Saving Lives

Empower Owners, Engage Community to Boost RTO

Looking for ways to increase the numbers of lost dogs returning to their owners in your community? Read how Lost Dogs Illinois and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin use a winning model that empowers pet owners and the wider community

Engage Your Community

Whether you are new to social media or an advanced user, consider the following tips when using venues such as Facebook to advertise lost pets:

Start Small: Consider starting with just one or two committed volunteers and one Facebook fan page (not a personal profile page). You can add people and tools as you grow.

Widen Your Audience: Link your Facebook page to Twitter for seamless posts. Cross-post with other shelters, rescues and local businesses to increase visibility of each lost pet. The more sharing the better chance a reunion may happen.

Watch Your Language: Susan Taney, Founder and Director of Lost Dogs Illinois, keeps the focus on reuniting families – and maintains a zero-tolerance policy for judgmental comments. She deletes such comments and sends a private message to the offender with a warning that they will be banned if they continue their behavior.

Be Transparent: Let your fans know the outcome, even if it is sad.

Share Tips: Another great way to keep your page positive is to post reunion stories and photos. And by posting tips, suggestions, articles and blogs you may give owners hope and ideas about how to get their missing pets home. Your Facebook page should offer more than just posts about lost and found pets. Enhance your engagement – and educate your community – by sharing tips both on preventing pets from being lost, and tips on getting them found.

Provide Details: When posting info about a lost dog, don't just include his physical traits; offer advice on how to approach that particular dog. For example: "Scruffy is shy, so please do not chase him. Sit down with a treat and let him come to you."

Another great idea is to provide a blank template of a lost pet and found pet on your Facebook page and on your organization's home webpage. 

Give Props: When you publicly acknowledge the other agencies in your area that have been involved in pet/family reunions, you go a long way toward strengthening relationships with those groups – and just think of all the lives you'll save and the lost dogs you'll return when you continue to work together.

Engage Volunteers: There are often untapped volunteers who want to help animals but may be maxed out on animal care in their own homes. Volunteers can be trained and work from home. Focus on where volunteers have individual skill.

Offer Training: When recruiting new volunteers to help reunite pets and families, you can save a lot of time and expand your reach if you train them remotely via teleconferencing, webinar, PowerPoint, etc. Use Lost Dog of Wisconsin’s volunteer training document.

Tailor Your Resources

Consider having helpful resources at your front counter to hand out. You can personalize your own handouts, based on your shelter's knowledge of the community, from these offered by Lost Dogs Illinois.

5 Things To Do If You've Lost Your Pet

  1. Immediately put out food, water and your dog's bed, a toy or an article of your clothing at the location your pet was last seen. There is a good chance that your cat or dog may return.
  2. Get the word out by using flyers and signs (like yard sale signs) with a picture of your dog and your phone number. Go door to door with your flyer in the neighborhood (depending on safety concerns) where your dog was last seen.
  3. Contact your local animal shelters and animal control facilities, vet clinics, and police departments to report your dog or cat missing. Fax or email them a photo of your animal and your contact information.
  4. Instruct everyone that is helping you to not chase or call your animal. This will prolong your search. If they see your animal, they should sit or lie down without making eye contact, and gently toss out treats to lure in your animal.
  5. Post your animal on the lost and found section of Craigslist.

5 Things To Do If You've Found A Pet

  1. Check for a license or ID tag or tattoo. No identification? Ask around the neighborhood in case the animal lives nearby.
  2. Take the animal to the nearest veterinarian or shelter to scan for a microchip and check for a tattoo.
  3. Notify all of the correct authorities to report the cat or dog found. Call your local police non-emergency line. Also, call your local animal control agency. Complete a found dog report, or bring the animal to the shelter if you are unable to keep the animal while searching for the owner. Call any other shelters or veterinarians in the area.
  4. Create "found" flyers and post them around the neighborhood and at animal service businesses.
  5. Post on your local Craigslist, in your local newspaper, and in other lost and found Internet and Facebook sites.

Photos courtesy Lost Dogs Illinois and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin

More Helpful Resources

Watch Lost Dogs Illinois and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin's webinar Fireworks & Reuniting Lost Dogs with Their Families.

Check out Marin Humane Society's powerful Strategies to Boost RTO Rates

Read Lost Dogs of America's 5-part blog series, Harnessing the Energy, on how rescues and shelters can organize teams of volunteers to help capture a lost dog

These guidelines will show you what's needed to start a state Lost Dogs site like Illinois or Wisconsin

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