Back to Section II
animal-pounds.com -- lost pets information site
WHERE LOST PETS GO; Applicable to any U.S. area --
Applicable to some International areas
ANIMAL BEHAVIORS; STATISTICS; PROBLEMS
Applicable to any U.S. area -- Applicable to some International areas
Compare this information with how long your pet has been gone, his size, his speed, his condition. Is he larger, and can he run faster and longer than a small pet? How far could he be from home right now? Will he run in a straight line, or hole up somewhere near home? To verify for yourself how fast a pet can travel, simply call three veterinarians whom you trust and ask: "How fast do you feel a pet such as a small dog or cat can travel, hour after hour if necessary?" or "How fast do you believe a large animal such as a German Shepherd can trot indefinitely?" and "How long is 'indefinitely'?" You may get three different responses to each question, but this can help you reach your own conclusions as to speed and distance.
Although it is highly unlikely your pet will be taken in permanently by a neighbor (also see Section I, item H) if someone has taken in a lost pet, what will they do with it?
1. Someone may take him in and keep him indefinitely.
2. They may take him home, keep him for a week or a month
or more, and then dump him or give him away.
3. They may keep him locally, or transport him elsewhere.
acquaintances immediately who may do any or all of the above.
5. They might call a pound or shelter and bring him there
either right away, or weeks or months from now.
C. WHERE LOST PETS GO INITIALLY. (We'll cover other issues and transported pets later). Although not always true, when lost and on his own, a dog tends to roam, sometimes in circles, sometimes in rather straight lines. A cat on the other hand, will tend to run/hide, run/hide, until he finds a safe spot in which to hole up that is not already occupied by a tough opponent, a spot which is dry, and one which offers some protection from the elements. In inclement weather, a dog will also need to find shelter. If the lost pet gets kicked out of his shelter by a human or by another animal, he again must search until he lucks out and finds another safe and sheltered hideout.
This effort for the pet is complicated by the fact that most cities require property owners to keep their homes and outbuildings in proper repair, meaning no holes, no loosely-hanging doors, and meaning porches must be closed-in to keep varmints from living under them. Where is a lost pet going to go if there are no openings in any garages or other out-buildings? If the pet finds an accessible building, will that building have a cozy warm spot for sleeping, with bedding and with body-sized "roof and sides" to help hold in body heat during cold months? Many fenced-in yards have closed gates; if your cat or dog finds an unoccupied dog house, will a gate block his way, and if not, will there be bedding in the doghouse to aid in survival?
a) Neighbors, “friends” and family members have been known to “get rid of” pets they see as aggravating, dropping them off away from home.
b) Cats and dogs have been known to sneak into cars or trunks and then run when the door is opened … miles from home.
c) Even a small dog or cat can lope indefinitely at 3 miles per hour … meaning in only 8 hours, that animal could be 24 miles away. And most pets lose their sense of direction easily, once a short ways from home.
Although many people see domestic pets as being perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, this writer does not. When you think about it, can a cat or dog go shopping for food? Can it create a heated or cooled home for itself? Can it reason through exactly why or why not to cross a street -- and does its instinct allow it to not chase that squirrel running under a moving vehicle? When a pet is lost, can it read a road map? Of course not. So this writer chooses to view a domestic pet's mentality as being much more similar to that of a very young human toddler, where adult control is required in order to provide safety and security.
Just as each animal is different, each circumstance is also
Intact males and females: During mating season(s), intact males and females will often disappear for days or week(s) at a time. This is especially true with males (since females will want to be home once they've become pregnant). During the season, neighbors will be forced to put up with yowling and screaming during intense catfights and copulation. The cats are subjected to more dangers, since they are so engrossed in chasing each other around, they are less likely to notice approaching vehicles or other hazards. If they survive the hunger, thirst, and other perils while on their own, then they must later attempt to get a handle on where home went. Frequently they fail to find home, and are left to fend for themselves on the streets.
Keep in mind that cats are more likely to hole up in the general neighborhood of loss (assuming they have not been carried elsewhere, and assuming they have not been chased). Cats revert to wild tendencies easily due to ongoing fear for safety. See Section
Once a pet is lost, he is frightened, hungry, confused, disoriented. As such, he may or may not behave as you are accustomed to seeing him do. Your much-loved long-term friend may even run from you if you see him. It's not that he has forgotten you, he has just reverted to survival mode, in which he can no longer -- at the moment -- be certain of who is a friend vs who is out to get him. Please exercise patience.
F. WHEN LOST AWAY FROM HOME. If your pet jumped out of your car, or ran off when you were visiting somewhere, the most-likely thing is that he will hang around in the area and wait for you to find him. We have heard stories of such pets (cats and dogs) waiting for as long as two weeks for the owner to show up -- in a vacant lot, in a wooded park, in a swamp, in or near a vacant building, at a truck stop. Much longer than two weeks is possible if the animal has found a source of water and/or food. The fact is, these little guys don't just disappear when you can't find them.
Also, be aware that as long as pets receive adequate food, water, shelter, and receive the right kind of security, attention and affection for their particular needs, pets never ever "run away", which implies something they do on purpose. On the contrary, pets on the loose simply run around and get lost. On occasion, stories are told about pets who are constantly wandering over to and staying at a neighbor's house. This is a solid indication that something important is missing in the animal's life. Security, perhaps. An example situation might be this: Perhaps your pet spends much of its outdoor time on a neighbor's porch instead of yours. Perhaps your pet prefers being there simply because that owner uses that door more than you use yours where the activity, sounds, and closeness to the people are all inviting to the pet; maybe the sounds of people inside travel more easily out to the neighbor's porch, perhaps there is a room adjoining the porch in which the neighbor spends more time, or maybe your neighbor leaves enticing food out knowing that pets love to have food in front of them 24/7. Whatever your own pets reasons might be, to prevent any of your pets from wandering, please neuter/spay, and be sure to keep them all -- both cats and dogs -- lovingly, humanely, and safely confined.
Pets are frequently transported away from their area of loss. There are many ways this can happen. Here are a few:
1. Purposeful Transport. A caring person may find the animal, assume it's a stray, take it home hoping to find the owner, but then the animal accidentally gets loose. Or the caring person may bring the stray across town or across a metro area to a distant pound or shelter which is the only one that person knows about. We have also heard from people who lost pets which were gotten rid of by someone else. One example was a "friend" who dumped a cat across the city as a joke, another where an irate spouse brought a beloved family dog to a pound more than 12 miles from home, leaving everyone else to worry and wonder what had happened to it; and yet another where a "friend" again dumped a cat in a distant neighborhood. One of these cats was recovered, due to an intensive week-long search. The other, the owner did not search for at all. The dog was recovered by the grieving spouse who received an anonymous call from a pound visitor.
2. Accidental Transport. Cats and dogs have been known to sneak into vehicles or trunks and then run when the door is opened … sometimes miles from home.
3. Transport by Animal Warden. Sometimes contracted animal wardens will transport pets many miles away from home, crossing through one or more other impoundment areas, across city or county lines, to a distant facility where the animals will be impounded.
Homing tip: Some people have found that leaving familiar and scented objects outdoors and accessible to a lost pet can be helpful in bringing them home if they are hiding in your neighborhood. For example, the bedding you provide in your outdoor shelter should be something with your odors on it such as a soiled shirt -- or perhaps a particular unwashed rug or blanket the animal has slept on while indoors which has it's own odors on it. Or you might leave a cat's scratching post out by the back door or in an accessible outbuilding.
Home Security. Obviously, when you leave a gate or garage door or porch door ajar, you need to provide security for yourself. Install a temporary locked chain, leaving a gap wide enough for your pet to enter, if that's at all possible.
I. GENERAL STATISTICS.
Government animal pounds normally have an over-abundance of impounded cats and dogs; through the years, it has been normal for an animal pound to adopt out fewer than 50% of impounded animals, in some cases being as little as 2%, with the majority being euthanized or surrendered for research.
J. HUMANE SHELTER STATISTICS. The following information is taken from the hsus.org website:
Lost or stolen dogs could end up in the hands of dogfighters [for use as dogfight bait], or even Class B dealers, who sell dogs from random sources to research institutions for use in biomedical research, testing and education procedures. Beloved family pets can also become unfortunate victims of bunchers, who have been known to acquire dogs through lost, stray and "free to a good home" ads—even to take pets from their owners' backyards—and then sell them to Class B dealers. At Class B dog dealer facilities, there have been numerous documented cases of mistreatment, neglect, and other animal welfare violations.
Of the dogs and cats stolen in the United States every year, only an estimated 10 percent ever find their homes again
What can pet owners do to make sure that their friends and companions remain safe at home?
Keep your pet indoors, especially when you are not at home.
Identify your pet with a collar and tag, microchip or tattoo.
Be aware of strangers in the neighborhood, and report anything unusual to the police
Padlock gates, and make sure people can't access your pets over fences.
Keep your pet on a leash whenever you go outside.
Make neighbors aware of the problem of pet theft.
Know where your pets are at all times.
Support the federal Pet Safety and Protection Act, now before Congress, which ensures that cats and dogs used by research facilities are obtained legally.
And here are some things not to do:
Don't let your pet roam free in the neighborhood.
Don't let your pet be visible from the street.
Never leave pets unattended at any time.
Never leave pets outside a store or in the car to wait for you.
The chance for any pet being adopted are just that: Chance.
1. If a lost pet is running loose, the opportunity for someone to take the pet in and keep it is quite slim. The reason? Because many millions of pets are lost, abandoned, and/or turned in to pounds and shelters every year. If there were, say, three kind neighbors on any given square city block, for example, and throughout their lives, each neighbor continued to take in every stray on that block that needed help, each of those neighbors (based on numbers of animals euthanized each year) would have to take in and keep over a thousand animals, and keep those animals for their full lives.
Further details are available in Section I.
3. If visitors are looking for a specific size, shape, color, hair type, age, behavior, etc., and your lost pet does not fit the right category, then adoption is unlikely.
6. If there are well-behaved "owner animals" in an agency, where information about them is readily-available such as temperament, shots and other medical history, general behaviors, etc., then even if your strayed purebred or popular type is sitting right there waiting for adoption, many potential adopters will be likely to gravitate instead to an animal with a proven background, and yours will be passed by.
7. If your lost pet is generally well-behaved, social, friendly, with an adorable personality ... that is no guarantee of adoption. Many pets change once lost and on their own; by the time he ends up in an agency cage, that once-sweet critter may be hostile, unsocial, nippy, acting wild or cowering at the back of the cage, and also may be matted, diseased, injured, or simply unkempt, making him less likely to be adopted.
8. In the U.S., vast numbers of pets, both purebred and mixed breed, are euthanized by pounds and shelters, or die on the streets, every year. If you were to line up all of these pets
L. VETERINARY EXPERIENCE IN SHELTER
Most pounds and shelters nowadays try very hard to be kindly to impounded animals. but there are sometimes limitations on what they can do or are allowed to do.
1. If a stray animal is ill or injured, some pounds and shelters provide immediate vet care; some transport the ill or injured to a contracted veterinary office; many do not provide vet care at all, due to the costs. Since most people do not find their lost pets (often due to not looking, not looking far enough, not doing enough, or giving up too soon), there would be no one to cover the veterinary expense. Many animal facilities are typically strapped for cash or have tight budgets; other facilities simply do not care; so if you don't show up to claim your ill or injured animal, who would step up to pay for any vet fees?
2. In facilities which do have veterinary care, you will find some which do not have "immediate" vet care, since they may not have a 24-hour staff veterinarian. In some facilities, injured or ill animals are made as comfortable as possible; in others, the animal is simply put in a cage as-is. If the animal is brought in late on Friday or at the start of a longer holiday weekend, the animal may go untreated -- no matter what the injuries -- for the entire weekend or holiday period. In some cases, the animal may be euthanized earlier, depending on staff training. In some facilities, babies too young to eat, and adult animals too ill or too badly injured to eat, will simply be left in a cage with only dry food, no hand-feeding, and no bottle feeding. These problems are becoming more rare, but do not be surprised if you see these things when you visit some pounds and shelters regularly. Note that these are not as likely to happen in Humane Societies and in no-kill shelters, but that many facilities will not allow you to visit areas where ill and injured are held so it's difficult to know for sure who does what. Providing round-the-clock vet care is extremely expensive, and simply not available to many facilities. Ill or injured pets are typically euthanized, but not always. In addition, even when ill or injured, these lost pets can still go for research.
3. How can you verify if these issues exist in facilities you visit? Sometimes you cannot. One way to get a handle on it, however: When you visit a pound or shelter which allows you to view all animals, including sick and injured, visit every day, at least once a day. When you notice an injured or ill animal, make notes as to what is wrong, what date it came in, what its ID card on the cage says, including ID or intake number, and note which cage the animal is in. Check each day to see for yourself what is happening with that particular animal. Also check other ill or injured in that facility in the same way. Over a period of time, you may get some idea as to whether this is a facility which provides immediate vet care and how quickly they might do so.
Note that if you simply visit but do not take notes when visiting larger agencies, you likely will very soon lose track of what is happening, since many facilities have heavy impoundment turnover. When visiting every day, soon each black cat will look like every other to you, and each German Shepherd will look like the same one that was in the same cage the day before when in fact it may be a different dog. Intake ID numbers are crucial to doing an adequate job of keeping track, as are cage numbers.
M. HUMAN ERROR. It is common for people looking for lost pets to trust what they see, hear, read, or are told. Keep an open mind during your own search, since problems are rampant. Whether you are talking with someone who has found a pet that might be yours, or talking with someone in an agency, or looking at agency records, watch out for errors. When reviewing intake lists, for example, you may find a cat on the dog list or a dog on the cat list.
N. PUREBRED vs MIXED BREED. Pet owners tend to believe their pet will never be euthanized by a shelter or impoundment facility and that he would never be sold for research, simply because that pet is purebred, or very expensive, or so cute or so sweet, or way smarter than most pets, or whatever. This is not reality.
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