Category Archives: Rescues and Shelters

Articles and tips for shelters/rescues to help capture a lost foster or adopted dog.

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.

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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

rahm.emanuel@cityofchicago.org  Mayor

@ChicagosMayor Twitter

Mayor’s Facebook Page

susana.mendoza@cityofchicago.org  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

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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.

 

 

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 lostdogsil@gmail.com 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.

LadyBird, this is Haven1. Come in LadyBird.


Here at HoundSong we believe in an open door. We have long proselytized the open sharing of what happens from day to day in our rescue. An easy thing when all is good and the stories we share are like handing out warm chocolate chip cookies. Not so easy a thing when we “screw the pooch”. Grab a coffee; kick up your feet, here comes the story of most ridiculous gaffe ever made in the search for lost dog.

ladybirdOn Wednesday, Febuary 5th 2014 LadyBird the Beagle went “missing” from her foster home. LadyBird is an odd cookie. Others have called her a puppy-mill dog. This is somewhat of a misnomer. She was a breeder dog, but not from a puppy mill environment. She does suffer some of the same malady’s common to puppy mill dogs. She is a timid, antisocial, brooding, sort of gal who is not particularly interested in interaction of any sort. She is a “duck and cover” gal. She can hide in plain sight…like a Ninja. LadyBird, the Beagle Ninja.
(…and thinking about it now, if she were a Black Ops Specialist, she even has a cool code name. Haven1, this is LadyBird.
This is Haven1, go ahead LadyBird
I have eyes on the package, are we ROE clear?
Red light! I say again, Red Light!  We are not ROE clear. Hold at Epsilon 1. Cover and observe.
Copy Haven1, hold and cover. Observe but do not engage. LadyBird out.)

LadyBird’s ninja like skills is why, at first, her foster mom did not panic when she seemed to be missing. It is not uncommon to go most of a day and not see, or only have a fleeting glimpse of, LadyBird. In what has become a practiced routine, her foster mom set about a search patrol of all LadyBird’s usual hidey holes. Behind the couch, under the computer desk, behind the toilet, under the bed. One by one these locations were searched and cleared. One by one these locations were empty. After about 4 hours since the last LadyBird sighting, frantic destruction of the entire house began. At 8 hours and a search of the house, yard, and neighborhood, it seemed LadyBird had gone off mission…
LadyBird had gone rogue.

We have been rescuing hounds for 18 years. In those 18 years, the wanderlust of the hound has afforded us a particular set of skills. We have searched for A LOT of dogs. Add to these the dogs for whom we have used the skilled nose of our Bluetick Coonhound, Ranger, to track and locate for other people, and we have spent more hours stooped over muddy prints in the rain and baiting feed stations than I care to count. My point being, we are not amateurs. We know how to get it done. Or so we thought…

posterpicWe spent the next week following our lost dog SOP(Standard Operating Procedure).
Phone calls to authorities – Check.
Fliers and posters – Check.
Boots on the ground (in snow up to our asses) and eyes on task – Check.
…and so on and so forth right down the list.
We followed the procedure, as we had SUCCESSFULLY done a hundred times. My wife, in her usual obsessive manner, drove off an entire oil change up and down every street and alley with her wide, panicked eyes peering into every shadow as though this could be the moment we found her. We tripped and tracked behind every print in the snow as though our hopeful steps would surely lead us to old LadyBird. We did, as we had always done on every search. Only this time nothing happened. Not even a sighting.
In 18 years we have never had that happen. We always had at least a sighting.

By the 5th day we were deeply worried.
On the 6th day, at 10:30PM, LadyBird was found pattering around in the backyard of her foster home as though she had never left.

…and she hadn’t.
She was in the backyard the whole time.

This is what we saw.

I want you to keep in mind we had searched everywhere in the house and yard for LadyBird. We had gone as far as poking snow drifts with a broom handle like we were searching for an avalanche victim.

The foyer to LadyBird's underground bunker

 

LadyBird had made herself an “underground” bunker with a hidden secret entrance that would make the designers of NORAD jealous.

 

Oh look, a hallway.

Peeking into the common use room.

 

She divided her bunker into three areas. A entry, a common area, and sleeping quarters, all joined by a short hallway at 90 degrees to the previous “room”.

 

The sleeping quarters.

 

Here, back far enough where not even the most harsh weather and strongest winds could not reach her, is the sleeping quarters. We found her choker collar here. So cozy a room had she made for herself, while it was about 10 degrees outside, the collar was warm to the touch.

 

Opening holes to the common area and sleeping quarters.

 

What was left after we nuked her bunker.

 

So…
You can laugh at us if you like.
Feel free to call us stupid. You can even accuse us of being irresponsible or remark how unbelievable it is that we left her there…in some of the worst weather “the region” has seen in years…to shiver and suffer in the cold.
Truth is, we have no excuses.
It seems unfathomable that we did not find her hiding, in the snow, under decorative grasses, just 35 feet from the backdoor of her foster home. It seems unfathomable and inexcusable. However, our mistakes are not the moral of this story.

The moral of this story is multifaceted.
1. When searching for a lost dog, never rely on what you “know”. Our experience blinded us. We had searched the yard for LadyBird. Not seeing any tracks or visible sign of her presence (and having poked to death the snow drifts with a broom handle)we wrote it off a possibility. We went about our search thinking like people, rather than like a dog. We approached this search as we had approached a hundred others, seeing it through the eyes of all our previous searches…when we should have tried to approach it using LadyBird’s eyes.
2. Double Check and Triple check. Even if you have searched an area, search it again. Even if your dogs is not hiding under a bush in your own yard, he/she may return near home from time to time.
3. Do not give up. In severe weather (or severe experiences like tornado’s or floods)people have a tendency to assume “Fluffy could just not have lived through that.”  In temperatures as low as -30 degrees, inches upon inches of snow stacking up all over the area, and without a single sighting of her, we were just a day or two from assuming the worst for LadyBird. Nagging in a dark corner of our minds was the thought that LadyBird had been hit by a plow and was buried somewhere under one of the mountainous piles of snow along the roadway.  We were very close to calling it hopeless….for you and I it would have been hopeless. For our animals though…well…when it comes to staying alive they are just smarter.

We post this in the hope that others may learn from our mistake.
Never assume…always look with unfettered eyes…and always know that, in terms of survival, you are not smarter than your dog.

Thank you Darin Lee of RodDar Houndsong Rescue for your honest account of LadyBird’s adventure.

http://www.houndsong.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Houndsong

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: lostpets@abcanimalshelter.com
  • 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 Pets.com, 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: http://lostdogsofamerica.org/helping-lost-pets-provides-one-national-website-for-all-missing-pets/
  • 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: https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/how-to-trace-dead-end-microchips-and-tag-information-on-found-pets/
  • 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 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  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: https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/humane-trapping-before-you-begin-part-9-in-a-series-2/

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 lostdogsil@gmail.com 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!

Using Facebook to Maximum Potential

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Lost Dogs Illinois was designed to help individual owners and finders of dogs who are keeping them in their homes while looking for the dog’s owner. We provide  postings, a website, tips and suggestions to help happy reunions happen. We are thrilled that the idea has taken off and has become so successful. We are often asked if we can post pictures of “strays” in shelters, veterinarian clinics, police departments  or other animal control or stray holding facilities. We would love to accommodate them all; but unfortunately this would defeat our purpose. When we “overpost” Facebook has a sneaky way of hiding our posts in our fan’s newsfeeds. This would also overwhelm our volunteers who generously give of their time to help lost dogs.

Instead, we encourage every shelter, vet clinic, police department or other agency that holds “strays” to develop their own Facebook page to help lost pets in their community. We will gladly share the link to the page and feature it on our website. We truly believe that with today’s technology and social media availability that it is the ethical responsibility of every animal control and stray holding facility in America to make sure that they are using all of the tools available to get lost pets back to their owners. Reuniting lost pets frees up kennel space for the truly needy animals and saves lives.

Harnessing the Energy – Part 5 (Common Pitfalls)

Lindsay, a shy beagle was successfully captured by the well-coordinated team of volunteers at Midwest BREW.

Lindsay, a shy beagle was successfully captured by the well-coordinated team of volunteers at Midwest BREW.

In this final segment of our series for shelters and rescues, we will focus on some of the common mistakes that can lead to a prolonged search or unfortunately even the death of the missing dog.  Most of these mistakes can be attributed to a lack of leadership or the absence of a strong point person on the case. We covered this in detail in Part 3 of the series. Without strong leadership, the volunteer base will become frustrated and frayed. Some may become disinterested, some may give up, and some may go off on their own, using methods that we would never recommend.  These include:

  • Pitfall #1 – Volunteers physically searching for a dog. Most missing rescue dogs are shy. Foot searches are never recommended unless the dog is a very young puppy (barely walking) or has been severely injured, such as being hit by a car.  In these situations a “grid search” might be warranted. But this must be well-coordinated with a good plan and strong leadership.  Foot searches almost always result in driving the dog further away. He will sense that he is being pursued.  If he keeps getting driven out of the flyering area – there will be a lack of sightings and the volunteers will lose the motivation to flyer larger and larger areas.  You may also drive the dog into hiding, causing a lack of sightings which also causes frustration and makes volunteers lose hope. Worst of all, your volunteers may pressure the dog and cause him to bolt into traffic and be injured or killed.
  • Pitfall #2 – Using a psychic, animal communicator or douser. These are almost always a scam. Or well-meaning people who think they have a  connection with animals but know very little about lost dog behavior. They will appear to be “psychic” but they are usually studying google maps and satellite photos to talk about landmarks, even though they live far away.  Some may do the first reading for free, but then ask for a credit card number for subsequent “readings”.  They advertise on Craigslist and they may contact you offering their services.  The readings will be vague. “I see your dog with an older couple.” “I see your dog in a yellow house.” Getting the word out through the use of flyers and signs brings lost dogs home. Psychics can send you in the wrong direction or worst of all tell you that your dog has “passed”.  Don’t give up unless you find the remains of the missing dog. He is out there somewhere and perseverance, common sense and logic will bring him home.
  • Pitfall #3 – Tracking dogs. There are some legitimate tracking dog services. They are few and far between. Screen them carefully. What is their success rate at tracking a shy lost dog? If their success rate sounds too good to be true, it is. They are a scam.  Remember that good tracking dogs may be able to locate a scent, but lost dogs can move quickly.  There are dozens of “pet detectives” that are currently preying on unsuspecting, distraught lost dog owners. They are using Craigslist and Facebook to advertise for free and will tell you that they can find your dog. Remember, you will still have to flyer, establish a feeding routine and trap the dogs.  Instead, use your rescue’s valuable resources for flyering, signs and advertising.
  • Pitfall #4 – Giving out exact sighting or trap locations – You will need to communicate with your volunteers, preferably through some sort of closed email or Facebook group. But make sure that they understand that what you share is confidential.  You NEVER want to disclose a sighting or trap location publicly – on a Facebook page, in a blog, or to the media. Keep the location confidential because wanna-be heroes, reward seekers, and curious people can derail your plans very fast. Then you will be picking up and starting all over again and you will risk volunteer burnout.
  • Pitfall #5 – Allowing too many volunteers to man a feeding station or trap.  Remember, your lost dog is probably very shy and doesn’t trust many people.  You need him to relax and feel comfortable coming to a feeding station so that you can eventually trap him. If everytime he goes to the location, there are different scents from different people, he may abandon that location completely and move on. Ideally, the person most bonded with the dog should be the one that is refreshing the feeding station and manning the trap. One or two helpers may need to be involved, but a revolving schedule of volunteers is counter-productive.

We hope this series has given you some guidance and ideas if one of your rescue or shelter’s foster or adopted dogs go missing. Searching for a shy lost dog is expensive and time-consuming. Pre-planning, volunteer training and avoiding common pitfalls will save you the time, money and resources that could be better spent on saving more lives.

Previous article – https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-4/

Harnessing the Energy – Part 4

feeding station

Your team of volunteers has worked hard at flyering and posting signs and now you’re getting some sightings! This article will cover what we have found to be the best method for handling these.

The point person should keep a sighting  journal. It is hard to remember all of the details from a phone call. Something that may seem insignificant at first may become very significant as time goes on.  So most importantly, get the name and phone number of the caller, so that you can call back with any extra questions!

Ask the right questions and make detailed notes.

1. Where did you see the dog? Ask them to please be specific. For example: the dog was going north on Ash street toward the Bay City Mall.  On the other side of the street was Walmart.

2. When did you see the dog? What was the weather like? Again, ask for specifics. Example: The dog was seen at 10 a.m. on Monday, August 5th.  It was raining at the time.

3. Can you describe the dog? Was he wearing a collar? What color was the collar? Did he seem okay?

4. What was he doing? Was he trotting, running, darting in and out of traffic, sleeping, playing with other dogs, walking calmly, etc?

5. How was he carrying his body and tail? Was he low to the ground, almost crawling? Was his tail up or down or waggin?

Record all of these details in your journal and then post the sightings to a  map. You can use an old-fashioned paper map or you can use an interactive google or Mapquest map that you can share with your volunteers.   We recommend that you NEVER share this or any sighting information  with the public.

The number one cause of death of lost dogs is that they panic and run into traffic and are killed by a car. When you post sighting locations – you are encouraging reward seekers, wanna be heroes, and overzealous people from rushing to the location and frightening the dog.

Remember, the whole goal now is to let the scared lost dog settle in the area. Then you can implement a plan to catch him (trapping, luring, etc.). But if you are constantly pressuring the dog, he will keep moving, and you will always be behind him. You will have to keep flyering more and more areas and this will be draining on your volunteers. Remember that most of your volunteers have full time jobs, and their own families and dogs to look after. You will need to respect their time and maximize their efforts.

Make sure that your volunteers understand that the goal is to allow the dog to settle in an area. They must change their mindset from “searching” to “luring”.  You wouldn’t try to chase and catch a feral cat. You start feeding a cat in one location and then you trap them. You will use this same approach for a scared, missing dog.

After you get off the phone with the caller, immediately gather the necessary supplies and head to the location. The person most bonded to the dog (if it isn’t you) should also go. But you do not want a large group. You will need:

  • smelly treats (think hotdogs, liverwurst, canned cat food)
  • water and bowls
  • slip lead, regular leash and collar
  • flyers
  • trail camera (or fireplace ashes or cornstarch)

When you arrive at the sighting location:

  • Don’t slam the car door!
  • Stay calm – the dog will feel your nervous energy and may take off again. He could be in hiding watching you.
  • If you see the dog (possible but not probable):
  • The person who is most bonded with the dog should sit or lie down by themselves and scatter tasty treats around themselves and WAIT. It may take minutes or hours for the dog to creep slowly towards them. The dog may circle around and approach from behind. Put your phone on silent and don’t talk on it. Everybody else should leave the area.

If you do not see the dog:

Don’t waste time driving around.

Immediately go door to door and flyer – speaking with everyone. Call in more volunteers to help with this.

If no one is home – leave a flyer that you have handwritten on: SEEN! 4 p.m. May 31 at the edge of your property or corner of this block or across from the Walgreens.  Be specific so the home owner knows to keep a look out. Make sure your flyers clearly state the nobody should call or chase the dog. Just call with sightings.

Before leaving the sighting area:

Leave food and water! Anything except dry kibble (which doesn’t have an odor). Again, think smelly, scrumptious food. If you have a trail camera set it up facing the food so that you can see if the dog is approaching and eating when you aren’t there. . If you don’t have a trail camera, sprinkle fireplace ashes or cornstarch around the bowls so that you can examine the area for tracks when you return.

Remember, when the lost dog’s needs are being met:

He will start to let down his guard.

He will start to trust people and return to a domesticated state of mind.

Your chances of safely capturing him are greatly increased.

Don’t be too quick to dismiss a sighting.  Most sightings are legitimate. People describe dogs differently so don’t dismiss a sighting because the description does not match exactly.  Remember, that the public may not know dog breeds or sizes like you do. They may call an American Eskimo Dog a Samoyed.  Or a shepherd mix a husky. Assume that every sighting is legitimate, unless absolutely proven otherwise,  and mark it on the map. Dogs can travel great distances very fast, especially if they have been pursued. They may be using shortcuts that you aren’t aware of. Don’t assume that a sighting is too far away to be your dog. You will be able to use your map to give you clues to your dog’s paths and patterns.

Next, we will discuss common pitfalls and mistakes that are often made when a rescue is searching for one of their foster or newly adopted dogs. We will try to give you some advice to avoid these pitfalls.

See part 5  https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-5-common-pitfalls/

Previous article https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-3/

Harnessing The Energy – Part 3

Two Illinois based rescues joined together to facilitate Ellie, shy foster dog, return. 30 days later Ellie was trapped.

Effectively coordinating your volunteers in the search for a lost dog is what we call “harnessing the energy”.  When everybody is on the same team and pulling in the same direction, great things can happen.  When the efforts are scattered and fragmented, volunteers will get frustrated and the search can end badly.

This article will focus on the steps to help your rescue or shelter’s volunteers work effectively as a team to generate sightings of the missing dog.

First and foremost – please make sure that you have done the Five Things to Do If You Have Lost Your Dog. Putting scent items and food at the spot where the dog went missing from will help keep him in the area – even if he is unfamiliar with the location.

1. Assign one “point person”.  Preferably this is the person that is most bonded with the lost dog (the owner or foster parent) and with the biggest emotional committment to the process. The point person must be a responsible individual with the time required to be able to answer EVERY phone call and go to every sighting location.  The point person must be dedicated to the process for the days, weeks or months that it might require to successfully catch the dog.

2. Use a phone number on the flyer that will be answered promptly. Do not use a shelter phone number that won’t be answered during closed hours. Do not use an automated voice system or answering service. Many people who see your dog won’t call again. They will try ONCE. If you miss the opportunity to speak with them, you may never get another chance and you might miss valuable information about your dog’s location. Do not rely on texting. Callers need to hear your voice and your emotional commitment to the dog. This will encourage them to keep helping you.

3. Change the message on your phone to include a message about the missing dog. If the caller reaches an ordinary voice message, he may hang up and not try again. The caller must know they’ve reached the correct number to report a sighting.

4. Do NOT offer a reward for the missing dog.  In our experience, this is almost always a bad idea. Rewards encourage people to chase the dog, possibly into oncoming traffic. A dog that is being pursued for a reward will not settle and will become more and more elusive and possibly move out of the area altogether. Then you will have to start all over in a new location.  You want sightings of the dog so that you can implement a plan to catch him safely. Rewards are counterproductive to this effort because you will not be able to pay a reward for each sighting.

5. In the early hours of the dog going missing; rescue volunteers may panic and want to rush to a sighting location to “search”.  This is almost always a bad idea. Their energy should be used for quickly flyering the area – going door to door and trying to speak to as many people as possible and leaving a flyer in their hands.  Searching for a shy lost dog will chase the dog out of the area and possibly into the path of traffic.  Or the dog may go into hiding, reducing sightings and prolonging the search. Your goal is to let the shy lost dog settle, without the pressure of being pursued. You will have a much greater chance of catching him.

6. The point person should be organized and ready to distribute maps and flyers to the volunteers.  Use a Rubbermaid tub in a central location to store flyers, maps and supplies. Then anyone with some time to spare can do some flyering without duplicating efforts.

7.  Don’t congregate noisily in an area to flyer. Don’t slam car doors. The dog may be hidden somewhere nearby watching you. Too much activity may frighten him into leaving the area.  Flyer in groups of two for safety, but be quiet and calm.

8. Pace your volunteers. Make sure they understand that this could take weeks or months. Volunteers will be needed to flyer after every sighting, to make and move signs, to update Craigslist, radio, and  newspaper ads and to keep notifying vet clinics, shelters, etc.

9. Try to keep everyone “in the loop” so they feel useful and engaged. Consider using a closed Facebook group for the volunteers to keep everyone informed. Stay positive. Negativity won’t help and will probably prolong the search. Don’t waste any time in assigning blame for how or why the dog went missing. This does nothing to help find the dog and will decrease the morale of the team.

Next, we’ll focus on the best way to respond when you get your sighting calls.

Part 4  https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-4/

Previous Article https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-2/

Harnessing The Energy – Part 2

How can rescues and shelters prevent  high flight risk dogs from escaping from new adopters, foster homes and even their own facilities? And how can they correctly react when a dog does go missing?

These next few articles will focus on this, starting on how a shelter or rescue can prepare their staff, foster homes, and new adopters for high flight risk dogs.

1. Microchip every dog as soon as it becomes available for adoption, and ENROLL the microchip to the new owner. Some microchip companies do this for free, others have a charge. Offset the cost by adding the enrollment charge (if there is one) into the adoption fee. Simply sending the dog out the door with the paperwork is not enough. Most people have good intentions but may lose the dog before they get the microchip paperwork sent in. They may have just plunked down several hundred dollars for an adoption fee and supplies. The microchip paperwork may get set aside until the next payday and by then it might be too late.

2. Put visible identification on every foster or newly adopted dog before it leaves. ASPCA research shows that 89% of newly adopted pets were still wearing the tags a shelter or rescue put on them six weeks after adoption.

3. Use a martingale collar on every dog (see photo above). These are great for the shy dog that has learned to back out of a standard collar. Also, consider using a sensation harness along with a martingale collar (either by using two leads or clip the lead to both O rings) for those that are extremely high risk.

4. Educate your foster homes and new adopters on the challenges of high flight risk dogs. Put together a packet of information for them to include in their adoption paperwork. Here is a sample from Lost Dogs Illinois that you can use.

Read part 3 https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-3/

Previous article https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-1/