What to Do if You Find a Lost Dog This July 4th

More dogs get lost around July 4th than any other time of year. The vast majority will be picked up less than a mile from their homes—and have a much better chance of being reunited with their families, if some actions are taken in the neighborhoods where they’re found, before they are brought to a shelter!

Anyone who finds a lost pet around the holiday, or at any time, should follow these steps to help them get home, if they are able:

  • Snap photos of the pet and post to social media like lost and found pet groups on Facebook. They can also post on Nextdoor and Petco Love Lost.
  • Leash up the pet and walk them around the neighborhood. The owner could be out looking for them, or a neighbor who knows the dog may be able to identify them. 
  • Scan for a microchip at a vet’s office, pet supply store, or police station. Many animal protection officers have scanners in their vehicles, as well.
  • File a found pet report online with your local animal shelter. 
  • If you’re willing to hold the pet for a short time while looking for the owner, reach out to your local shelter. Often they can provide you with food, supplies, and other support like help posting to social media.

Some of these steps may sound unfamiliar. In the past, it was standard practice for lost pets to be brought right into the shelter. However, we now know the vast majority of lost pets are picked up less than a mile from their homes. The typical reclaim rate is only 17% when a pet comes into the shelter. But when a pet is held onto in the neighborhood where they were found, that rate jumps to 70%. 

This effort takes on extra urgency now, when shelters around the country are experiencing code red space crises. 

“It’s so scary when a pet gets lost. One of our top priorities at Human Animal Support Services is getting lost pets home to their owners, to keep families together and make sure owned pets aren’t sitting in full shelters instead of napping on a couch at home,” says Kristen Hassen, director of the American Pets Alive!’s Human Animal Support Services project. “On July 4th, and always, we are so grateful to the good folks who take these steps to help reunite lost pets with the people who love them. They play an essential role in preserving families, and they are deeply appreciated.”

Anyone whose pet gets lost should look first at your local shelter’s lost and found listings, as well as on Nextdoor, other local social media platforms, and Petco Love Lost. You may also put up flyers on lampposts, supermarket bulletin boards, and other local spots.

Be sure to also come in person to your local shelter, since pets look different in person than in photographs. Nearly half the pets who come into animal shelters as “stray” are in fact owned pets who have just gotten away from home. 

Pets belong with their families, and by following these tips and steps we can make sure July 4th is a day of celebration for everyone—together.

About Human Animal Support Services: American Pets Alive!’s Human Animal Support Services project is an international, collaborative effort of more than 2,100 animal shelters and 10,000 animal welfare professionals who are working together to keep pets with their families and reimagine animal services to better support their communities.


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