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What to do if you lose a pet

Helping to reunite lost pets with their owners is one of the most important jobs we do at the Adams County SPCA. Here is how you can help lost pets return home:
If you lose a pet…

If your dog or cat becomes lost, you must act quickly to try to find it and to alert those who may be in a position to help you.  Here are steps you should take as soon as you know your pet is missing.


Search Your Neighborhood


Begin by searching your own property thoroughly. Check under porches and in garages, basements and other out of the way places. Cats and small dogs have been known to get stuck in tight places like drainage pipes. Remember that if your pet has become injured, it may even be hiding and reluctant to come out. Call its name and listen for a soft reply.


Check with your neighbors and ask their children to watch for your pet while they are outside. Alert your letter carrier and newspaper delivery person as well. Give everyone a description of your pet and your phone number so they can contact you. If your dog is a male and is not neutered, inquire whether any female dogs in the area are in heat.


Drive slowly around your neighborhood. Your pet may recognize the sound of your car.  If you have recently moved, be sure to also search your old neighborhood.
The strong scent of familiar items can help attract your pet. Place your pet's bedding and favorite toys (and your cat's litter pan) outside your home. Your sweaty gym socks or jogging suit may also get your pet's attention.


Post Signs with Pictures


Post signs in the general area where your pet was last seen. Post a sign in your front yard.  Also post signs at public places such as supermarkets and businesses that have community bulletin boards (See Lost Pet Flyer). Include a description of your pet and its photograph, if possible. Be specific enough to identify your pet, but for security reasons, withhold some details you can use later to help determine whether someone has actually found your pet. (See "A few words of caution," below.) State the date and area where your pet was last seen. Include daytime and evening phone numbers and your first name only. Don't include your address. Offer a reward, but don't state the amount.


            Lost Pet Flyer  (Print)


Social Media


FIND TOBY in PA is a Facebook group of rescue volunteers and good-hearted people who want to help reunite lost pets with their owners. They do this through networking info, offering advice, supplying tips via posts & emails, lending out humane traps & giving genuine, heartfelt emotional support. They have people who will volunteer to go out on foot searches when the situation is urgent. This is a free service.


Bring Home Athena

Helping lost and found pets in Franklin County, Pennsylvania and surrounding areas!


Notify State Police & County Control

Pennsylvania State Police (Gettysburg) - 717-334-8111
County Control - 717-334-8101


Call Us
Adams County S.P.C.A. (Gettysburg) - 717-334-8876


Call the Adams County SPCA Animal Shelter. Provide a description and your contact information (See Lost Pet Flyer). Follow up as soon as possible with a visit to the shelter and give the staff one of your signs and a photograph of your pet. Also call shelters in the surrounding counties right away, and give or send each one a sign and photograph of your pet. Continue to visit your local shelter regularly, at least weekly if possible, and visit surrounding shelters if you can. Shelter workers will keep a report of your missing pet on file, but remember that people may not describe a pet in exactly the same way. Only you can identify your pet with certainty. Never feel that you are visiting too often.


Above all, be persistent! Pets have been known to reappear many months after they were lost. They sometimes also travel long distances. Continue to check with the animal shelters even if you have heard nothing for long periods.

Visit/Call Other Animal Shelters

York County SPCA 717-764-6109

Cumberland Valley SPCA (Chambersburg) - 717-263-5791

Antietam Humane Society (Waynesboro) - 717-762-9091

Humane Society of Carroll County (Westminster) - 410-848-4810


Notify Veterinarians

Be sure to contact all veterinarians in your area in case your pet has been injured. Provide them with a sign and photograph of your pet (See Lost Pet Flyer).


Advertise in Newspapers and on the Radio

Evening Sun - 717-637-3736
Gettysburg Times - 717-334-1131
Merchandiser - 800-673-2474
York Newspapers - 717-767-4237


Place "lost pet" ads immediately in all newspapers that cover your area, including the "shoppers" that are distributed free. Check the "found" ads daily, and be sure to check all other ad categories that deal with animals. When reading the "found" ads, remember that someone else may describe your pet differently or may have misidentified the breed. Also keep in mind that your pet may have traveled far from home.


Don't rely on the location when trying to identify your pet. Most local radio stations broadcast announcements of lost and found pets daily. Call your local station and those in neighboring counties and give them your pet's description, and date and location where it was last seen, and daytime and evening phone numbers where you can be reached.


A few words of caution…

Here are some guidelines for your own safety and the safety of your pet.


While searching for your pet, take a friend or relative with you. Never search an unfamiliar neighborhood alone.


Most of the people you encounter while searching for your pet will genuinely want to help you. But be cautious in dealing with strangers. Before you agree to meet someone who claims to have found your pet, ask that person to describe the identifying features that you purposely withheld from your signs and "lost pet" ads. If the caller can't describe those characteristics, he does not have your pet.


In the same way, if you have found a pet and receive a call from someone who wants to claim it, ask for the identifying information that you withheld from your ads. Be aware that there are people who try to acquire animals by unscrupulous means for sale to research laboratories or for use in training fighting dogs. Do not release an animal to anyone who cannot properly identify it.


If you believe someone has found your pet, agree to meet in a public place, and take a friend or relative with you. Never give a stranger your home address. Never agree to go to a stranger's home. If you have offered a reward, pay only after your pet is safely returned to you. Beware of scams by anyone who claims to have found your pet in a distant area and says he needs money to ship your animal back to you.


Keeping your pet safe…

To keep your pet from becoming lost, don't allow it to roam. Dogs are safe in fenced yards, indoors, walked on leashes, or trained to never leave your property. Cats are safe indoors. Keep gates locked at all times.


Spay or neuter your pets. They will be less likely to roam.


Take several good pictures of your pet. Take close ups that show its facial features and full-length photos that show the animal's coloring, its coat and any markings, size and other physical characteristics. Color pictures are best for posters; black and white pictures photocopy more clearly.


Make sure your pet wears a collar with an ID tag, current rabies tag and license at all times. Cats should wear breakaway collars.


You may wish to consider permanent identification such as tattoos or microchip implants. Talk to your veterinarian if you are interested in these methods of permanent pet ID.


If you are transporting a cat, be sure to use a pet carrier. And dogs should be leashed. When pets escape in unfamiliar areas they easily become frightened. Being lost in unfamiliar territory seriously decreases your pet's chances of returning home.

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