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- Reunited ~ Whitney the Bearded Collie from #Oshkosh in Winnebago County. Message from owner's friend.: Found... fb.me/2dpyepjEQ 51 minutes ago
Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Lost Dogs Illinois had an informational booth at the Friends of Noah Community Carnival in Edgerton on May 18, 2013. It was a big success! The weather was nice and lots of people came out to participate in all of the fun activities for dogs and owners.
We offered free microchip scanning for all dogs. Many dogs were microchipped, but many people did not know the brand of microchip, or whether their information was current. A microchip is only as good as the information that is attached to the file!
Lost Dogs Illinois set up their I.D. tag making machine and engraved tags on the spot. Thirty-nine dogs went home with shiny new tags!
Thank you to our volunteers and especially, the folks from Lost Dogs Illinois for helping us help more dogs get home safely.
Thank you for visiting our website. If you are missing your dog, we invite you to browse through the dozens of articles that may help. They are categorized on the right side of this page. Our volunteers are spending time today with their friends and family. If you have filed a report with us, we will post as soon as volunteers are available. Thank you for your understanding.
There are more lost dogs now than there have ever been. Pet ownership is up and we, as a nation, are saving more dogs, with many more people choosing adoption as their option. This is a great thing but it comes with its challenges. For many people, this is their first experience owning a shy, rescued dog. These dogs are often high flight risks and can quickly escape through a door or wiggle out of an ill-fitting collar, harness or slip lead.
Searching for a shy lost dog is expensive and time-consuming. Most shelters and rescues are obliged to help search for a dog that has gone missing from a newly adopted home, a foster home, their transport or their facility. Publicly funded shelters and stray-holding facilities are also obligated to proactively return lost pets to their owners, because they are taking taxpayer money to do it. Please read our series “Harnessing the Energy” on how rescues and shelters can organize teams of volunteers to help capture a lost dog.
But unfortunately, many shelters do not proactively help reunite lost pets. The average national Return to Owner (RTO) rate for dogs is 20%, for cats – a dismal 2%. You only have to walk down the aisle of a shelter and read the kennel cards and see how many of the animals are listed as “stray” to realize the enormity of the problem. If shelters could get more lost pets home, it would reduce shelter deaths and save taxpayer money.
Shelters that are introducing proactive programs (often entirely volunteer-run) are seeing their Return to Owner rates rise. Some shelters are reporting RTO rates higher than 70% for dogs.
What can a shelter do to improve their Return to Owner rate and why would they want to?
Goodwill, positive press and donations are generated when an animal control agency or shelter takes a proactive approach to reuniting lost pets with their families. Heartwarming stories and photos (easily posted on Facebook) elevate the reputation of the facility from “dog catcher” to compassionate life-savers.
A shelter typically has two windows of opportunity to help people find their lost pet.
1. When a person who has lost a pet comes in or calls to file a report.
2. When “stray” dogs and cats are picked up and impounded at the facility.
There are different levels of staff and volunteer participation that can be utilized to help facilitate more reunions. Starting with just a few simple changes can make a difference! Animal control officers should be encouraged to do field redemptions whenever possible. Equip animal control officers with microchip scanners and laptops or smartphones. Getting lost pets home before they even enter the shelter system lessens the workload on the kennel staff, decreases overcrowding and illness, and reduces euthanasia.
Volunteers and staff can be trained to implement many parts of an RTO program. Here are some ideas that have been successful:
Reuniting “Owned Strays” with their owner:
- Scan every animal that is brought to your shelter for a microchip using “Best Microchip Procedures”.
- Keep detailed records about where and when an animal was picked up and make this information available to the public.
- Use a dedicated email address for lost and found reports. This will help keep these reports separate and out of the general email stream. example: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Keep detailed records of calls your facility receives from people who have lost a pet. Use an online reporting system also, so they can fill it out after hours. Request that they email or fax a picture and show the photo to your staff members and volunteers immediately after you receive them.
- Have volunteers or staff members compare lost pet reports with the animals your facility is holding to see if any match. Store the reports and photos in a binder that is easily accessible to staff and volunteers.
- Depending on volume, either set up a dedicated Facebook page or use albums on your regular Facebook page to post pictures of lost pets that were brought to your facility. Allow the public to post as well. Facebook allows other people to share the posts and many times reunions happen because a neighbor or friend recognizes the dog. Websites are usually only viewed by the owner. It is easy to train volunteers to maintain and moderate a Facebook page.
- Post the same pictures on your website for those people that don’t have a Facebook account. Use a system that provides “shareable” links to the photos.
- Use a volunteer “greeter” that can help people that enter the facility looking for their pet. This will lessen the workload of the front office staff. This volunteer should know what the requirements are and be able to easily communicate this with an owner (eg. proof of ownership, vaccination records). Have these printed out in both English and Spanish to give to the owners so lost pets can be reclaimed as quickly as possible. Many pets are “abandoned at the shelter” because the reclaim fees are too high. You always want to facilitate fast reunions to reduce this abandonment.
- Negotiate and lower fees to reduce abandonment at the shelter. Authorize front desk staff members to negotiate fees. Many owners are embarrassed to ask or don’t know that the shelter will negotiate. Make it easy to reclaim a lost pet.
- Have volunteers monitor other internet and community lost pets listings including Craigslist, community newspapers, Facebook pages and websites.
- Trained volunteers can track down the owners of impounded pets with disconnected phone numbers or lacking current microchip information.
- Mention whether a dog that is adoptable or impounded was brought to your shelter as a surrender or a stray.
- Scan every animal in your shelter one last time before allowing him or her to be adopted or euthanized.
If the owner’s lost pet is not at the shelter, compassionate, customer-service oriented volunteers can be trained to assist the owner by doing the following things. Extra assistance may be needed for elderly owners; owners without internet, computers or transportation; and those owners for whom English is a second language.
- Assist the owner in filling out a lost pet report form. Explain to them how to “red flag” their missing pet with the microchip company and/or update information if it isn’t already done.
- Provide them with our 5 Things Flyer in either English or Spanish. The 5 Things Flyers is good for both dogs and cats.
- Provide them with an Lost Dogs of Wisconsin business card if it is a dog. Our website has a lot of valuable information that can help them find their dog. If it is a cat – provide them with the link to any Lost Cats or Lost Pets Facebook pages in your area as well as the catsinthebag.org and missingpetpartnership.org websites.
- If they already have a flyer made – post it on the shelter bulletin board. Volunteers should keep the bulletin board tidy and up to date. Date each flyer and then call owners after a certain number of days to do follow up and provide more support and assistance.
- Develop a “pet detective” team, similar to our LDOW caseworkers that can help owners develop a strategic plan for finding their lost pets based on the circumstances regarding their disappearance, their breed, location, etc.
Shelters should be willing to dedicate a portion of their website to helpful advice for missing pets. May people lose their pets late at night and frantically look for information on the internet to help them with their search. Providing links to good information on your website will work for you even when your staff is busy or the office is closed. You will appear to be a “helpful” resource in the community even if people only accessed the information via your website.
At Lost Dogs of Wisconsin, we are committed to helping reunite people with their lost dogs. Together with the help of shelters and stray-holding facilities we can make a difference. Please contact us at email@example.com if we can be of assistance to offer training to shelter staff and/or volunteers. We have numerous powerpoints for all components of our volunteer training that we would be happy to present.We would love to hear from you!
At Lost Dogs of Wisconsin, we never say never. We have had too many surprises and unlikely scenarios play out in the last few years. But, that being said, we have learned a few things from the thousands of successful reunions that our organization and those of our sister sites have been involved with.
An owner that focuses the majority of their effort on what “probably” happened to their dog; rather than worrying about what “possibly” happened, is far more likely to have a quicker, more successful recovery.
Consider the weather. Is it possible for it to snow on any given day of the year in Wisconsin? Yes. Is it probable? No. So you can probably safely leave your parka at home in August.
Some examples pertaining to dogs:
- A dog lost from a car accident that is not being pursued will probably stay within a 1/2 mile radius of where the accident occurred.
- A small friendly dog lost in a populated area has probably been picked up, often very close to where they went missing from. They can be taken to a shelter, stray holding facility or rescue; or kept, or rehomed.
- A shy, fearful dog is probably still “out there” learning to live on their own and avoiding people.
- A “dandelion”; common dogs that all look alike (eg. labrador retrievers) are easily lost in the animal control/shelter system.
We have broken down our website articles to try to help you quickly “profile” your dog so that you can focus your efforts on probability. First; determine whether your dog has the risk factors of an elusive dog or an opportunistic dog.
Then read the corresponding articles from the Shy or Friendly categories on our website. Click on the categories on the right side of our webpage.
Our most likely “prediction” - most dogs are recovered because somebody that saw or knows something, saw a flyer or sign for the missing dog. Go door to door in the area that your dog was last seen and ask everybody if they have seen your dog. Use intersection signs to attract the attention of passing motorists.
Don’t delay! Your lost dog is depending on YOU to bring him safely home.
As National Volunteer Week comes to a close, we thought it would be a good time to spend a few minutes giving you a glimpse behind the scenes of Lost Dogs of Wisconsin. At LDOW, we are “inventing the wheel”. We didn’t have a template to follow. We try things and they either work or they don’t. If they don’t work, we are extremely flexible and we try something else. We are constantly trying to tweak and improve the system.
Our goal is not to find people’s dogs, but to help them find their own dogs. Along the way, we hope to educate as many people as possible so that when one of their dogs, or a neighbor’s or friend’s dog goes missing, they know the most effective strategies to use. By doing this, we hope to reduce the number of “strays” that enter our animal shelters, thereby reducing shelter deaths and freeing up space for needier animals.
We started with four volunteers and currently have over fifty. We are basically “virtual” volunteers – using our computers and telephones to help reunite lost dogs with their owners. We like to joke that it is one of the only volunteer jobs for animals that you can do in your jammies with a glass of wine (or a cup of coffee for the early birds).
Our 17,000 plus fans see our public Facebook page and our website. We thank each and every one of you for sharing our posts. We couldn’t do it without you. But, many people don’t realize that we are also very busy behind the scenes, operating several closed Facebook groups to communicate amongst ourselves and the other states that have joined our network.
Here is a list of the Facebook groups that help keep the LDOW wheels on the bus:
1. Main volunteer group – used by everyone. This is a busy place especially in the late afternoon/early evening when lots of us are online and matches are being made and reports are coming in.
2. Flyermaker group – used to train new flyermakers and communicate amongst the existing flyermakers. Flyermakers are on the front line and are often the first contact that a lost dog owner or finder has with LDOW. This group helps them get the job done quickly and efficiently.
3. Craigslist monitors – used to communicate amongst our four Craiglist monitors who monitor all of the Wisconsin Craigslist sites and who send every lost and found dog posted on Craigslist an email, offering suggestions and advising them of our services. Their role is crucial in getting good advice to people quickly, as well as making matches – many of which never reach our Facebook page because they are so efficient.
4. Technical group – These are the folks who keep us up and running in the technical department, including Facebook, our website, Twitter, Pinterest and the form program, called jotform, that we use for our reports.
5. Sister Sites – This is a forum for the directors of all of the different state pages where we toss out new ideas and suggestions and mentor the new pages that are starting up.
6. Advisory Board – Oversees the direction and changes of the organization.
Other volunteer positions include: caseworkers, Facebook administrators and liaisons tip maker, website design and maintenance, shelter outreach, cold case caseworker, mapping program liasion, Pinterest pinner, website story writer, sympathy cards, deceased dog data base, volunteer trainers and of course our volunteer coordinator – who keeps us all organized and moving forward.
Thank you to each and everyone of our volunteers who take time out of their busy day to help lost dogs get home!
Are rewards a good idea? Many lost dog articles in print and on the internet recommend offering a reward to increase the chance of getting your dog back. We don’t agree. We have based our opinion on thousands of successful recoveries. In this article we would like to explain our reasoning based on the three possible scenarios for your missing dog:
1. If your dog is shy; offering a reward does exactly what we DON’T want people to do. It encourages people to chase your dog in order to get the reward. We have an eyewitness account of a woman chasing an extremely shy dog across a corn field with a ham sandwich because she wanted the reward money. It could easily have had tragic consequences because she was chasing him directly towards a busy highway. Luckily the dog was recovered safely, but it took two more weeks and the dog had gone an additional twenty miles. This added extra expense and stress for the already stressed-out owners.
Your strategy with a shy dog should be to encourage the dog to “settle” into an area and relax. Regular meals at a feeding station will allow the dog to return to a more domesticated state of mind and will give you the best opportunity to capture him.
2. If your lost dog has been picked up by a Good Samaritan, their motive will be to return the dog to a loving home. Even if they have already kept or rehomed your dog, they will feel guilty or be afraid they will be “ratted out” by their neighbors. You can always offer them a small token of your appreciation for their time and trouble after you have your dog back safely.
Your strategy should be to file a police report immediately so that you have started the paper trail that may be necessary if your dog has been kept or rehomed. You will also need to flyer very heavily and use intersection signs. Put a sign in front of your own house also! Keep checking your local shelters. Remember, the Good Samaritan is motivated to return your dog by seeing how much you miss him.
3. If your dog has been truly stolen (somebody broke into your car, residence or business with the intent of stealing your dog and/or other possessions) and you feel that their motive is greed; you still don’t need to put a reward on the flyer. The thieves will be watching for your flyers and ads and will contact you to ask for a reward. Make sure you have contacted the police and have them accompany you when you arrange to meet the thieves.
Offering a reward for a missing dog has these other detrimental effects:
1. It encourages scammers to contact you, who do not have your dog and may never even have seen your dog. But they have seen your flyers and ads offering a reward. They might email you pictures that look like your dog; these may be photoshopped, or taken from your Facebook page. The scammers will want to meet you at a location to exchange cash for your dog. Call the police immediately if you are approached by somebody that says they have your dog but you must give them money to get your dog back. Otherwise you will have no money and no dog.
2. It makes it harder for the next person who loses their dog, especially if they can’t afford to offer a reward. Rewards encourage scammers, thieves and dognapping.
3. It “legitimizes” dognapping and encourages people to hold out for a reward, perhaps even Good Samaritans. Stealing a dog or keeping a dog that you have found is illegal. Extortion is illegal. We need to keep emphasizing this in order for it to be taken seriously by law enforcement and the public.
The buck stops with you! Please don’t publicize a reward for your missing dog on your flyers and ads. Let’s all work together to help more lost dogs get home safely.
Our tips, ideas and articles are based on information gathered from thousands of successful lost dog recoveries. Any advice or suggestions made by Lost Dogs of Wisconsin/Lost Dogs Illinois is not paid-for professional advice and should be taken at owner’s discretion.
The snow is melting and people are outside more; doing spring clean up in their yards, walking dogs, riding bikes, etc. They may see your dog at dawn or dusk; or they may find a clue that will help you ( a collar, or a place where your dog has been sheltering – maybe under a deck or in an outbuilding or garden shed).
This article is designed to give you some ideas for reigniting your search to give you a place to pick up again. Hopefully, you have read our other articles on shy lost dog search strategies and friendly lost dog search strategies. If not, please check the categories at the right that link to many more articles. We also hope you have mapped all the sightings on a map, either a web-based map like Google Maps or a large-scale paper map.
Now, imagine you are a detective working on a cold case. You may talk to 99 people who have not seen or heard anything. You are looking for the ONE person who has. Someone, somewhere has seen or knows something. Be persistent and don’t give up. Even if they haven’t seen your dog, they may see your dog tomorrow. Putting a flyer in their hands ensures they will know who to call when they see him.
Look at your map and draw a circle in a one mile radius around the last confirmed sighting. Go back to the last confirmed place that your dog was seen and flyer heavily in a one mile radius. Don’t let false assumptions or geographic barriers deter you. Don’t assume that your dog would NEVER have crossed the highway or the river or the lake. False assumptions will make you miss possible sightings and leads.
Talk to everybody! Put a flyer in their hands and ask them if they have seen your dog or if they think a dog may have been hanging around their house or farm. Did they see dog tracks under their bird feeder? Was their dog poop in their yard when it shouldn’t be there? Was their outdoor cat food disappearing faster than normal?
Visit EVERY place that serves food in the one mile radius. Don’t forget convenience stores and gas stations! Talk with the kitchen staff and management. Did anybody see a dog hanging out near the dumpsters? Did anybody notice dog tracks near the dumpsters in the winter? Did any restaurant patrons mention a dog hanging out in the parking lot?
Think about the demographics of the neighborhoods in the one mile radius. Maybe you need to print some flyers in Spanish or another language? Or, maybe there are some older residents who don’t get out much to see signs and flyers but may have taken pity on your dog and fed him over the winter? Think about the people that may not have seen or understood your first round of flyering.
Spring is also a great time to refresh your posters and intersection signs. You may want to change the heading to STILL MISSING – so that people know that the search is still on. Think outside the box. Ask every business in the one mile radius if you can hang a flyer in their window and employee break room. Maybe your dog approached workers on their lunch break. Or maybe they saw him when they were driving to or from work.
If you don’t get any new leads in the one mile radius; you will need to expand your area. You may want to consider using an automated calling service like FindToto.com and/or USPS Every Door Direct Mail. Beware of some of the other lost pet mailing services that you will see advertised. Some of them are scams and do not reach the number of homes that they promise.
Refresh the memories of the animal control facilities, shelters, police departments, vet clinics and municipal offices in your county and surrounding counties. Send them fresh flyers.
Give a new flyer to postal workers, delivery drivers, school bus drivers and garbage truck drivers. Don’t forget pizza and sandwich delivery drivers also! They are out and about in the evening, when your dog may be moving around, looking for food.
Check with your local Department of Transportation. Have they found any deceased dogs alongside the road? Or has a dog been spotted eating on a deer or other wildlife carcass?
Repost your dog on Craigslist and your local online classifeds. Consider taking out a print newspaper ad also. There are still many people without computers or the internet!
Remember, Never Give Up! Use the warm weather of spring to re-energize and jump start the search for your missing dog. Your dog is depending on you to bring him home.