Empower Owners, Engage Your 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're new to social media or an advanced user, consider the following tips when using platforms like Facebook to advertise lost pets:
Consider starting with just one or two committed volunteers and create a Facebook fan page (not a personal profile page) or Facebook group. You can add people and tools as you grow.
Widen Your Audience
Cross-post with other shelters, rescues, and local businesses to increase the 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. Consider hiding or deleting inappropriate comments. If necessary, community managers can post gentle reminders about the community rules.
Let your fans know the outcome, even if it's sad.
Another great way to keep your community 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 or group should offer more than just posts about lost and found pets. Enhance your engagement—and inform your community—by sharing tips on preventing pets from being lost and tips on getting them found.
When posting information about a lost dog, include their physical traits and 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 or in your group and on your organization's home webpage.
When you publicly acknowledge and tag the other agencies in your area that have been involved in pet/family reunions, you strengthen relationships with those groups. Working together increases lifesaving.
There are often untapped volunteers who want to help animals but may be maxed out on animal care in their own homes. Train volunteers to work from home on RTO. Focus on where volunteers have individual skills.
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.
Tailor Your Resources
Consider having helpful resources at your front counter to hand out. You can personalize your own handouts, based on your community, from these offered by Lost Dogs Illinois.
5 Things to Do If You've Lost Your Pet
- Immediately put out food, water, your dog's bed or toy, and an article of your clothing at the location your pet was last seen. There is a good chance your cat or dog may return.
- 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.
- 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 pet and your contact information.
- Instruct everyone who's helping you not to chase or call your pet. This will prolong your search. If someone sees your pet, they should sit or lie down without making eye contact and gently toss out treats to lure them in.
- Post your pet on the lost and found section of Craigslist.
5 Things to Do If You've Found a Pet
- Check for a license, ID tag, or tattoo. No identification? Ask around the neighborhood in case the animal lives nearby.
- Take the animal to the nearest veterinarian or shelter to scan for a microchip and check for a tattoo.
- Report lost or found pets to the authorities. Call your local police non-emergency line and 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.
- Create "found" flyers and post them around the neighborhood and at animal service businesses.
- Post on your local Craigslist, in your local newspaper, and on other lost and found sites and Facebook.
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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