When Pets Go Missing

Social media has become the fastest way to get the word out, so post a photo and info quickly.

Katie Wilds remembers the fear and heartbreak she felt when her dog went missing.

Spirit, who has since passed away, wanted to visit Wilds’ brother. She twice slipped out of the house and tried to make the journey on foot.

“Panic just comes over you like wildfire. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world,” Wilds said, adding that pets are “not just a child but a best friend.”

Both times, she and Spirit were reunited.

Wilds now helps to reunite others with their missing pets. She’s an administrator of several local pet lost-and-found groups on Facebook, including a few she created.

“I’ve always had a passion for animals and helping them in anyway I can,” she said. “Once it became a trend with these pages, I had to do that. Sure enough, I did.”

Summer is a common time for a pet to go missing.

Pets, especially dogs, can be spooked by fireworks from Fourth of July festivities and take off. And kids running in and out of the house during summer break give animals new opportunities to escape, said Jackie Godbey, executive director of the Stark County Humane Society.

Pet owners should ensure that dogs are collared and wear tags with up-to-date contact information, just in case they get loose, Godbey said.

Ohio law requires that dogs are licensed -- which can help when a dog goes missing -- but there’s no such requirement for cats. Cat owners can make personalized cat tags with a name and contact information at pet stores or online, Godbey said, adding that cats should wear breakaway collars to avoid getting stuck or injured.

If you’re traveling with a pet or staying in a new location, you can attach a piece of white medical tape to the tag and write updated contact information, she said.

Microchips also are helpful but can’t be read until a pet is taken to a shelter or veterinarian, she added.

Pet owners also should keep recent photos of their pet. If the animal goes missing, you’ll have an accurate photo to use on social media posts or signs, Wilds said.

If your pet does go missing, the experts have some advice on how to be reunited:

Make a post on social media

Post a recent photo and any pertinent information about your pet on any social media platform you frequent, Godbey said.

ocial media has become the fastest way to get the word out, she said.

Facebook groups, like the ones administrated by Wilds, are easy ways to connect.

“It’s a great community. Everybody for the most part sticks together and we all try to help each other,” Wilds said.

Neighborhood groups are a great resource as most lost pets haven’t traveled too far, Godbey said.

The Humane Society also will share posts on their Facebook page. If someone doesn’t have social media, they can contact the Humane Society, which can make a post on their behalf, Godbey said.

The Stark County Sheriff’s Office Dog Warden Division has a webpage where folks can post lost or found pets at starkcountyohio.gov/dog-warden

Thanks to social media, the Humane Society has seen an uptick in people being reunited with pets, she said.

“Get as many posts out there as you can,” she said.

Work the phones

Give the Humane Society a call at 330-453-5529. Call the Dog Warden Division at 330-451-2343. The dog warden only handles lost dogs.

Be ready to describe the missing pet and give any important information.

You also should visit both locations in person to see if they have your pet in custody.

“Human error does happen. As much as we want to be perfect,” Godbey said.

The dog warden at 1801 Mahoning Road NE in Canton is open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Humane Society at 5100 Peach Street NE in Nimishillen Township is open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and weekends 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

You also can call local veterinary hospitals. If a pet is injured, someone will likely take to them to get care before contacting a shelter, Godbey said.

Try to work in a team. While one person is making social media posts and phone calls, the other can search for the missing pet, she said.

What if I find a missing pet?

If you find someone’s missing pet, take the same steps but in reverse, Godbey said.

Take a few photos of the found animal and make social media posts. You can take the animal to either the dog warden or the humane society, Godbey said.

When Wilds found a dog outside her home in Louisville, she posted photos on Facebook. Within a few hours, the owners contacted her.

Once she ensured they had proper documentation -- something Wilds stresses that everyone do -- the family was reunited.

“It was a really positive experience,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of good experiences finding the owners of pets who’ve run off.”

Reach Jessica at 330-580-8322 or jessica.holbrook@cantonrep.com

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