Category Archives: Animal Control/Stray holding facilities

Articles pertaining to ACO/Stray holding facilities

Keeping our Fans in the Loop – Revisit the ordinance to reduce the stray hold.

Slide1As promised we are keeping our supporters updated with our pursuit in having the Chicago Mayor and Aldermen revisit the ordinance to reduce the stray hold for cats and dogs.

Last week our director sent this email to Mayor Emanuel, Susana Mendoza and the 50 Aldermen:

“The citizens of Chicago have spoken and are continuing to speak out against the ordinance to reduce the stray hold for cats and dogs.  There are currently over 10,000 signatures on the petition to revisit the ordinance for reducing the stray hold for cats and dogs in Chicago.

There was NO discussion regarding how this was going to affect the hundreds of thousands of citizens and their loved family pets.
This new ordinance just made it harder for families to find their lost pets. The issue at Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC)  is their extremely low Return To Owner (RTO) rate of 15% for dogs and  0% for cats and that is what needs to be addressed.   Many cities and counties (even in Illinois) have RTO rates of 50% or more for dogs and 3-13% for cats.  Common sense dictates that by getting owned strays back home it saves taxpayers’ money.  An added benefit is increased goodwill and public press for CACC and Chicago.

Please take a minute to read Lost Dogs Illinois blogs:

Update:  Revisiting the ordinance to reduce the stray hold

Revisit the ordinance to reduce the stray hold

Please feel free to contact me.”

Again, they did not take the time to do their homework in making a decision which affects thousands of citizens in both Chicago and Cook County.  Please continue to put pressure on the Mayor and the aldermen. Be clear with your message and ask them to revisit the ordinance.

Thank you

Use Facebook to Help Increase Your Shelter’s Return to Owner Rate

dogx-topper-mediumMany animal shelters in America have contracts with local municipalities to hold “stray” dogs for the state-mandated stray hold to give owners an opportunity to reclaim their lost dog. This period of time varies from state to state.

A shelter typically has two windows of opportunity to help people find their lost dog:

  1. When a person who has lost a dog comes in or calls to file a report.
  2. When “stray” dogs are picked up and impounded at the facility.

Today we want to talk about using Facebook to maximum potential to help lost dogs get home. We are thrilled to see so many shelters and animal control facilities (big and small) using Facebook to try to reunite lost dogs with their owners.

We have been in the Facebook game since our inception in early 2010 and we’ve seen a lot of changes along the way. We have gained a large following and have learned many lessons from our successes and failures. We have seen what does and doesn’t work. We have also seen some shelters start to post impounded found dogs on Facebook and then stop, claiming that it isn’t working or that it requires too much time.

We would respectfully like to offer some suggestions that may help make everyone happy:  shelter management, the taxpayer, the shelter donor and volunteer,  the dog’s owner and of course the dog that gets to go back home!

The benefits of posting found dogs on Facebook are numerous:

  1. You will decrease the length of stay for animals in your shelter.
  2. You will free up space for needier animals.
  3. You will increase your shelter’s reputation and goodwill (and possibly generate donations from grateful owners and fans). Nothing tugs at heartstrings better than happy reunion photos when an owner reclaims their dog. Make sure you have a camera handy!
  4. You will become a resource in the community for owners who are missing their dogs. Post articles and tips to help people find their missing dogs. Also post happy reunion stories, microchip clinics in the area, and lost pet flyers for members of your community who are missing their pet.
  5. You will help your community make a “paradigm shift” that not all stray dogs are homeless.

If your “stray” intake is low use your main Facebook page to post them. The beauty of posting lost and found dogs on Facebook is that a neighbor or complete stranger might “happen chance” to see the post of the found dog and know where he/she belongs. Or, they might see the lost dog and then see the post.

Yes, the people that are actively matching (the owner, our volunteers and members of the public who enjoy doing this) will seek out the info where ever it is stored, whether it be on a website or a separate Facebook page but that only takes care of the actual matches (where a lost report matches a found report) which is still a fairly small percentage of the reunions.

The best chance for a “happen chance” reunion is to get the posting in front of the biggest audience possible, which is almost always your main Facebook page that you use for all of your shelter Facebook posts. Pictures of impounded pets are one of the most widely shared posts on Facebook (much more than adoptable pets) so posting them on your main Facebook page has the added benefit of driving traffic to your page so that your adoptables, fundraisers, etc. are also more likely to be seen.

A common mistake we see is shelters that try to run a separate Facebook page for found pets and then not actively working to build the fan base of that page. The average person is not going to stumble across the Found or Stray page by accident and Facebook does not make it easy to search.  So you will only reach those that are actively looking for your page and the likelihood of “happen chance” reunions will be greatly diminished.

If your shelter has such a high intake of “strays” that posting them on your main page is not feasible, then yes, perhaps setting up a separate Facebook page is the best solution.

Here are a few suggestions if you set up a separate page:

  1. Make sure that you include your location name and county in the title of the Facebook page. Make it as easy as possible for people to find it. Include it on your website and in any literature you distribute.
  2. Include links to the Stray page in the “About Us” section of your main Facebook page.
  3. Drive traffic to the Stray page at least once per day (more at the beginning) by sharing a post from it onto your main page and reminding your fans that “All impounded pets at xxxx shelter can be seen by visiting our Stray page”. Use hotlinks and Facebook tags whenever possible so that people can just click and be taken directly to the new page.
  4. Ask one or two volunteers to help you with this page and give them full access to it. They should engage with the fans and commenters. It’s called “social” media for a reason!  Make sure they answer every question and respond to comments. Get your community actively engaged in helping reunite found pets!
  5. Volunteer Facebook administrators can also share the posts on other neighborhood pages – including police departments, newspapers, radio stations, vet clinics, dog parks, town pages, garage sale pages, buy/sell pages and popular neighborhood hangouts like bars and restaurants. This can quickly increase the fan base of your page and makes an excellent and rewarding volunteer opportunity for someone who cannot make it into the shelter to do hands-on work.
  6. Do not get discouraged if the public offers to adopt the dog rather than trying to find the owner. Create some standard responses that your volunteers can copy and paste below these comments. And remember! You are lining up potential adopters if an owner does not come forward.
  7. Link your “Stray” page to a Twitter account with a free Facebook app that will automatically retweet everything you post. Once it is set up it is seamless and maintenance free.  You will reach a much broader audience especially if you use hashtags in front of the location. Many police departments and media outlets monitor twitter via hashtag and will retweet your posts for lost and found dogs.

Thank you for helping more lost dogs get home! You can find more tips to help increase your Return to Owner rate in this blog post: Reuniting Lost Dogs with Their Families – How Shelters Can Help

Update: Revisiting the ordinance to reduce the stray hold for cats and dogs in Chicago


Slide1We, at Lost Dogs Illinois, feel it is important to keep you informed on what is going with trying to revisit the ordinance to reduce the stray hold of dogs and cats in Chicago.

Last Thursday our Director attended the open meeting of the Commission (advisory board)  for the City of Chicago Animal Care and Control. She read the following statement:

“Good Morning!  I am Susan Taney, Director of Lost Dogs Illinois.  As many of you know, LDI is a not for profit organization that provides resources and tools to help families find their lost dogs.  We saw the need to help Illinois residents in the recovery of their lost dogs. Many people give up, do not have the resources to help them, do not know where their animal control facility is located or the money to pay for a professional “pet detective”.  In less than five years, over 15,000 dogs have been reunited with their families.

We were very dismayed to learn after the fact that the City of Chicago Budget committee had passed the ordinance to reduce the stray hold.  On LDI’s Facebook page, we asked our supporters to contact the Mayor and Aldermen.  I attended the City Council meeting with our supporters to only find out that there was no public discussion allowed at the meeting.  Another aldermen also had told us that the ordinance was going to be tabled for more discussion.  The ordinance was passed with no public comment.

After trying to find out when the ordinance was going to be implemented.  I FOIA’d (Freedom of Information Act) City of Chicago Animal Care and Control and received the following message – “See Attached and the link to the ordinance” Then I asked the City Clerk’s office – they gave me the link.  Again, no implementation date was set.  I did not find out the implementation date until the Prince Charming blog. There was nothing provided to the hundreds of thousands of Chicago residents with beloved family pet members letting them know that the ordinance had been changed.  Chicago citizens pay taxes; their taxes fund CACC. CACC is supposed to provide services to the citizens.

I also want to share that two years ago Kathy Pobloskie, Director of LDOW, and I met with the CACC senior management staff to provide suggestions for free and low cost ways to increase the return to owner rates.  We offered to train their volunteers.  I also presented a PowerPoint presentation to CASA about Lost Dogs Illinois in regards to our program.  Our goal is to make Chicago shine and be one of the best cities to live in and know that the Chicago residents who have animals as loved family pets will be treated with respect and dignity. We have received so many testimonials from families saying they did not know what to do, where to look and now CACC has only made it more difficult for residents to find their lost animals. There needs to be a balance between people who have lost their dogs and the truly homeless dogs that needs to be rescued.
To conclude, we are very disappointed that there was no public discussion allowed when this ordinance was passed.  There has not been any kind of public information campaign.  This ordinance is vague.  There are so many unanswered questions.   I have attached my blog in regards to questions about this ordinance.  I request that all these questions be answered in a public forum.  Thank you for allowing me to speak.”

Attached are the handouts that was given in the packet to the members of the Commission for the City of Chicago Animal Care and Control .

LDI Blog – Revisit the ordinance to reduce the stray hold period for cats and dogs in Chicago.

LDI Blog – Where Oh Where could my lost dog be held in Cook County

LDI Blog – Part 2 Where Oh Where could my lost dog be held in Cook County

LDI believes that knowledge is power. Be sure to read our blogs. Be informed.  You are your animals’ advocate.  They are depending on you!  The Mayor and Aldermen have the power to change this ordinance. We ask that you continue to call, email, and even set up appointments to discuss your concerns. Continue to share the petition.

City of Chicago Aldermen  Mayor

Together we can make an impact for Chicagoans and their loved cat and dog family members.

Former Director, Mitch Schneider

Former Director, Mitch Schneider

Revisit the ordinance to reduce the stray hold period for cats and dogs in Chicago

As most of our followers know, we supported and reposted the petition for Mayor Emanuel and Chicago City Council to revisit the ordinance to reduce the stray hold period for cats and dogs. We want to explain why we agree with the petition.

Last November we voiced our concerns on our Facebook page about the ordinance being passed by the budget committee. We asked our supporters to contact their aldermen and the Mayor to ask them to table it for public discussion. The next Wednesday our director attended the meeting to voice her concerns during public comments and was dismayed to find out that no public comments were allowed. The resolution was passed with 49 ayes. Alderman Pope moved to reconsider the foregoing vote. Motion was lost.


What could have been done differently?

First of all, the Mayor and the Aldermen could have set aside the ordinance and asked the Commission of Chicago Animal Care and Control (advisory board) to research ways to increase the return-to- owner rates for Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC).

Here are some ideas that other cities have adopted to increase their return-to-owners rates. (tax dollars being spent wisely)

  1. Offer a “Free Ride Home Program.” Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Washoe County (NV) have similar programs. Animal Care staff will give a pet one free ride home per year if it is wearing a City pet license. No ticket will be issued for the first time licensed pets run at large. This puts licensing in a positive light showing the benefits of what it can do for an owner and their pet.
  2. Offer free or low cost ($5.00) microchip clinics. Washoe County, Nevada offered one year of free microchips and saw a 30% increase in their return to owner rates. (Side note: CA based Found Animal Foundation offers $4.95 microchip with free lifetime registration) In a recent study of US animal shelters, 52.2% of stray dogs and 38.5% stray cats with registered microchips were reunited.
  3. ID Me programs – ASPCA study found shelters that provide engraved ID tags with collars at the time of adoption or redemption show that pet owners will keep the collar w/tags on their pets which provides instant identification.

These are just a few simple suggestions to increase a shelter’s return-to- owner rate. There are many more.

We would like to have these questions answered regarding the reduced stray hold:

  1. Where was the discussion on how this would affect hundreds of thousands of families and their loved family pets in Chicago?
  2. What are the safeguards if a family of a dog or cat of “unknown ownership” comes in after the stray hold with proof of ownership? Can they get their dog or cat back? What is the procedure?
  1. Animal Welfare League (AWL) is the one of three non-city agencies that holds animals for City of Chicago. They do not post photos of found animals. Are the animals held for 3 days at AWL and then transferred to CACC to be held for another 3 days or does the stray hold clock start clicking at AWL.
  2. Because the new ordinance states “In the event the executive director determines that an animal of unknown ownership suffers from severe behavioral issues, the executive director may allow any disposition, of the animal after three days.” What is the definition of severe behavioral issues? What are the qualifications of the person who is determining these behavioral issues?
  3. Finally, where was the public campaign to explain this ordinance to citizens who considered their pets loved family members?

Many lost pets go unclaimed because it is virtually impossible for the average citizen to figure out the “system” in Chicago and Cook County. The owners are looking, but not in the right place, they don’t know where to look and the shelters make the false assumption that the animal is a “stray” or has been “dumped”. Factor in that a large percentage of the urban population speak limited English, have limited finances, transportation and computer access. They may work two jobs or shift work, and cannot visit the stray holding facility during normal business hours. This makes it difficult for people to claim their animals. The reduced stray hold exacerbates the problem.

Again, we are asking that you continue to sign and share the petition. Please send in your questions and comments to your aldermen and the Mayor. Thank you for your support and taking the time to read our blog.

City of Chicago Aldermen  Mayor

@ChicagosMayor Twitter

Mayor’s Facebook Page  City Clerk

City Clerk’s Facebook Page







The Top Five Reasons Shelters/Stray Holding Facilities Should Post Pictures of Lost and Found Pets on Facebook Or Their Website


5. Shelters/stray holding facilities that post pictures and flyers of lost and found pets on Facebook or Websites generate goodwill, positive press and donations.

4. Shelters/stray holding facilities will elevate their reputation in the community from “dogcatcher” to compassionate life-savers. Since “stray” contracts are funded with taxpayer money, they will show that they are using their funds wisely.

3. Pictures and information about lost and found pets are widely shared.  This will increase a shelter’s Facebook “edgerank” making their other posts appear more frequently in their supporters newsfeeds, generating more adoptions and donations. We post a shout out on LDI’s Facebook page  if your organization is posting “found” dog pictures on your organization’s Facebook page.

2. Since an estimated 40 – 60% of animals in shelters are lost pets, proactively working to get them home by posting pictures will reduce overcrowding and disease, and free up kennel space for needier animals.

1. And the NUMBER ONE reason that shelters/stray holding facilities should post pictures of lost and found pets on Facebook and Your Website?   Because it makes reunions like this happen. Need we say more?

Pebbles & Sydney 12.2014

Reunited ~Peebles and Sydney from Chicago were reunited within seconds of their owner posting on Lost Dogs Illinois Facebook page.  One of Lost Dogs Illinois loyal fans checked Petharbor and found their listing on the website.

Thank you to all of the shelters who do post pictures and share flyers of lost and found pets on your Facebook page and Websites.  YOU are saving lives.



Part 2 – Where Oh Where Could My Lost Dog Be Held in Cook County?

As a follow-up to our first article, Where Oh Where Could My Lost
Dog Be Held in Cook County, we wanted to share a prime example of hard it is to find your missing dog in Cook County.

Harley went missing in Garfield Ridge. He was taken to Cicero Animal Control by the finder, Harley 12.16.14transferred to Animal Welfare League for placement and then pulled by Trio Animal Foundation (TAF).  Luckily TAF created a miracle by taking the extra few minutes to research the chip.  They realized Harley didn’t need a new home; he needed to go home.  TAF was his advocate!  Harley’s story illustrates how broken the current animal control system is.

We feel it is important for our fans to get the total picture of the problem.  Why should you care?  Let’s start with distinctions.  Chicago Animal Control is often confused with Cook County Animal Control. Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) is located at 2741 S. Western Avenue in Chicago.  Cook County Animal and Rabies Control (CCARC) has no facility.  So you may find it as absurd as we do that all the rabies tag money, along with fines, fees, etc. fund Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control.  The City of Chicago, along with the other municipalities in Cook County, are stuck funding their own services, mostly through taxpayers.  City of Chicago Animal Care and Control is funded by taxpayers, fees, fines, and services rendered, etc.  If you live anywhere in Cook County, you should demand best practices and better services from both organizations for the betterment of animals and residents alike.

Here are some facts about  (1) City of Chicago Animal Care and Control and (2) Cook County Animal and Rabies Control.

City of Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC)

–      Has a dismal return to owner  (RTO) rate of 15% for dogs.  Some animal control facilities in Illinois have an over 50% RTO for dogs.

–    CACC has reduced the stray holding period from 5 days to 3 days meaning owned family dogs will be adopted, transferred or killed quicker.

–    Microchips are not registered to the owners at time of adoption and redemption.  We believe that CACC should as a service registered the chips to the owners.  We are amazed when we provide free scans at events; the majority of owners really don’t understand the nuances of microchips.

Cook County Animal and Rabies Control (CCARC)

–   Rabies tag information is kept at their office.  Office hours are Monday-Friday (8:30 – 4:30).  So if your dog is taken to a vet clinic, City of Chicago Animal Care and Control, Animal Welfare League, etc. or kept by a Good Samaritan, on a Friday night; they are not able to research the tag until Monday morning.   This creates more stress for the owner and owner’s dog and if the dog is held in a facility, an owner has to pay more money to reclaim his/her dog.

–   Cook County Animal and Rabies Control provide low cost microchip clinics.   Chips are not registered to owners.  Again, we believe that CCARC should as a service registered the chip for the owners.  We are always amazed when we provide free scans at events; the majority of owners really don’t understand the nuances of microchips.

–   Cook County has no facility to hold dogs for Cook County.

–   Cook County’s stray holding facilities are not listed on their website. This simple step would help the public look for their dogs.

–   There is NO database of photos/descriptions of animals being held in stray holding facilities in Cook County.

How do we resolve the issues of Cook County’s animal control system?  Speak out strongly to your local elected officials about this issue.  Our pets are family and we deserve the right to know where they are being housed.  Simple changes like posting “found” dogs pictures on social media, registering microchips to the owner at the time of adoption or redemption or posting the list of stray holding facilities on each website can make a huge difference to improve Return to Owner rates

Cook County Commissioners

City of Chicago Commissioners

Where Oh Where Could My Lost Dog be Held in Cook County?

Cook County, Illinois, population 5.2 million encompasses 1635 square miles and includes the City of Chicago, the third most populous city in the United States (2.7 million citizens).

If you assume that Cook County residents mirror the national average, then over 65% of households own a pet. With many households owning more than one pet, it can be safely 10752093_10205148870672529_1897965488_nassumed that there are potentially several million owned pets in Cook County, Illinois.

When these pets go missing, where do they go? Where are they taken? That’s where the real mystery begins.

Since dogs and cats have four legs and walk, we can safely assume that many lost pets venture outside of their local “jurisdiction”. There are over 130 municipalities (excluding Chicago) in Cook County. These municipalities have “stray holding” agreements with various facilities including shelters, vet clinics, and police departments. These facilities do not cross-communicate with each other. In fact, most of these facilities do not even post photos online of the lost pets they have impounded. It is also very common for a Good Samaritan who finds a lost pet to take it to the “wrong” facility (outside of the jurisdiction where it was found), complicating matters even further.

Many lost pets go unclaimed because it is virtually impossible for the average citizen to figure out the “system”. The owners are looking, but not in the right place and the shelters make the false assumption that the animal is a “stray” or has been “dumped”. Then factor in that a large percentage of the urban population speak limited English, have limited finances, transportation and computer access. They may work two jobs or shift work, and cannot visit the stray holding facility during normal business hours. If by a stroke of luck, a lost pet IS located, reclaim fees are often so high that the owner can not afford them. (For example, fees at Golf Rose Animal Hospital are as high $35 per night for some contracted cities).

Unfortunately, the outcome for many of these pets is death. “Pet Overpopulation” is blamed, and efforts to increase adoptions and speedy transfers to rescue groups are introduced. These pets don’t need a new home. They already have one. They need to go home.

Here is a limited sampling of some of the stray holding facilities in Cook County. If you live in any of the cities or municipalities that are not listed, please call your local non-emergency police number and ask where a stray animal is held. Then call the facility and ask if they post pictures of impounded pets on their Facebook page or website. When you have gathered this information please email it to us at so we can update our list.

City of Chicago Animal Care and Control. Found pets are posted on Petharbor but not on any social media sites. There is no proactive program in place to get lost pets back home. Owners must wait for guided group “tours” of the facility to see if they recognize their impounded pet.

Cook County Animal and Rabies Control – No facility. No listing on their website to indicate where the lost pets for the over 130 municipalities in Cook County are taken.  No database of “found” animal pictures. No pictures on social media.

Animal Welfare League holds “found” animals for the unincorporated section of Cook County and maybe other cities. No listing of which municipalities contract their services are on their website. No pictures of “found” animals on their website or Facebook page.

Golf Rose Animal Hospital is the holding facility for the following:

– Schaumburg          – Hoffman Estates

– Palatine                  – Elgin

– Barrington Hills     – South Barrington

– Arlington Heights  – Rolling Meadows

– Roselle                    – Mt. Prospect

– Carpentersville      – South Elgin (part time)

– Elk Grove Village (Emergency Medical Only)

– Certain unincorporated areas of Cook County

No pictures are posted on Golf Rose Facebook page or website. As far as we know, there are no pictures posted on any City Facebook pages.

How do we resolve the issues of Cook County’s animal control system? Please speak out 10808265_10203498734689201_1875989022_nstrongly to your local elected officials about this issue. They are our pets, and we deserve the right to know where they are being housed. Simple changes like posting “found” dogs pictures on social media/website or posting the list of stray holding facilities website can make a huge difference.

Reuniting Lost Dogs With Their Families – How Shelters Can Help

Patty, an Animal Control Officer at Winnebago County Animal Services in Rockford , Illinois checks the kennels for dogs matching the descriptions in the Lost Dog reports.

Patty, an Animal Control Officer at Winnebago County Animal Services in Rockford , Illinois checks the kennels for dogs matching the descriptions in the Lost Dog reports.

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:
  • 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.
  • Set up an account with Helping Lost, an international, map-based website that makes it easy for staff, owners, finders of dogs, volunteers and the general public to get involved in matching lost dogs with their owners. Here is an article on the HeLP system:
  • Post the same pictures on your website for those people that don’t have a Facebook account. Using the Helping Lost pets system will provide a “shareable” link to the photos to Facebook and Twitter.
  • 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. Here is an article that will help:
  • 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 Illinois 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 and 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  that can help owners  develop a strategic plan for finding their lost pets based on the circumstances regarding their disappearance, their breed, location, etc.
  • Provide trap rentals for the public.  Here is a series of articles on trapping:

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 Illinois, 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 if we can be of assistance to offer training to shelter staff and/or volunteers. We have numerous power points for all components of our volunteer training that we would be happy to present.We would love to hear from you!

Navigating the Maze of Stray Holding Facilities

Your dog has gone missing and there is a good chance that he has ended up in an animal control facility or stray holding facility. This article will help you understand how the system works and will help maximize your chances of locating your dog.

Remember though, that every state has different laws and procedures, so you will need to familiarize yourself with your local area.

Dogs are considered property in all fifty states and most states have some sort of “Stray Hold” law that is designed to give an owner a chance to reclaim their dog. This may be as short as three days or as long as seven days.

Most municipalities will assign a “stray contract” with an entity in their community to house the “strays” until the owner reclaims them.  These are the ONLY facilities that should be housing lost dogs. Rescues should not be accepting or housing lost dogs unless they hold the contract for your area. When they accept lost dogs without the contract, it adds another layer of confusion to the system, and is one more barrier to getting lost pets back home.

Many different terms may be used to describe facilities which also add to the confusion. It may be called the pound, an impound facility, a stray holding facility, an animal control facility, an animal shelter, or a humane society. It may have SPCA attached to the name, although this does not mean it is connected with the national organization, the ASPCA.   Vet clinics, boarding kennels, town offices and police stations may also house lost dogs. Stray holding facilities may be a private business, a non-profit organization or a totally government run organization. Regardless, the animal control contract is paid for with tax payer dollars that compensate the facility for impounding and housing your dog while he is lost.  You have a right to know how your tax dollars are being spent and how the system works! These services are also subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests if you run into problems.

The stray holding facility can be an elaborate large central animal shelter with all the bells and whistles of modern technology. These facilities may also operate as a humane society and will adopt your dog out if you don’t reclaim him in time.  Or,  it may be a garage or small kennel on the back of somebody’s property. The stray contract may be held by somebody that doesn’t have a cell phone or microchip scanner; let alone a computer with internet service to help get the word out that they have your dog.

It is your responsibility to advocate for your lost dog and make yourself aware of all the different stray holding possibilities in your area. Check with your local town offices and police and sheriff’s departments for a list. You will want to expand this, as time lapses. Your dog may being held several counties away and you will only have a very short time to locate and reclaim him. Leave no stone unturned!

Dogs that come off of “Stray Hold” are either made available for adoption at the facility, transferred to another rescue or shelter for adoption, or euthanized. We cannot stress enough that time is of the essence and you may want to enlist some friends or family to help you scan the websites, make the phone calls necessary and personally visit all of the facilities in your area. Don’t limit yourself to your county. Remember, dogs walk. They can easily end up in another county, state, or jurisdiction and sad to say, there is not any internal cross-sharing of information between the facilities. Just because you file a lost dog report at one place, doesn’t mean that they share it with the others. In fact, that rarely happens, if at all. It is not uncommon for there to be dozens of stray holding facilities in one county and you will need to check them all!

This lack of information sharing has been the biggest hurdle for the lost pet problem. There isn’t a “central clearing house” for lost pets, like there is for lost children. There are many reasons for this, and it is something that the animal welfare world will need to work towards if shelter deaths in this country are going to decline.  Two years after this blog was written, Lost Dogs Illinois partnered with Helping Lost Pets, a map based centralized national database.

The most progressive facilities will post pictures on line or on their Facebook page as soon as the dog is turned in. This has become an invaluable tool for locating owners and saving lives. Some shelters even have volunteer “lost and found matchers” who will try to match up lost dog reports with dogs that are brought in. But again, this is more the exception, than the rule.

Shelters that don’t post pictures on line may adopt out your dog immediately after the Stray Hold has elapsed. You may never know that your dog was there unless you check the “adoptable” photos.  These adoption pictures should appear on their website or on once the dog is up for adoption. But please be forewarned, if your dog is friendly and adoptable, it may only be on the website for a few hours or a few days. If a shelter adopts your dog out, you will not have any recourse unless you are prepared to hire a lawyer and begin a legal battle.

If your dog is old, injured or sick, or shows any kind of stress or aggression in the shelter, (even if it is only from fear), he may very likely be euthanized immediately after his stray hold is up. This can be especially true of larger dogs in the larger urban shelters.

Check out EVERY dog that you think is a possible match for your dog. Errors can be made regarding gender and age; microchips can be missed and breeds can be mis-identified.  Even when you go and check in person, don’t be surprised if your dog doesn’t know you or doesn’t exhibit specific behaviors that you would expect to see. The stress of the shelter may make your dog “shut down” and you may overlook him. Please be careful. We are aware of several “near misses” when an owner didn’t recognize their own dog.

Don’t delay, get started now because your dog is depending upon you!

-Please Read Our Open Letter


–We would encourage you to email, mail, or drop off a copy at your local animal control/stray holding facility or shelter. Thank you so much for your help! You, our fans, are the ones who help us to make small changes that benefit the animals. Don’t ever underestimate the power of one!

Dear Animal Care Colleague,

Thank you for all you are doing to help the animals in your care.  We appreciate the effort you put forth on a daily basis to help return lost pets to their owners and to adopt others into new families.

At Lost Dogs Illinois our mission is to reunite lost dogs with their owners.  We’d like to share some suggestions to help lost pets make it back home and hope by doing so the following practices will become standard in every animal care facility.  We feel we can all then work together even more effectively resulting in an increased likelihood that lost pets will ultimately be reunited with his or her family!

  1. Scan every animal that is brought to your shelter for a microchip using “Best Microchip Procedures.”
  2. Keep detailed records about where and when an animal was picked up and make this information available to the public.
  3. Keep detailed records of calls your facility receives from people who have lost a pet.  Request that they send in pictures of their lost pets and show the photos to your staff members and volunteers immediately after you receive them.
  4. Use an easily-accessed bulletin board where owners of lost pets are welcome to post their “lost pet” flyers.  Use a volunteer to maintain the board and have the volunteer call the owner identified on each flyer every week to see if the individual has found his or her pet.
  5. Add links to your shelter’s website to reference articles and other sites that provide owners with reliable advice about how they can find their lost pets.
  6. Post pictures of lost pets brought to your facility on your organization’s Facebook page and/or website.
  7. Mention whether a dog that is adoptable or impounded was brought to your shelter as a surrender or a stray. Use Helping Lost Pets website, a national database of lost and found animals.
  8. Have volunteers or staff members compare lost pet reports with the animals your facility is holding as strays to see if any match.
  9. Scan every animal in your shelter one last time before allowing him or her to be adopted or euthanized.

Thank you for taking the time to review the above list.  And, again, thank you for your commitment to the animals in your shelter.  We know that without your efforts, very few lost pets would ever make it back to their respective homes or get a second chance with a loving family.  We are truly grateful for everything you do.  And we look forward to working with you and your facility for years to come.


Lost Dogs Illinois