This was written by one of my clients and I found it to be useful information in case one of your dogs goes missing. Thanks Traci for taking the time to write this.
In March 2013, my husband Ray and I adopted a brindle mixed-breed puppy from the Humane Society. We named him Riley. Everyone loved meeting him because of his unique coloring. We already had a lab mix named Diva and she was happy to have a new brother. We lived in a nice neighborhood, had a nice backyard with a split rail fence and were on a corner lot where children could run along the fence and play with our dogs. We didn’t like to leave the dogs in their crates all day so we would leave them out in the morning and my husband would come home at lunch to put them in their crates for the afternoon.
One Wednesday in May 2013 Ray called me around lunchtime and said Diva was in the backyard but he couldn’t find Riley. He checked everywhere possible in the backyard but couldn’t find him. He checked the fence to see if Riley found a spot to crawl under, but found nothing. I came home from work to help in the search. When we came to the conclusion that someone must have stolen Riley, we filed a police report right away and posted signs in the neighborhood. We knew we might not get him back. He was almost five months old, brindle in color and he looked like a Pit Bull puppy. Through our experience we learned Pit Bull puppies are usually taken for dog fighting.
We had something unusual in our favor: video of the theft. Two of the neighbors had surveillance cameras for security on their property. One neighbor had views of our backyard, and the other had views of the front. We watched the video and saw two teenagers spot the dogs, walk up and down the street next to our house for three minutes as if they were making sure no one was at home, then reach over the fence and grab Riley. They walked past a camera as they were carrying Riley away.
The video was a powerful tool. We provided the assigned police officer with a copy of the video, but we knew it couldn’t be used in court because the image was not clear. We contacted three local news channels. Reporters interviewed us and ran stories over the weekend. Even thought the video was grainy, they showed a portion of it during their story. On Saturday morning we received a tip about someone walking a puppy that looked just like the photo of Riley shown on the news. The tip ended up being the break we needed. We contacted the police, and on Tuesday they saw two teenagers with Riley. He had a microchip, so after Animal Control scanned him for ID, we were able to take him home. We were thankful that he was healthy and happy.
I’m going to share some tips from our experience. While it’s not a complete list of things to do if your pet is missing or stolen, it’s a start.
* Timing is extremely important. The faster you start the search, the better your chance of finding your pet.
* If your dog was in the backyard, check the perimeter of the fence to see if there is a spot where your dog could crawl out. Some large dogs are able to crawl through very small spaces, and some are able to jump the fence. Check the gate and ask if a family member accidentally left it open. Sometimes when a dog is stolen, the thief will leave the gate open so you will think you left it open and that is how the dog escaped.
* Check with neighbors who may have been home around the time your pet became missing. If they didn’t see anything ask if they know other neighbors who may have been home. Perhaps someone was gardening or mowing their lawn and they may have seen something that didn’t seem odd at the time, but it might once you tell them your dog is missing.
* If you determine your pet has been stolen, file a police report right away and provide a photo to the assigned officer. Keep in mind your pet is probably not a priority to them because they have other issues and crimes to work on.
* Create signs offering a reward and post them around neighborhoods and area businesses like coffee shops and grocery stores. Don’t be surprised if you receive calls from people who are just trying to get the reward. We learned the hard way that some people are willing to accuse or identify another person thinking you will just hand over the reward, while not taking into consideration that the other person is now a suspect!
* Keep track of people and businesses you contact so you can call them if you find your pet.
* Get friends and family involved. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. We had several people volunteer to call one or two vets, shelters, etc. and provide them with the poster. After we found Riley the same people contacted the facilities to provide an update. They also posted fliers in businesses and then had them removed once we found Riley.
* Contact area shelters, vets, animal hospitals and rescues. Check their websites daily, especially the kill shelters.
* Use social media! Post photos and a quick story on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and ask friends and family to do the same. They may tell you about shelters and rescues that can help. Don’t be surprised if friends of friends contact you because they work or volunteer at a rescue and want to help (they are likely serious and intend on really helping). If you use social media, be sure to provide updates even if there is nothing new.
* Post an ad on Craigslist for a “Lost Dog” with a photo. We used our email address for contact and did not provide our phone number on Craigslist. There are animal advocates who search Craigslist every day. There was a woman who communicated with me only through Craigslist. She sent me a message when someone posted an ad for a “found dog” that resembled Riley.
Even strangers might reach out to you, and you may find that overwhelming. But if you feel their offer will truly be helpful, accept it. Their reward is helping you find your pet.
Make sure you give extra attention to your other pets. Keep in mind they are going through something too. Our other dog, Diva, loved to be in our backyard. Sometimes she didn’t want to come in the house because she loved it so much. But she was in the backyard when Riley stolen. While he was gone she would not go in the backyard unless we made her or went out with her. If you find your missing pet, make sure others are giving attention to the other pet(s) as well. Five months later people still make a big deal out of Riley and the fact that we found him. It’s difficult to see our other dog being neglected.
We were so blessed to find Riley, but we realize a lot of pet owners don’t have the same outcome. People may tell you not to bother looking, or to stop looking, but we don’t agree. Keep searching. Your persistence just might pay off.