There's a lot to do when a pet is lost

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Is it just me or are "lost" pet fliers showing up more frequently? I see them on telephone poles, in store windows and on bulletin boards in the offices of veterinarians and other professionals. Pictures of sad-eyed dogs and cats of all colors and breeds will just about break the heart of anyone who has ever owned and loved an animal.

May I make a suggestion? When you see those fliers, jot down the telephone number so that you can call the owner if you see their pet. Fliers have actually facilitated many happy reunions.

If you see the poster pet, call the telephone number. If you get voice mail, leave a message stating when and where you saw the animal. Pets are often found far from home, and your tip will help the owner's search.

Many animal lovers do much more. They see a poster and go out looking, armed with treats and a leash.

How do pets get lost?

Thunderstorms spook pets and they run out the door. House guests, repairmen and children leave a door or a gate open.

Sometimes, lost pets come back on their own, but don't count on it.

The first thing to do is go out on foot or in a car. Ideally, there should be someone at home to let the pet back into the house or yard if it returns.

Call your police department and animal control agency. Some police departments are more helpful than others, taking reports and telephone numbers. Call each shift, for some officers don't pass reports on when they go off duty. Police shifts generally start at 7 a.m., 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. You need to call police departments in neighboring communities, for lost dogs frequently cross municipal lines.

Call all the shelters in your area to see if anyone has taken your pet there. In the Pittsburgh area, that would include Animal Friends, Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania, the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and the Washington Area Humane Society. People who find pets often take them to the shelter that is close to their home, not your home.

Call them at least twice a day and visit in person, if possible. A shelter worker might tell you they don't have your Sheltie, because their list shows, for instance, a Border collie or a "mix."

Get "lost" posters up as soon as possible.

The Internet has taken lost pet searches to a whole new level. A local Web site and a local e-mail list have had dramatic results.

The Web site,, is operated by the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Joy Kealy checks that site first thing every morning as well as telephone voice-mail reports of lost animals. Then she checks on animals that have been turned into the shelter.

You can call her at 412-321-4625, ext. 305.

Ms. Kealy had an early morning voice-mail message Friday from a frantic man whose house cat had disappeared from his Millvale home last Thursday. The cat had been turned into the shelter that afternoon. The owner picked his pet up Friday morning, but if the cat had been microchipped or wearing a collar with a license or ID tags, the reunion would have occurred last Thursday.

On the telephonepole site, you can fill in the boxes to report a lost or found animal. To view pictures, go to the left side of the site, click on "lost a pet" or "found a pet" and then go to the first box, which is "type of animal," and pick dog, cat or "other" and click on "go."

To look at postings on TrackAPet, go to and type in TrackAPet-Pittsburgh. You have to join the group to see postings and pictures of lost and found animals.

I call this group the pet detectives. They spend hours and days searching for pets, sometimes using humane traps to catch dogs and cats that are too scared to come to the people who are trying to help them. That's what happened last week when the group was looking for Attaboy, a Shetland sheepdog that has been missing from Forest Hills for more than a month. Instead they caught Shaggy, a Shetland sheepdog that has been missing from North Versailles since August.

TrackAPet is still looking for Attaboy and a number of other pets, including Sunny, a collie-chow mix that has been missing from the Brookline area since January.

Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at or 412-263-3064.