by Christie Lagally
Originally published in City Living Seattle
Whether you live in a neighborhood, apartment complex or downtown, pets that have strayed from their home, have been stolen or even intentionally abandoned are commonly reported on neighborhood websites.
In my Seattle neighborhood, every day a dog is found roaming the streets or a cat reported missing. Even chickens, turtles, birds and guinea pigs are frequently reported as lost or found.
Luckily, well-intentioned neighbors try to help these animals, but it is not always clear what steps to take.
Additionally, while the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) offers services during business hours, you need to find other options after-hours to ensure an animal’s safety.
Where to start
Whenever you find a stray animal, report it immediately. You can call SAS from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
SAS also maintains an online Lost and Found Database called Reuniting Owners with Missing Pets Systems (ROMPS) found on the SAS website (www.seattle.gov/animal-shelter/lost-pets). On ROMPS, anyone can quickly report the details of a found pet and upload a picture. Pet owners can search the database and contact you via email.
Conversely, if you have lost a pet, enter your pet’s information on ROMPS, and if it is found by another person, you may be reunited more quickly.
If an animal is found within city limits, you can drop off a found animal at SAS on Tuesdays through Sundays, from noon to 6 p.m. Otherwise, animal control services are available daily if an animal needs to be picked up.
Each day, SAS’ Lost Pet Hotline is updated at 6:30 p.m., and it lists the animals that are currently on stray hold at the shelter.
You can also check the adoption listings on the Shelter website to see if your animal is shown there.
SAS director Don Jordan warns that you shouldn’t depend on the description of a pet to determine if he is at the shelter because every animal could be described differently.
Jordan says the best way to identify your pet is to visit SAS during lost pet/adoption hours. If the animal isn’t claimed after three business days, it is spay/neutered, provided a microchip and put up for adoption.
If you find a stray animal after 6 p.m., you will need to house him until the next day.
Posting on other neighborhood websites like Craigslist or NextDoor or asking your mail carrier if she recognizes the dog are good ways to reunite the animal with its family.
Jordan says it is also good to walk the animal around the neighborhood to see if neighbors are familiar with him.
If you have lost a pet, you should take immediate steps to find it and not just wait till it returns. Even free-roaming cats keep regular schedules, and you will know when yours is likely lost.
Furthermore, if a cat is trapped in a garage or shed without access to food or water, its life could be in jeopardy within one day, due to the serious consequences of dehydration in cats.
This is yet another good reason that providing your cat with an outdoor enclosure (like a catio) is strongly encouraged, rather than allowing it to roam the neighborhood.
Similarly, well-maintained fencing and strong latches on your gates can prevent most dogs from getting loose.
Ensuring a found pet
If your pet is lost, consider getting some expert advice. The Puget Sound-based Missing Pet Partnership (MPP) is a nonprofit group that educates people on how to find missing pets. Its website (www.missingpetpartnership.org) provides a wealth of information on how to find an animal — whether it’s a panicked dog or a cat in unfamiliar territory.
SAS takes in 4,000 animals per year on average, and a large majority are stray animals. MPP founder Kat Albrecht explains that missing and unclaimed pets fuel the homeless pet population in our communities, so recovering lost pets is an important undertaking.
MPP also maintains a database of pet investigators for hire to help you find your pet. Albrecht explains that if you cannot search for your missing pet yourself due to work, mobility issues or other commitments, getting a pet investigator soon after your pet goes missing may be a good choice.
As a longtime advocate for recovering lost pets, Albrecht also trains pet investigators online; see katalbrecht.com for training opportunities.
To protect your pets, a microchip is highly recommended, but you must keep your information up-to-date with the microchipping company. Then, always obtain a license from SAS for your dogs and cats.
The best insurance to get your pet home is to ensure it wears a collar with its license at all times, plus tags with your name, phone number and address. Your neighbors may not be able to read a microchip, so a collar with tags is the fastest ticket home for your beloved family member.