Animal Tales: How do I find a lost pet?

Question: What is the most effective way of finding a lost pet?

Answer: When a beloved animal companion goes missing from home it can be a traumatic experience for both you and your missing pet. The Whatcom Humane Society receives many lost cats, dogs, rabbits and other animals daily, and we try our best to match them with reports of animals that are missing.

Due to the large volume of stray animals the Whatcom Humane Society receives, we can’t identify lost pets via phone, email or social networking sites. Here are some things you can and should do to find a missing pet.

1. Visit the Whatcom Humane Society (or your local animal shelter) in person and look for your pet. Bring a current photo of your companion animal with you; fill out a lost pet report when you arrive so staff can assist you with your search. You are the only person who can positively identify your lost pet. Visit the shelter regularly to check.

2. Place a lost pet ad in The Bellingham Herald and on craigslist use both the “lost and found” and “pets” section. Include a photo of your animal in the online post and your contact information. Regularly check for postings from people who have found or seen lost pets.

3. Post information and photos of your lost pet on your personal Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram and other social networking sites. There are several local, public social networking sites, including Lost Pets of Whatcom County on Facebook, that will allow you to post information about your lost and found pets.

4. Post fliers with your animal’s photo, description and your contact information throughout your neighborhood, at local veterinary clinics, pet supply stores and other areas and businesses near your home. Inform your mail carrier, garbage collectors, newspaper carriers and neighborhood children that your pet is missing.

5. Enlist the aid of neighbors, family and friends. Search local parks, school yards, fields and playgrounds and vacant lots for your dog. Ask neighbors to search basements, attics, garages, sheds and other areas for your cat or small animals. If you live in an apartment, check stairwells, hallways, laundry facilities and any vacant apartments.

6. If you have recently moved, conduct a search in your old neighborhood.

7. Make sure your contact information is current for your lost pet’s license, microchip (a permanent form of identification), rabies tag or other information that may be traceable if your animal is found.

8. Pay-to-use websites and services are available to assist with your lost pet search. You may want to consider utilizing a service such as www.petamberalert.com or www.findtoto.com. For a fee, these sites can offer assistance issuing mass lost pet notifications to people and businesses in your area.

9. Don’t give up hope! It’s not uncommon for people to be reunited with lost pets weeks or even months after they initially go missing.

Be sure to notify the Whatcom Humane Society and the other organizations you have contacted once you have found your companion animal.

Identification is a lost animal’s ticket home. Always keep a collar, license and/or ID tag on your dog or cat. Consider having your pet microchipped. The Whatcom Humane Society provides low-cost pet microchipping, as well as dog licensing for most cities and areas within Whatcom County.


Animal Tales is a regular column written by Laura Clark, executive director of the Whatcom Humane Society. The society provides care and services to homeless, unwanted, orphaned and abused domestic and native wild animals in need. Have a question to ask? Email questions for this column to director@whatcomhumane.org. For information on the society, go to whatcomhumane.org.