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Tips for Finding Lost Animals

Steps to Find Your Lost Four-Legged Friend

It is a terrible feeling to find out that your beloved companion animal is missing. However, the best action is to be proactive with your search. Here are some tips and ideas to help.

1. Contact your local animal control agency immediately

The Wisconsin Humane Society is responsible for handling stray animals in Ozaukee County, Door County, and most of Brown and Racine Counties. In Milwaukee County, all stray animals must go to Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC), which is not affiliated with the Wisconsin Humane Society. If you are outside of these areas or are unsure who to call, contact the humane society nearest you or call your local non-emergency police line.

Lost animals who have been brought to the WHS Ozaukee, Racine, Door County, or Green Bay Campuses will be posted on our Stray Animal Listings page after they have been vaccinated and given an exam. We do all we can to find the animal's owner and get him or her home, including posting to social media and tracking down all leads we have.  

As dictated by state law, WHS holds animals for a stray hold period of 4 days, plus 1 for the day the animal was taken into our custody. After that hold, an animal can be made available for adoption. If the animal cannot be placed due to unsafe behavior, or due to medical conditions that are not able to be treated, we will hold that lost animal for up to 7 days, plus the day of impoundment. Unless we are in contact with an owner who needs more time to come in and reclaim an animal, we will not hold animals as unclaimed longer than necessary. For this reason, it's crucial that you contact local animal control facilities as soon as you know your pet is missing.

2. Search your house thoroughly from top to bottom

  • Check all closets, cupboards and anywhere else where your animal may have gotten trapped. Retrace your steps and look in any place that he or she may have followed you or other members of the family.
  • Animals can get into some pretty tight places; don't leave any space unturned! Go in, under and behind washing machines, closets, furniture, beds, crawl spaces, cabinets... you get the idea!
  • Move outside to garages, sheds, barns, trees, vehicles, porches or any other good hiding places for a frightened animal with your flashlight for dark spots. Don't assume he is not there just because he is not responding to your voice. Most animals in unfamiliar territory will try to make themselves invisible and may not respond to you calling his name.

3. Create a flyer and share online

  • Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Lost Cats of Wisconsin offer free resources to people who have lost their pet, and they help make reunions possible often through their great social media reach, especially on Facebook. We highly recommend using a flyer generated through their website for all of your posts.
  • Create a detailed listing on sites like Craigslist, Nextdoor, and any online message boards. Be sure to include recent photos of your animal, a written description of their looks, when and where they were last seen, whether or not they're microchipped, and if they were wearing a collar and/or leash when they went missing. Don't forget to list your phone number!

4. Print and post your flyers

  • After you've created a flyer through Lost Dogs (or Cats) of Wisconsin, print as many as possible and put them up within a two-mile radius. Make sure you have your cell phone charged up at all times or your phone has a working answering machine to take messages when you are away. If you want to offer a reward, don’t list the amount.
  • A reward is not essential, but it may motivate someone to contact you instead of keeping the animal. Always withhold at least one important piece of information so that you can verify that the animal is really yours if and when you receive calls. Make sure you expressly state that reward will only be given after the pet is safely returned.
  • When it is time to meet someone to be reunited with your animal, ask to meet at a police department and never go alone.

5. Walk around the neighborhood

  • Before you leave the house, grab a flashlight and a leash or a carrier to contain your animal. He might be too afraid to come to you or he might try to run away again. Take your cell phone and another person, especially if it’s dark in case you need help.
  • Talk to neighbors; let them know that your companion is missing.
  • Make some noise. Shake a bag of their favorite treats while calling their name, squeak their favorite toy, or any other familiar noises that they will know.
  • Dogs are often good at locating a lost animal. If you can take a dog with you, it might be helpful.

6. Place strong scented articles outside of your home to attract your pet.

  • Items such as a cat's litter box, bedding or favorite toy.
  • Smelly food such as tuna, chicken, hot dogs (or lettuce and carrots for herbivores) or other delicious treats.

7. If your fears are realized.

  • Sad as it may be, lost animals sometimes get hit by cars. To find out if your animal was picked up your city, contact your local Department of Public Works.

8. Don't give up hope!

  • Keep looking! The best chance you have of finding your lost animal is to continue your search in your neighborhood, online, and at animal control.
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