Strategic Pet Recovery
Strategy - Technique - Tools
Field Proven Skills to Recover Lost Pets
““Never mind, said Hachiko each day. Here I wait, for my friend who’s late. I will stay, just to walk beside you for one more day.”  Jess C. Scott

Technique: Communicate -to convey knowledge of or information about : make known

This section describes actions that communicate the pet is missing as a means to create sightings. While the Contact People page is mostly face to face dialogue, this page is mostly about broadcasting the facts about the missing pet. 

The old fashioned paper poster is nearly the most powerful action to be taken for the recovery of a missing pet, but it has to be done right. And doing it right requires that you get the posters prepared and up as soon as possible, which should be the day after the initial search is conducted and just before the extended search begins (i.e. Usually day 2).

The poster design is the same for every pet, simple to be clear and get get attention, with the right amount of information and a proper photo.  There are some myths about posters (and other lost pet communications), such as saying the pet "needs his meds" or "has a heart condition" and so forth. These false statements are often included in a bad attempt at gaining sympathy and/or trying to convey to anyone that may have taken the pet that it's easier to return the pet rather than have to care for it. It just doesn't work. Clarity and honesty are always best.

Notice the elements of the poster :

1. A large "Lost Dog"  heading that can be seen by people passing by.

2. The city, town or general location where the dog went missing.

3. A large color photo of the dog, ideally showing unique features.

4. The dogs name, which serves as a point of reference.

5.  Show the Point Last Seen or Last Known Position. This will further encourage people in the area to be extra vigilant. If you place posters far from the PLS or LKP, remove this from the poster so as not to discourage people from looking.

6.  The "shy- do not chase" should be on every poster, for a couple of reasons. While some dogs may be very friendly and walk right up to people, the dogs behavior may change when it's lost, effectively making it "shy" (skittish). Also, a lost dog (or cat) should NEVER be chased, it should only be observed and reported -or- if the observer is properly skilled then the dog (or cat) may come to the observer.

7.  The primary reason for the poster, "please call with any information".  Some people may call out of curiosity without having observed the dog, but could have insight to the area and help spread the word. Others will call with possible sightings in which case it's your job to listen carefully and asked proper questions in an effort to determine if the dog seen was in fact the missing dog. As a result, you will have possible sightings or valid sightings.

8. Your name and phone number. If you have both a landline and cell phone, it is usually best to show your cell phone number if you expect to be within cell phone range most of the time, otherwise list your landline and check it often.

Posters should be printed on 8x11 paper. This makes them big enough to see but small enough for placement at most places. Do not bother trying to print them at home or any other place using a low quality inkjet printer. Whenever possible, use an office supply store service or professional print shop. In quantity, color 8x11 copies are cheap and very fast. For the most basic and limited search, you will need to start with at least 50 copies.

Your initial search area should have about four times the density of posters than you will place for the extended search.  This is both a function of time (the dog may still be in the area) and to be certain that neighbors and others that frequent the area have no chance to miss seeing the posters. Unless you get one or more immediate and recent sightings in the initial search area, then you should begin placing posters throughout the extended search area on day three.  Ideally, posters should be placed where pedestrians, bicyclist and autos come to a stop.

Posters should also be placed at any location people natural gather or congregate, such as parks, businesses, bus stops,  community bulletin boards and so on.

In this urban area example, about 40 posters should be placed in the initial search area (within the red box). For the extended search area (orange box) posters can be one-quarter the density as compared to the initial search area. The extended search area should have about  80 or more strategically placed posters.
These poster placements are in addition to those handed out directly to people being contacted.

In rural and wilderness areas, posters can be placed less densely but require more forethought about location.  For example, along a rural road cars will speed by and may not see a poster unless it is at a stop or placed where the driver is looking straight ahead at the poster for a few seconds.  So when placing posters in these circumstances, drive the roads and look for placements where you are looking straight ahead and there is a pole, fence, tree or other object to put the poster. Always use common sense and courtesy so as not to "litter" the area needlessly which could irritate nearby residents.

In wilderness areas, placing posters is not an acceptable practice under most circumstances. Check with the local authorities for details (e.g. Ranger station, BLM office, USFS station). Often times permission will be granted to place posters on campground billboards, on existing sign posts and other man made structures. Do not use trees or other flora to place posters.

With regard to placing posters, the best method to do so depends on what you are affixing them to.  For poles that are steel or concrete, duct tape works best. For anything made of wood, a staple gun is best.  You will be saving a lot of time and frustration by not using a small office stapler, so do yourself a favor and get a true staple gun with 8mm or 10mm staples (about $15 at most stores).

Social Media, Websites, and Other Communication
The use of the internet is very effective in getting the word out about missing pets. Here  I will list some of the most useful in your mission to recover a pet.  Please remember it is equally important to check these internet sources for reports of "found" pets, of which may be the one you're searching for.

In addition to posting on your own FB page and asking others to share it, there are many local, regional and state wide pages dedicated to lost pets. Similar to making a poster, make your post with the basic facts and a good photo.  Be prompt in responding to questions or replies about your post as it will encourage others to participate and share your post.

Not everyone has a FB account, so be sure to post on Craigslist.  The method that people reply on Craigslist for email is a little bit of a challenge for those using only a cell phone, so be sure to leave a telephone number or number to text for the reply.

NextDoor App
The use of NextDoor has become increasingly popular. The app can be downloaded in your app store of choice. It is very local, so people seeing the lost pet post will already be familiar with your neighborhood.

This site has free tool to inform people in your area (and beyond) of a missing pet. It is one of many similar sites, but I list this one as it seems most popular and effective.

Pet Harbor
Pet Harbor is a very powerful site for posting a lost pet as it is seen and searched by so many people everyday.

Animal Services
Always file a missing pet report with your local Animal Services, aka "the pound", "animal control", etc. Provide as much details as possible and always include a photo of the missing pet. If a pet matching the description comes into their facility, they may correlate the incoming pet to your lost pet notice (but don't rely on this occurring 100% of the time).

Pet Microchip Registry
If the pet has a registered chip, inform the applicable registry right away. Then if the pet is scanned anywhere (vets office, Animal Services, etc), the owner will be notified right away.

Telephone Robo Calls
These services are typically found on websites or apps. They ask for details about the missing pet, a photo and contact information. Then they claim to call everyone with a listed phone number within a certain distance from where the pet went missing and provide that information via an automated message. This can be effective, but the problem is many of these businesses are complete frauds - they will take your money upfront and do nothing they advertise.  I have personally used and it is both legit and very effective. 

Broadcast Media
Many radio stations in smaller areas have weekly "lost and found pets" segments. It's worth a call to your local radio station to see if such a segment exist. Likewise, some television stations may make a brief announcement about a missing pet if it "fits" into their newscast style, especially if there's something unique about the missing pet (lost subsequent to a car accident or house fire for example).

If the pet went missing from a residence, placing a large sign (3'x'3) with photo in front of the residence can be effective. This can be done by placing a couple of 2x4's into the ground as a support with a 3'x3' piece of plywood nailed to the 2x4's. Then staple the large "lost" poster to the plywood.  The poster will certainly bring attention to the plight of the missing pet and is extremely useful if someone has, with good intentions, found your pet but doesn't know where it lives.

Word of Mouth
Long before the internet, word of mouth communication was most effective - and it still is today. Not everyone looks at the internet and social media, so always use word of mouth to communicate to strangers, business people and others that are not already listed in the Contact People page. The best way to do this is briefly state the issue ("I'm looking for a male black lab that went missing last week from 5th and Elm") while at the same time handing them your contact information. The best form of contact information is a business size card that serves as a mini-poster for the pet (photo, description, your name and number). These can be had for a very low price in large volumes and obtained quickly through online services (I happen to like Vista Print).

Veterinarian Offices
Many vet offices will take and hold pets as received from citizens dropping them off (e.g. found dog in traffic and doesn't know what else to do).  The vet office will usually scan for a chip and then advise the local Animal Services agency to pick up the pet. Thus, it's always a good idea to communicate with the local vet offices about the pet you are searching for by providing them a poster.