When an animal becomes lost it is a traumatic experience for both the owner and the animal. Lost animals face a world full of uncertainty from injury, starvation, abuse or even death. An animal in its owner’s presence may be capable of performing amazing tricks and following commands, but left to their own devises they have the same mentality as a toddler. They don’t know to look both ways before crossing the road, not to eat things that may make them sick, or who to trust. An animal’s behavior can often become unpredictable when it‘s separated from it’s owner. Frightened and confused, an animal’s heightened anxiety levels when lost may cause it to react defensively when its normal behavior may be affectionate. When attempting to console a lost animal it is best to approach that animal cautiously until the animal determines you are not a threat.
To improve the chances of being reunited with your pet, it is imperative that your animal be wearing some type of identification. Studies have shown that animals wearing either a rabies vaccination tag or some type of identification tag have a much greater chance of finding their way home. Most Animal Control agencies have the ability to trace a rabies tag from their state back to the owner. Micro-chipping your pet is another permanent method of identification which can be performed at most veterinary facilities. Always keep your pets records up to date with the organization responsible for the chip. Failure to register, or up-date your animal’s information with the micro-chip organization will make it impossible for a finder to reunite the animal with its owner.
Begin searching for your lost pet as soon as you realize the pet is missing. Waiting several hours to see if your pet returns home could be the difference between life and death. Visit your local animal shelter to report your pet missing. Take a picture of your animal with you on your visit so that the staff has a picture to go along with your written description. If possible, make a missing animal flyer with a picture of your animal on it to distribute to your local veterinarian’s offices and to post in surrounding areas such as Post Offices, gas stations and convenience stores. Run a Lost ad in your local paper and watch the Lost & Found section to see if someone reports finding your animal. Don’t limit your search just to the vicinity around your home. Male dogs can smell a female dog in-heat from 5 miles away, or a malicious acting person could have dropped your animal off in a completely different area from your home.
There are certain laws that must be followed when a person finds a stray animal. Failure to abide by these laws could be misconstrued as stealing the animal and may result in a felony charge against the finder.
Under North Carolina law;
“It shall be unlawful for any person in the county to knowingly and intentionally harbor, feed, keep in possession by confinement, or otherwise, any stray animal which does not belong to that person, unless that person has,
- within 24 hours from the time such animal came into his/her possession, notified an animal control officer of his/her intentions to either surrender the stray animal to the animal control officer or
- advertise such stray animal in the local newspaper for three (3) consecutive days.
If the individual holding the stray animal elects to advertise the animal in the local newspaper and the prior owner does not respond by the tenth day from the last day of publication of the notice, the individual who has advertised shall be deemed the legal owner.”
“If the advertisement has not appeared within 72 hours, the animal shall be surrendered to the animal control officer. It shall be unlawful for any person to refuse to surrender any such animal to the animal control officer upon demand. “
The Rowan County Animal Shelter encourages any person missing an animal to visit the shelter at least once a week to do a walk-thru to ensure their animal has not been brought into the shelter. Calling over the phone to report a missing animal is not as accurate as completing a walk-thru of the kennels. Shelter staff will be referring to a written description of an animal when an owner places a missing animal call, they’re description and your description may be two different things. It is imperative to perform a walk-thru when missing a cat. At any given time there could be several cats of the same color at the shelter and only the owner would be able to distinguish their animal from the others.
The shelter also provides “Lost & Found” tags for owners & finders to complete when an animal is lost or has been found. These tags are posted in the shelter and generally remain posted for the period of one month. If you have a picture of your missing animal, the shelter staff will be glad to attach the picture with the lost animal tag. All pictures can be returned to the owner, at their request.
The best days to visit the shelter to complete a walk-thru are Mondays through Fridays from 11:00 am till 4:00 pm. When you arrive, inform shelter staff that you are missing an animal and they will escort you through the kennel area to view the animals.
If your animal happens to be at the shelter, there will be a redemption fee in order to get the animal back. It is imperative that you bring your animal’s rabies vaccination information with you when redeeming your animal. If you cannot provide proof that your animal has a current rabies vaccination (which is required for any dog or cat over the age of 4 months under NC State Law) you will have to pay an additional fee for the rabies vaccination.
Remember one of the best ways to protect your animal from becoming lost is to ensure that it is properly confined on your property. Numerous animals impounded are escapees from inadequate confinement. It can be a very traumatic experience for an animal to be brought into the shelter, so avoidance is your best defense.