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What to do when your dog goes missing

This article was written and then shared to us by Rikki Schmidt, wife of veterinarian, Dr. Marc Schmidt. Thanks for the information Rikki!

By Rikki Schmidt

It seems lost pets are everywhere, except back at home- you see their pictures on pet websites, newspaper ads, and flyer's. You may have even noticed them wandering around the neighborhood. No one wants to experience the pain of losing their furry friend. And it’s not just because the door was left open, the gate was unlocked or they chased a squirrel and ran away. If your pet is gone it may have been stolen. According to the American Kennel Club petnappings are up 70% with animals, both pure bred and mixed breed, being stolen from homes, backyards, stores, sidewalks even shelters. Stolen pets are used in dog fighting, animal mills, medical experiments, and other illegal schemes. Here’s how to prevent your pets from disappearing in the first place, as well as tips to get them back if they’re gone.

Before they run away: 

- Check your yard for escape routes- over time fences bend and warp, the ground shifts, gate latches don’t close and holes are dug

- Check your leash to see if it’s frayed or if the clasp is loose

- Tag and microchip your pet

- Protect your pet from loud noises or strange situations- during July 4, Halloween and News Years Eve many pets who normally stay put get spooked and run off.

- Dogs in cars and trucks are not a great idea- if they’re riding in the back of the pickup they can jump out- if they’re left inside they can be stolen.

- Have your pet spayed or neutered. “Fixed” animals are less likely to roam.

- Teach your dog to come immediately when called, no matter the distraction.

Pet already gone? 

- Check your home first- the pet may be accidentally shut in the garage or closet

- Canvass the neighborhood with as many people as you can- take treats and the pet’s favorite squeaky toy and loudly call the pet’s name

- Check under cars, in bushes and other out of the way places

- Put some food & water outside your house and even your dog's bed or some of your clothing with familiar smells.

- If you suspect your pet has been stolen, check the classified ads in your newspaper or on line. If someone has stolen your dog they may be trying to sell it

- Post a “Lost dog” listing on and check daily to see if someone submitted a “Found pet” post

- Post flyer's around the neighborhood with a current picture of your pet. Put them everywhere you can think of within a 2 mile radius including animal-centered places such as veterinary hospitals, dog groomers, pet shops and dog parks.

Places to call
  • Pinal County Animal Control 1-520-866-7600
  • Maricopa County Animal Control 602-506-7387
  • Apache Junction Animal Control 480-983-4405
  • Pets 911 480-889-2640
  • Missing Mutts 480-898-8914

On the Internet

Another option is a service called which is sort of an “Amber Alert” for pets, sending out a detailed automated phone message about your pet to neighbors within a specific radius of where your pet was last seen.

It may be heartening to know that a survey of 1,000 pet owning households revealed that 74% of lost cats and 93% of lost dogs were recovered. However, this also means that a significant number of stray dogs and cats that wind up in shelters do not have anyone looking for them.

Don’t give up! It may take time for your pet to be found and brought somewhere. Make daily trips to the pounds and shelters – phone calls are not enough. But be wary. Some unscrupulous people may call and claim they found your pet but they want money before they return it. If you receive a call like this inform the police.
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