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Lost and Found

Losing your pet or finding someone else’s pet can be stressful as there is such a strong desire to reunite pet families as fast as possible.

It is important to quickly share information about lost or found pets in as many places as possible so neighbors, shelters and rescue groups, and the community can help. 

Many loose pets are actually near their homes. If a pet has been gone for a while, however, he or she may travel several miles from where they were last seen. So, it is helpful to cover the bases and look near where the animal was lost or found, while also posting online just in case the pet is far from home.

See below for more detailed information on what to do if you’ve lost or found a pet. 

If You’ve Lost a Pet

It is critical to quickly begin looking for lost pets near where they were last seen and online as you notice they are missing. Hopefully, your pet is microchipped with updated owner information and/or they are wearing a tag with an ID with a phone number so you can be notified immediately.

If your microchipped pet is taken to a shelter and they cannot reach you, your pet will often be available for rescue or adoption 6-10 days. Dogs turned in to the shelter with no microchip are often held for only 3 days before they are available for adoption or rescue, while cats and puppies without a microchip or collar are available for immediate adoption – another good reason to get your pets microchipped! 

For best results, keep your search filters as broad as possible and focus on the photos rather than the breed, color, gender, or name of the animal as this information can be misinterpreted or reported incorrectly. Remember your pet may be dirty, injured or scared so your pet may look different in the photo than they do at home. Your pet’s collar may have come off or a finder may have put one on, so again, focus your pet and any distinct colors, markings, etc.

Steps To Take:

If microchipped, report the pet missing to the microchip company. If you are not sure which company made your pet’s chip, look at the American Animal Hospital Association’s Universal Microchip Lookup Tool to get the information.

Many pets are found near their homes or where they were lost, so beginning efforts nearby can be very successful.

  • Hang fliers with your pet’s photo and your contact information in the area where the pet was lost.
  • Use “Lost Pet” flyer templates, such as those on  PawBoost and Shadow.
  • Ask friends,  neighbors or your Nextdoor community to help post signs.
  • If rain is forecast, consider buying inexpensive sheet protectors from a dollar store and placing flyers inside with the opening to the bottom to keep flyers dry and readable.

Post a recent photo of your lost pet and review photos of found pets on:

  • Petco Love Lost is a new site that uses facial recognition technology to more quickly and easily reunite pets with families
  • PetHarbor is a database used by many local and national shelters and rescues
  • Pawboost alerts local pet lovers and shelters about your lost pet
  • Finding Rover uses facial recognition to reunite pets
  • Shadow is a free app that uses the power of technology and volunteers to reunite pets with their families

Post an announcement about your lost pet and review announcements about found pets or animals available for free or for sale on:

Statewide Animal Control, a local, private service providing dog rescue and recovery services, advises owners to never chase the pet as this can often scare them, causing them to go into hiding. They suggest placing a small can or bowl of pet food near where the pet was last seen (with the property owner’s permission). If the pet is skittish, sit and watch from a distance to see if they return. If so, calmly approach them. 

Because animals have a strong sense of smell, many people suggest putting the lost pet’s bedding or litter box outside if you can do so safely. It is believed that the familiar and comfortable smell is believed to help attract pets back home. Others say this can attract unfamiliar animals or even predators. So, owners can decide what they wish to do and then proceed with caution.

* Use caution when providing personal information, including the pet’s name, as this can make it easier for someone else to keep your pet. Sadly, owners should be beware of scammers who may offer to help you find your pet for a fee or who may claim they have your pet and will return him or her for money.

Additional Resources:

If You’ve Found a Pet

Many stray animals have snuck out an open door and have loving owners desperate to find them. You can play an important role in keeping a pet safe and reuniting them with their family.

If possible, keep the pet contained in your home or yard (ideally away from your other pets). This allows owners time to find their companions while also creating more space in the shelter.

If you cannot temporarily hold the animal safely, it is better to take it to the shelter where it can receive food and medical care rather than to leave it on the streets. Shelters have limited hours when they receive found pets and may require an appointment, so find the intake hours for your shelter before you bring the animal.

If you see an unowned animal that is injured, orphaned or in distress, it is best to get them help immediately. The Houston SPCA operates a 24-hour rescue animal ambulance which can be reached at 713-880-HELP (4357). Municipal shelters will usually accept sick and injured animals during regular business hours without an appointment or you may take the animal to a veterinarian if you have funds to pay for services.

If you have found sick, injured or orphaned wildlife, the Houston SPCA Wildlife Center of Texas has important information on how to help these animals.

Steps To Take:

  • Scan the pet for a microchip (free of charge) by visiting a nearby veterinarian office, animal shelter or rescue. Many pet stores also offer this service.
  • Look for a phone number written on the outside or inside of the pet’s collar. 
  • If possible, walk the pet and ask nearby neighbors or businesses if they have ever seen the pet or know where it belongs.
  • Use “Found Pet” flyer templates, such as those on  PawBoost and Shadow, and hang flyers near where the pet was located.
  • Ask friends,  neighbors or your Nextdoor community to help post signs.
  • If rain is forecast, consider buying inexpensive sheet protectors from a dollar store and placing flyers inside with the opening to the bottom to keep flyers dry and readable.

Post a photo of the found pet and review photos of lost pets on:

Post an announcement about the found pet and review announcements about lost pets on:

* Most finders require the owner to provide proof of ownership, such as pet photos and veterinary records. If you cannot temporarily hold the pet or if an owner is not found and you rehome the pet, please use extreme caution – some people look for free animals to sell, use as bait animals or to harm. Many rescue groups will offer rehoming assistance, especially if the finder can temporarily foster the pet.

** If you have found a pitbull and choose to take it to a private shelter, please ask the shelter if they will accept and adopt the pet or whether it will be euthanized based on its breed.

Additional Resources:

Special Care for Cats

Not all cats need to go to the shelter – many cats live as “community cats.” If a cat has a “tipped ear,” where the tip of one ear has been removed, it is likely a community cat. While there are mixed opinions about this practice, most animal welfare advocates will advise you to leave the animal alone. Even kittens are likely to have a mom nearby making it unnecessary to move the young ones. If possible, watch the area to ensure mom returns to feed the kittens within a few hours. If she does not, it may be necessary to assist with feeding and caring for the kittens as is described in several articles below.

Additional Resources: