Want the down-low on RTO? Here are tips on increasing the number of animals reunited with their families. Also check out our webinar, "Strategies to Return Pets to Their Homes", presented by Jennifer Brehler, Director of Operations Asheville Humane Society, North Carolina and Ellen Taylor, Vice President of Operations, and Bridgette Chesne, Director of Shelter Services at Humane Society of Boulder Valley, Colorado.
Prioritize Lost Pets
Make RTO as important as adoptions at your shelter and build a solid infrastructure to support it – staffing, volunteer support, policies and procedures, etc. Consider hiring a full-time Lost and Found Coordinator or recruit an organized, detail-oriented volunteer to manage matchmaking.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Your response to those who have lost pets should be immediate, accessible, easy and friendly. Even if pet parents know what they should do, they may panic and not do any of it... or they may find the whole process intimidating. They are looking to you to help them make use of the resources available.
Set the Stage For a Reunion
Lighting, noise and stress can all make it difficult for pet parents to recognize their own animals in a shelter setting. To make it easier, create a digital walk-through or a photo album so they don't have to go into the shelter until you have narrowed down the search. Escorting them through the shelter and directing their attention to every animal that closely matches their pet's description helps, too.
Swag and Tag
Make sure all RTOs and animals adopted from your shelter are licensed, and sell licenses at convenient off-site locations. These animals should also leave with a collar and ID tag, and a microchip if possible.
On the Town
Be proactive. Mount a rigorous and engaging public awareness campaign encouraging pet parents to make sure their animals have up-to-date identification. McKamey Animal Center's "Collar On! – 'because lost pets can't tell you their phone number'" campaign increased their RTOs by 129% in 2010. Another idea is to recruit volunteers to go door-to-door inquiring if pets have ID, with free collars and leashes on hand to give away.
You Can Search, Too!
Why wait for the families of lost pets to come to you? Check your shelter population daily against lost and found notices on craigslist.org, newspapers, Facebook, etc.
Software That Saves
When looking for a match for a lost animal, sort your cat inventory by color and your dog inventory by breed to narrow down the search. PetPoint makes this easy to do. Be sure every animal has a good, recognizable photo.
Don't Keep Good News Quiet
Celebrate every match made – for example, play a song like Peaches & Herb's' "Reunited" every time a pet finds his family. Use these moments as a chance to educate your community about keeping pet IDs up to date.
Call the Cops
Yes, really! Often local law enforcement can find people you're having trouble locating. This is useful when the phone number on an animal's ID is no longer working or the family has moved.
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Don't let any animal leave your shelter intact. Consider reducing or waiving the reclaim fee if the pet parent agrees to let you alter the animal.
Listen to the complete recording of this webinar and download the slides for more tips on RTO strategies.