Dogs lost in rural areas can pose extra challenges because of the sparse population. It is not unusual for sightings to be few and far between or for there to be a long physical distance between sightings. It can also be difficult to get sightings when crops are tall or on roads where the majority of people are just passing through and driving fast.
Why do lost dogs like rural areas?
Scared lost dogs will often gravitate to a farm where it is quiet and there is a reliable food source like outdoor cat food or spilled grain. Farms provide a multitude of hiding places. Lost dogs will hide in sheds, old barns or under old farm machinery and creep out at dusk and dawn to eat. If the dog isn’t bothering livestock, farmers may let the dogs hang around indefinitely. But they may not proactively look for an owner because they assume that the dog was “dumped” off at their farm.
Therefore it is VERY important to flyer every farm in at least a 20 mile radius of where your dog went missing. Talk to the land owners and put a flyer in their hands. Ask them if they have seen your dog hanging around or passing through. Expand the radius to 30 miles or more if you don’t get a sighting. Use Google Maps and Satellite Photos to look for roads that you may have missed. Make it EASY for people to contact you by making sure that they have a copy of your flyer in their truck or on their fridge.
- Deliver several copies of your flyer to any equine or farm animal veternarians in the area. Ask them to pass them out to their employees and post one in the lobby for clients coming through the front door.
- Deliver several copies of your flyer to every equine facility in the area. Ask that they be passed out to boarders, trainers, farriers (blacksmiths), etc. who may routinely travel the route to and from the facility.
- Give copies of your flyer to all local delivery people including UPS, Fed Ex, United State Postal Service, garbage pick up services, feed delivery, propane and diesel fuel delivery, septic services, etc. These people travel the back roads and need to know who to call if they see your dog. Don’t expect them to proactively report a sighting without a flyer in their hand. They may not have time to look through listings or post to social media.
- Deliver flyers to all farm equipment dealers, farm supply stores and feed stores in the area. Ask to post one at the counter and on any bulletin boards.
- Post a flyer at any local gathering places such as coffee shops, diners and taverns.
- Deliver flyers to the school bus drivers in the area.
- Ask farmers and hunters to check their game cameras for photos of your dog. Leave them a flyer so that they know who to call if they get a photo a week or a month from now!
- Use intersection signs at crossroads. Remember to get permission first!
- Ask landowners for permission to search old barns, sheds and silos.
- Pay close attention to places where you see outdoor cats. There is probably a food source that your lost dog may also be visiting. Check for tracks or ask permission to set up a trail camera to monitor.
- Run an ad in the local newspaper or shopper.
Never Give Up! Lost dogs are safely recovered weeks, months and even years after they have gone missing. Your dog may be hanging around a farm and is relying on YOU to bring him safely home.
Where are they? In this blog post we’ll take a wild stab at our best guess (based on what we have learned over the last seven years).
The year has come to an end and we are going to ask you to click on this link and to look through our 2018Missing Dogs Albums one more time. or Helping Lost Pets. (If you are on a mobile phone, please search for albums or photos in the menu) Although we have had an incredibly successful year (over 3,500 reunions so far) we have so many dogs that we are still searching for.
A small percentage of the still missing dogs are probably sadly deceased. BUT, we do know that a body is usually found and we encourage all owners to not give up unless they have confirmed physical evidence that their dog is deceased. By far and away, our largest single cause of death is dogs that have been hit by a car (usually when they are being called or chased by well-meaning but misinformed citizens who do not know that you should never chase or call a scared lost dog). Our next most common cause of death is being hit by a train. Scared lost dogs will use the path of least resistance, and railroad tracks often provide a convenient route of travel between their hiding places and food sources. Unfortunately, some dogs are killed when the train comes, but again, a body is almost always found. Our third most common cause of death is drowning; either by falling through thin ice, or by making a poor decision and bolting towards a body of water. Lost dogs that are not being chased, approached or pressured will make wise decisions and may survive indefinitely. Dogs that are being pressured or pursued will make poor decisions and may meet an untimely end.
Many people fear that their dog has been eaten or killed by coyotes. We do not find this to be common and very few of our deceased dogs have evidence of being killed by a predator. Is it impossible? No. But dog/coyote altercations are almost always territorial (the dog is defending his yard or his territory) and scared, lost dogs are not territorial. They will defer to a larger predator. Lost dogs simply want to survive – so they need to do three things – they will hide from predators (including man) and they will spend their time sleeping and traveling between their food sources and hiding places. If a dog is killed by a larger predator – the body will usually be found. Predators do not tend to eat other predators and all members of the canine family are predators.
Where are the other still missing dogs? Some are still “out there” as described above. Scared and living in “survival mode”, these dogs may be rarely seen because they have become so adept at hiding and may be mostly nocturnal. Eventually they will start to hang around one or more reliable food sources (often a farm that is leaving food out for outdoor cats). If they are left alone they will become more domesticated and may be seen during daylight hours or even attempting to play with neighborhood dogs or farm dogs. This is why it is SO important to continue to flyer in an ever-increasing radius of where your dog went missing from. Somebody, somewhere WILL see your dog and they need to know who to call when they do.
Some of our still missing dogs wandered far beyond their “jurisdiction”, out of the flyered area, and end up in the maze of animal sheltering and animal control. They may have been adopted to a new family or put down when their 7 day stray hold was up. These are a heartbreaker for us because the simple of act of posting pictures on line of impounded found dogs would bring most of these dogs home. Our dedicated volunteers and fans scour the internet watching for possible matches but they cannot do this when there are no pictures available. Many Illinois shelters still do not reliably post pictures of impounded found dogs. Please ask them to do so. It is perhaps the simplest way to save lives and free up shelter space for those dogs that truly need it.
The last component (and probably the largest) are lost dogs that have been picked up by a Good Samaritan who meant well but then kept or rehomed the dog without searching for the owner. Of course, this is illegal in Illinois, but it happens all too frequently. The current “rescue” phenomenon that is sweeping our country has kind -hearted people making false assumptions about the owners of a dog they find. They speculate that the dog has been abused, neglected or “dumped” and needs a new home. We have great success when we can get the finder to file a report with us so that we can post a flyer online. This serves to dispel the false notion that people that have lost their dog don’t deserve him/her back. We ask all of our fans to please spread the word to their friends, family and neighbors – Lost dogs don’t need a new home. They just need to go home. Do not assume that you can keep a dog that you find. He/she is somebody else’s personal property and keeping him/her is illegal.
Thank you for helping us. Please take a few moments, scroll through our missing dog albums, and maybe, just maybe we can help reunite a few more of these dogs in 2019.
Thank you Ev for sharing King’s story in your own words….
If you don’t mind I want to share a story with you. It’s not a Illinois dog but a Mississippi dog. Not sure if you saw the post I originally shared on my page. A kind soul was traveling and found a shepherd mix in Bilxo MS, who a stranger in the parking lot said the dog was roaming for almost a month, so the finder brings him to a shelter in Altanta Ga as it was late at night when he found the dog and had to get to GA. That shelter scanned and found a chip but no owner registered so sent him on his way as they couldn’t take the dog.
He brings the dog to Chicago but can’t keep him so puts out a post to find him a new home. He had over 150 messages to take the dog, so I made it my mission to try and find this dog’s family. I called the shelter King was adopted from in May 2011 Jackson County Animal Shelter in Gaultier MS (the info I found out from the chip). Mind you his chip now had an alert on it as being found. After conversation the shelter & I began with messaging so I could share the video and the info from the chip. They called me and said what would you like us to do. I said I don’t expect you to give me the owner information as I know you can’t but please contact the owner and the finder, Fredo. I gave them his number.
Motions were set and this boy is going home to his true family. In the meantime I found a lost post for him, he was only missing less then a day when Fredo found him (again bad info from “strangers” can be so misleading to finders, who now think a dog has been roaming for a month!). Turns out the son who made the lost post, had made a promise to his dad that he would love on and take good care of King, as his dad was dying and just recently passed. Poor King was probably looking for his dad, who I found out always took him in the car to this restaurant where he was found at to pick up food. Fredo in the meantime gave him to a woman, thankfully a good woman who knows he’s not hers to keep. I shiver to think had Fredo not friended me and accepted my messages poor King would of been lost from his family forever. ! Here’s the lost ad I found on King in the meantime while I was in the process with the shelter:
Ebony is a rescue dog with Placing Paws Rescue, where I am a volunteer. She was adopted out and escaped from her new owners house less than a week after being adopted. I live close by, and as soon as she went missing me and other Placing Paws volunteers were out. We put up flyers like crazy, fielded sightings, walked for miles talking to people, feeding stations were set up with cameras.
Eventually a pattern emerged and we were able to figure out what to do and where. Placing Paws spared no expense in finding her, and I was NEVER going to give up on her until she was found. It was exhausting, hard work, but to me, and Placing Paws, worth every second. When she was caught ( in a live trap) she was loaded up and went straight to the vet to be checked out. She has a nasty gash in her shoulder which had already started healing and a fever, but she will be fine 🙂
We are lucky because we are a pretty tight, dedicated rescue group who truly love our animals. A true team effort. Thank you for all you do to help get these fur babies home !!! 🙂
Thank you, Julie C, for sharing Ebony’s story.
I had been under the understanding that Chicago Animal Care and Control Return to Owner actually meant “stray” return to owner. Little did not I know it included other categories which CACC considered return to owner.
This is my statement to the Commission members of Chicago Animal Care and Control on July 19th.
My name is Susan Taney, Director of Lost Dogs Illinois. Lost Dogs Illinois is a not for profit organization that helps citizens find their lost dogs and Good Samaritans find lost dog’s owners but we also work with Animal Controls to increase their Return to Owner rate and decrease their stray intake.. We have typically defined Return to Owner as the percentage of stray or lost dogs who are brought in to CACC which are reunited with their owners.
I would first like to address the return to owner statistics. I’ll refer to it as RTO from here on in. This year on CACC’s website I noticed that in the month of March the RTO statistics were split into categories: strays that were reunited with their owner and other dogs that were returned to their owner for other reasons. (to give you examples: dogs surrendered and the owner changed their mind or evictions or owner went to hospital so these were “return to owner” ). In all the discussions we had with CACC we assumed we were on the save wavelength and only referring to the strays that were reunited with their owners. Also, I noticed that there was a whole new description about the live release rate and other definitions in regards to statistics. With that in mind, the RTO statistics that I have reported to both CACC and the public have been wrong and are not as positive as I thought they were. Never was there any indication with discussions with any of the directors and staff that RTO included not only strays but the other categories I mentioned earlier, as well.
So I am going to now tell you the actual number of stray dogs reunited with their owners for three months in 2017 compared with what I wrote about on our website and Facebook page in which I gave praise to CACC for their stellar improvement.
June, 2017 45% actual 33%
July, 2017 42% actual 31%
August 2017 53% actual 33%
I am very disappointed and disheartened about this discovery in regards to the statistics.
Stray intake has been consistently been at 60%. Progressive animal controls are taking a hard look at stray intake on how to decrease it. At the last commission meeting I attended, I made suggestions.
I don’t know who the new Director will be but I am truly hoping the new Director will try to fix the broken animal control system in Chicago with being a leader in the field which will expand to Cook County.Obviously the Live Release Rate has increased but the actual animal control system needs to be addressed, supported by the mayor and public and brought into the 21stcentury.
Thank you for your time.
Below listed are the actual statistic posted on the CACC’s website.
Below are the actual statistics that I FOIA’d. What is FOIA? The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a United States federal law that grants the public access to information possessed by government agencies. Upon written request, U.S. government agencies are required to release information unless it falls under one of nine exemptions listed in the Act. As a citizen you have the right to request information possessed by government agencies.
We often get asked about tracking dog services for missing dogs. Some of these services are good, some are not so good and some are out and out scams. They will cost many hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars depending on where they are located and the distance they have to travel. Most will also charge an initial phone consultation fee. Some services will require that you purchase extra products like flyers and signs. Before you hire a tracking dog service to help find your missing dog, please do your homework. Here are some key points to consider:
- Tracking dogs will not capture your dog. They may or may not be able to indicate whether your dog was in an area and the direction of travel. But you will still have to do the work of flyering the area, monitoring sightings, establishing a feeding routine and trapping your dog. Tracking dogs are not a magic pill. If a service guarantees success, they are a scam.
- A tracking dog is kept on a long line and can only travel as fast as the handler travels. (consider the fitness level of the human on the other end of the leash). Rough terrain and extreme temperatures will be factors. Most lost dogs will be able to easily outpace a tracking dog and handler. Ask the tracking service if you can accompany them on the search with the handler and the dog. Be suspicious if they say no.
- Tracking dogs may be a poor choice for scared, lost dogs that are in survival mode. These dogs need to settle into an area and establish a feeding routine. Tracking dogs may pressure them out of the area that they may have settled in. You will then have to start all over in a new area with flyering and signs to generate sightings.
- Be very skeptical of services that tell you they will have to keep coming back to “confirm” a scent. Each of these visits may cost you more money and you risk your dog being pressured again out of an area that he may have settled in. You will then have to start over using flyers and signs to generate new sightings.
- There is no accredited school for training scent dogs for finding lost dogs. Trackers often claim success when it was actually flyers or another method of generating sightings that brought the dog home. Check references and successes thoroughly. Personally check with at least five or six references via telephone. Do not rely on online “reviews” or recommendations.
- Reputable tracking dog services will have a contract for you to review and sign and will take credit cards. Make sure you have a clear idea up front of what the total cost will be. Never send cash or wire transfer money.
- Tracking dogs have much greater success at finding lost cats (who hide when scared) than lost dogs (who run when being pressured). Ask the tracking dog service what their success rate is. If they guarantee they will find your dog, or quote an overly optimistic success rate, they are probably a scam.
- Tracking success depends on many things: the weather, the length of time the dog was in the area, the terrain and environment. The service should give you an honest assessment of what you are dealing with. The longer your dog has been missing the less likely the tracking dog will be able to pick up a scent
- Search and rescue dogs are certified for human recovery only and will not normally be used for tracking missing pets. If someone tells you they will bring their search and rescue dog to look for your missing dog, be extremely skeptical. Ask to see their training records and their certification.
- Some tracking dog services, lost pet services and pet detectives prey on the distraught owner by making unsolicited contact with them from their missing dog flyers. Be VERY careful. Many of these are scams, or at the very least – very expensive services that do what you can do yourself for a fraction of the cost.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stay calm, do your research and spend your money wisely. Generating sightings is the key to a successful recovery. Consider how many flyers, signs, newspaper ads or even billboards could be purchased with the money you would spend on a tracking dog service. Your lost dog is depending on you to bring him safely home.
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 4th of July holiday is a time of parties and celebration. Unfortunately, Animal Control facilities nationwide report a spike in dog intake during this holiday. Make sure your dog isn’t one of the holiday statistics by following these tips:
- Take your dog for a walk or to the dog park before the fireworks start. This allows your dog to exercise, release pent up energy and go “potty”.
- Keep dogs indoors. They may even feel safer if they are placed in a smaller interior room. Give your dog an interactive toy like tasty treat filled Kong.
- Close your windows. Dogs can try and get out of the house by pushing out the screen. Turn the air conditioning or radio on.
- Make sure your dog has a license and an identification tag on a properly fitted buckled or martingale collar and is microchipped.
- If your dog is shy and/or fearful, walk the dog with collar and a harness, clipped together or with two separate leashes.
- During this time of festivities and fireworks, do not let your dogs out alone even in a fenced yard. Keep a leash on your dog – dogs have been known to scale fences to get away from the noise.
- Most importantly, please do NOT take your dogs to the fireworks celebration!
Graduation parties, Memorial Day picnics, Father’s Day, July 4th…warm weather brings lots of opportunities for friends and family to gather. If your pet is not one who goes with the flow, be sure to provide them with a nice quiet place away from the crowds to relax and feel secure. If your dog is a party animal and wants to be in the midst of the party – great!! …. Just be sure that someone keeps an eye on them and no escape routes like doors or gates are accidentally left open.