Brown, Director of Shelter Operations, Young-Williams Animal Center



Most families with pets will at some point experience the anguish of a missing pet. When the unthinkable happens, parents need to remain calm as they map out a plan for finding the pet. Ideally, every person in the family should be recruited to help.

When emotions are running high, questions such as who saw the pet last or who left the gate open may sound like an inquisition. While you do need to gather as much information as you can about when and how the pet went missing, keep the conversations constructive and do not allow siblings to blame one another. A missing pet can be very traumatic for a child. Tread carefully to avoid adding any additional anxiety to an already stressful situation, especially when the pet’s outcome is unknown.

Contact your local shelter

If you have lost a dog or cat in Knox County, you should come to Young-Williams Animal Center to look for your pet. As the official animal shelter for Knox County and the City of Knoxville, we provide sheltering services for dog and cats brought to us by city and county animal control agencies as well as good Samaritans.

If someone finds your pet, there is a good chance it will end up at our shelter. If your dog or cat does come into the shelter, it will be put on hold for a minimum of three days in hopes that you will come looking for them. After that it can be put up for adoption.

That’s why we recommend that you visit the shelter no less than every other day to look for your pet.  Bring in a recent photo to help us identify it. Keep checking back for a period of two weeks to a month, and don’t give up!  Pets can easily show up at the shelter long after their owners stop looking

Our Lost and Found Department is located at our main facility, 3201 Division Street, Knoxville, TN 37919.  We are open seven days a week from 12pm-6pm.

Spread the word and start looking right away

Research shows that most pets are within a mile or two of their home (or last location seen) for the first 24 hours after disappearing. With the help of friends, canvas that area as quickly as you can. Go door to door to neighbors asking if they have seen your lost animal. Bring a photo along to show to help them recognize the pet. Other action steps include:

Put up flyers in the area where the pet is missing from

Call surrounding county shelters and try to see if someone brought your pet there

Check the local newspapers and Craigslist and place a listing

Call local vets and call the UT vet school to see if any injured animals have been brought there

Leave food and water out on a porch along with a belonging that has a familiar scent

Take precautions to prevent pet loss

To increase your pet’s chances of being found if lost, make sure it has proper identification.  This includes an ID tag on the collar and a microchip, making sure your microchip registration information is current.  In the case they do get spooked and bolt for an open door or gate, an ID tag and microchip will be imperative to getting them home safely.  Next to spay and neuter, microchipping is the most effective means for preventing pet homelessness.

As a parent and grandparent, I know how difficult it is to comfort a child whose pet is missing. While the age of the child can make a difference, the standard advice is to tell your children the truth and answer all their questions.

Research shows that most pets are within a mile or two of their home (or last location seen) for the first 24 hours after disappearing.

This can be tougher when a pet has simply vanished and you don’t have the answers. Cats and dogs have been known to show up weeks and months later. But as parents, we don’t want to plant false hope. Most experts in the field advise giving your family ample time not only to search for the lost pet, but to mourn the loss. If after two or three months, the pet has not been found, the family should find a way to get closure. Hold a memorial service in the back yard or create a scrapbook.  You could also make a donation to your local shelter or other animal welfare agency in memory of the pet’s name.

The pain of losing a beloved pet is unfortunately one of the lessons of life. Working through the loss and grief together as a family will help children cope and impact how they deal with it in the future.

Untitled-3Monica Brown is director of shelter operations for Young-Williams Animal Center, the official shelter of Knox County. Young-Williams is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that cares for more than 12,000 animals annually. The main facility is located at 3201 Division Street and Young-Williams Animal Village is at 6400 Kingston Pike. For more information call 865-215-6599 or visit www.young-williams.org

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