Here's what you should do if you find a lost dog

Bill Choy
Mount Shasta Herald
No Place Like Home Challenge

The Siskiyou Humane Society has joined hundreds of organizations and shelters in a challenge to help reunite pets with their families as quickly as possible. 

Taking part in The No Place Like Home Challenge  the Siskiyou Humane Socety plans  to expand their current "return to home" program, said the organization's executive director Kim Latos. This will be done by enhancing SHS's relationship with the community through education and offering new resources and tools to reunite pets with their families. SHS plans to utilize more of their current database technology to reduce stray intakes and quickly move those strays through the shelter system.

By monitoring these statistics, they will be able to measure the results, she said.  

“We are grateful for this opportunity as we follow the animal welfare movement and a new approach that is in line with human social services and social justice movements that considers animals as part of family systems,” Latos said.

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The No Place Like Home Challenge will take place March 1 -31, 2021. Shelters communities across America are meeting twice a week through Zoom and sharing how they’re decreasing costs and returning pets home before they even make it to the shelter.   

“We share ideas to help make our communities part of the solution. Innovation is unstoppable when we put our heads together,” Latos said.  

During the challenge month, Latos said they will share with the community ways they can help animals get home. She said that they want to work closer with community members to engage partnerships that support the bond of people and animals.  

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Latos asked if you “Have you ever seen a dog running down the side of a busy, multi-lane road, panting and anxiously looking for safety?”  

“What options are available to you if you find a lost dog,” she pondered. In most places in the U.S., you have four options, Latos said,  

They are:  

1. Drop the dog off at the municipal shelter that serves your area.   

2. Call animal control and have them pick up the dog.  

 3. Hold on to the dog and try to find the owner yourself.   

4. Ignore the dog and let it go.   

Before 1, 2 or 3, though, it is important to ask, “is this dog really lost?” Latos said.  

These options are all problematic, she said. Options 1 and 2 require taking the dog out of their neighborhood and transporting it to an offsite location, sometimes many miles from its home. Once the dog leaves its community, it can be difficult to get it home. Typically, she said, only one in four dogs ever makes it back home. Reclaim fees, long distance to the shelter, fear of animal services and many other factors contribute to people not reclaiming their dogs. Option 3 puts the entire burden of getting the dog home on the finder, who may not know about all of the available resources or have the time. Option 4 isn’t feasible or ideal when a dog is in distress, is truly lost, is injured or sick, or otherwise really needs the help of a Good Samaritan,” Latos stated.  

“Our shelter serves as a very short-term crisis-housing center for dogs in distress who get picked up by a community member or a law enforcement officer,” Latos said. “However, at the same time, we recognize that many dogs are simply hanging out in their neighborhoods, just a house or two away from where they live, and we may be able to get those dogs home more easily if we don’t remove them from their communities. We must begin to really question whether that dog truly needs help at all.”  

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Over the past two decades, she said, animal welfare has come so far when it comes to innovation and that “we’re long overdue for rethinking our approach to lost dogs.”  

“We are here to serve the public and there really are stray dogs who need to come to the shelter,” Latos stated. She said that the Humane Society's goal is to intake the dogs who really need to come in while helping dogs get home and stay in the community any time it’s possible.   

By using a case management approach and asking the community to help, it's possible to reduce the number of stray dogs that enter the shelter, according to Latos. "This leaves space in the sheltering system for pets in emergency situations and critical need, but more importantly often means that the lost pet can find its home – whereas once at the shelter those chances of reunifications start to go down," she said. 

“We don't encourage this because we've changed our minds about helping animals – in fact, quite the opposite,” Latos said. “We want to try and get as many pets back into the loving arms of their families and over time animal shelters across the country have realized this happens more often when they are still out in the community. Rest assured, we're still here if you need us.”  

Below is the new approach to found dogs that hundreds of other shelters have implemented, Latos said.  

Scenario: Someone finds a dog that appears healthy and is wagging its tail. They go to the Siskiyou Humane Society website and read that they can call the shelter and file a found report. Latos said that at this point they will do a stray dog assessment. The Humane Society will ask them several questions, including where the dog was found; if it has any injuries or appears to be sick; if the dog is friendly; if it has identification; if the finder is willing to hold the dog for up to 72 hours to help us try to get it home. If the dog is sick or injured, poses any threat to public safety, is not safe to handle, or is in immediate danger; or the finder cannot hold it, then the best place for that dog is likely the shelter.  

“If the dog is healthy and friendly and the finder is willing to hold it for a short time, that’s where we can really kick into action,” Latos stated.  

“We can do a number of things to help that dog get home faster,” she said. “We have always created lost and found reports and posted to online social media. We now have the tools to get lost and found reports online immediately by using a module within our existing shelter software database.”  

Latos said that lost and found pets will automatically be uploaded to their website, Findingrover (a facial recognition website to help reunite lost animals and adopt pets) and Pettango. In addition, they will be shared with regional shelters using Petpoint . If the finder is unable to access the internet, the Siskiyou Humane Society will assist with posting to other sites such as Nextdoor and Craigslist. Research and studies within the industry have shown that the Nextdoor social media app is getting pets home fast, Latos said. Nextdoor is an app based on your location. Many neighborhoods have very robust followings, in Siskiyou County, she said, with Siskiyou County having over 20 local Nextdoor neighborhoods.   

“I encourage finders to post where the dog was found on Nextdoor ASAP,” Latos stated.  

Also, Latos recommends a person wo finds a lost animal to simply walk around the neighborhood, as they may run into someone who is searching for the pet. Or, they may pass other neighbors or community members (delivery drivers, postal workers, landscapers, pool technicians, etc often know the pets in the homes on the street!) who know the pet and can help identify where they live. In some cases, the lost pet may even lead them back to their home, she said.  

Or, the Humane Society will help to get the pet scanned for a microchip by accommodating the finders schedule to come to the shelter or referring them to the nearest participating veterinarian.  

They can also email the finder a printable FOUND sign, if they are unable to print we can print signs and flyers at the shelter and have them available to pick up, or find volunteers to post them in the area.  

The Humane Society plans to have new and valuable information on their website for lost and found animals such as a ‘getting lost pets home’ tips sheet.   

“Just because someone is willing to hold the dog, doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of things we can do to help them,” Latos said. Staff and volunteers will be cross checking lost and found reports in an effort to increase reunification. “By providing excellent, prompt service to stray finders, we hope to keep the dog out of the shelter and locate the owner quickly.”  

The majority of the stray dogs brought to the shelter go home within an hour or two,” Latos said. The top reasons given are the dog getting out of the house or yard, doors left open, gates not closed.   

“We see unneutered males more often which always concerns me,” Latos sated. “They have one thing on their mind, male dogs have excellent senses of smell and can sense an intact female in heat up to 3 miles away. Roaming more likely to get hit by cars or injured in a dogfight.”  

PREVENTATIVE MEASURES  

There are a few things you can do to both prevent your pet from becoming lost as well as being prepared if that should happen.  

* Have your pet wear a collar and up-to-date tags at all times. This is the quickest way to get your pet home. For those dogs that loose tags purchase a collar that prints the name and owner phone number on the collar itself.  

* Get your pet microchipped. If your pet is already microchipped, check to make sure it's properly registered and your contact information is up to date. (https://www.petmicrochiplookup.org)  

* Upload your pets photos to FindingRover's database in the event they are lost. (www.findingrover.com)  

* Keep them safe when you are not home by bringing them inside, using a crate, or whatever method of containment works best for you and the pet. Keep them safe when out and about by leashing dogs when out on walks, or by simply leaving pets home if the occasion calls for it.  

* Check your outdoor fencing and barriers for any needed repairs. Make sure gate latches are working.  

* Spay and Neuter your pets this reduces the urge to wonder off.  

 If you need help with your lost or found pet, behavior and training assistance for your cat or dog, want to adopt, surrender your pet, need pet food due to a financial burden, your dog just had puppies and you don’t know what to do, you found a litter of kittens, need advice related to pets or are in need of resources or referrals, Latos ask that you please call the shelter 926-4052.  

The challenge is funded by Maddie’s Fund® and Michelson Found Animals Foundation, in collaboration with Adoptimize, the ASPCA, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, Best Friends Animal Society, HeARTS Speak, the Humane Society of the United States, National Animal Care and Control Association and Petco Foundation.

For more information, visit their Facebook page, Siskiyou Humane Society Adoption Center and their website, siskiyouhumane.org. The Humane Society will be posting dates and times of microchip clinics, and by March 1 they will have updated their website with new info and resources, Latos said.