Lost pet? It’s a heart-stopping feeling, losing a beloved pet. Here is some advice from Animal Welfare League Queensland to help you through the process.
Lost Pet – The Procedure for Dogs
Thoroughly search your home. Use flashlights to check under buildings and vehicles, inside sheds, and other dark spots.
Knock on doors and ask to search neighbouring properties. Ask your neighbours, family and friends to help you search the places that might attract your dog. Think about nearby friends’ homes, parks, homes with other pets, buildings with dumpsters, food establishments, etc. that your dog might like. Dogs that escape due to opportunity (gate/door left open, habitual diggers or climbers, etc.) are more likely to be closer to home than a dog who is running due to panic or fear. Search on foot and in the car. Everyone should have a collar, leash, and treats.
Make simple fliers to distribute to your neighbours AND giant neon posters for street poles or in local shops. Produce a flier on-line. Include LOST DOG, a PHOTO of your dog, YOUR PHONE NUMBER and any unique features (people driving past will have 5 seconds to read it, so 5 words max). You can find an A4 flier/poster template here. Note: Check with your Council on laws related to displaying community posters. Write a simple message on your car’s back window (large print using bright-coloured, water‑based chalk markers).
Contact all your local shelters and pounds and vet clinics on the first day and visit to view all dogs in the pound/shelter every 1-3 days.
Contact the microchip company your dog is registered with, check the details registered with them are correct, let them know your dog is missing. Not sure which company your dog is registered with? If you know the microchip number, you can visit petaddress.com.au to search for your pet’s microchip database.
If you don’t know the microchip number, contact your vet, or phone the following microchip companies:
Australasian Animal Registry 02 9704 1450
Central Animal Registry 03 9706 3187
Global Micro Animal Registry 02 8338 9063
HomeSafeID 1300 537 140
Petsafe 02 8850 6800
Utilise local lost and found and community web and social media sites to list your lost pet.
Dogs are often found weeks or months after they go missing. Using all these search steps will give you the best chance of being reunited.
When you find your dog, thank the people who helped you search. Share your happy news with neighbours, vets and businesses. Take down posters. Share the strategies you’ve learned with others to help them find their dogs. Help prevent losing your dog again by an up‑to-date microchip, collar with current phone number, desexing and effective containment on your property.
Additional Support for Finding a Lost Pet
Although you hopefully will never lose your dog, be prepared. If you can afford it, get a good-quality pet tracking device. Do you have more than one dog? Consider taking your other dog with you on your search (on a longline) to further entice your missing dog to come out. Have a garage? Consider leaving it open slightly so that your dog may find their way in. Leave your dog’s bed/crate outside (and undercover) with his and your scent on it.
Personality of the Lost Pet
The personality of your dog will affect what he does and your search strategies. Shy and fearful dogs are less likely to approach people, even the owners in some cases, or come when called due to fear. They may eventually come out to find food but may be prone to running at sudden movements. You need to take things slowly. Crouch low at your dog’s level. Avert your face and eyes, while watching out of your peripheral vision. Use a crinkly bag of tasty treats or food to attract the dog’s attention. Gently toss some treats toward your dog. Speak in a calm relatively high-toned encouraging voice. Let him come to you. Don’t try to clap your hands, chase or lunge toward him.
You may need to search further. Distance travelled will depend on how far he ran when originally frightened and if he has been chased by anyone in an effort to catch him. Maybe you may need to search longer, due to your dog’s wariness of surroundings and people. Perhaps you may need to humanely trap the dog, so call shelters/Local Government, animal management/ wildlife departments to see if they rent out humane traps for dogs. Consider renting/purchasing a wildlife camera to catch footage of what might be visiting the trap. Write “Fearful, do not chase!” on all of your posters, fliers and online listings.
Social dogs are more likely to approach/come to any person who calls them. These types of dogs are likely to be taken into someone’s home or taken to a shelter or vet clinic. If your dog has a favourite noisy toy, take it with you on your search and use that noise.
Lost Pet – The Procedure for Cats
Thoroughly search your home and garden. A frightened cat will not respond to the owner’s voice, so the search must be very calm and thorough. Search at your cat’s level. Crawl and check under cupboards, bushes, cars, decks, gardening sheds and equipment. Since cats can fit into the smallest of spaces, leave no stone unturned! Look on top of shelving and inside roofs, etc. where your cat may have jumped or climbed and not felt safe to come down.
Search using a flashlight as your cat’s eyes will shine, particularly at night. Unless your cat was chased, he is most likely very close in a dark concealed place. Sit quietly in the yard, speak in a conversational tone to encourage him to come out of his hiding place. This works best after dark. Leave a window or door open so that your cat may find his way in.
Ask your neighbours if you can search their properties. Search a minimum of 5 homes from yours in ALL directions. 94% of indoor cats and 84% of outdoor cats are found within this range.
Make simple fliers to distribute to your neighbours AND giant neon posters for street poles or in local shops.
Contact the microchip company your cat is registered with to check the details are correct and let them know your cat is missing. If you know the microchip number, you can visit petaddress.com.au to search for your pet’s microchip database.
Contact all your local shelters and pounds and vet clinics on the first day. Visit to view all the cats in the pounds/shelters every 1-3 days in case your cat is brought in.
Utilise local lost-and-found and community web and social media sites to list your lost pet.
REPEAT THE ABOVE STEPS! DON’T GIVE UP! Cats are often found weeks or months after they go missing.
Found your cat? Thank and share your happy news with neighbours, vets and businesses. Help prevent losing your cat again by keeping your cat safe indoors or with cat-safe fencing. For more information on cat-safe fencing and enclosures, go to the Good Cats Play at Home booklet on the internet. Increase chances of recovery if he does escape by keeping the microchip up-to-date.
Use an elasticised collar with tag and current phone number. Desex your cat (desexed cats are more likely to be found than undesexed cats).
USEFUL WEBSITES FOR FINDING LOST PETS
The Animal Welfare League Queensland at Coombabah have got some great course your kids can do to learn how to look after animals. Click here for more details.