Animal shelters, sometimes called pounds, keep the loose and unwanted pet population down in cities and residential areas. If you think your pet has been picked up by your local animal shelter, you need to go through a basic process of notifying the shelter and having them check for your pet.
Contact the Animal Shelter
The simple and straightforward approach tends to work the best when it comes to contacting animal shelters:
- Make a list of all the shelters in your area, and get the phone numbers and addresses for them.
- Prepare a description of your pet that includes his color, markings, gender, age and any distinctive traits that would set your pet apart from a crowd. If possible, choose a good picture of your pet and print out multiple copies of it. Get a copy of the picture for every animal shelter on your list.
- Call the animal shelter and describe your lost pet to them. The more information you can provide about your pet, the easier it will be for a shelter employee or volunteer to recognize them based on your description.
- Go down to your animal shelter and physically look for your pet. Shelter personnel have a lot of animals to care for, and they may not automatically recognize your pet based on your verbal description. If you want to be sure that your pet isn't at the shelter, you need to look for yourself.
- File a lost pet report with your shelter. This paperwork will help make sure that shelter employees can identify your pet if he is brought in after your visit.
- Check back with your shelter every day. Some shelters only hold stray animals for a very short period of time and you do not want your pet to slip through the cracks of the system.
A number of areas have multiple animal shelters. For example, it's not uncommon for larger towns and cities to have a shelter for the city itself and then another shelter for each county. Smaller pet rescues and humane societies may also take in lost or stray pets. You need to check all of these organizations in your area for your lost pet.
Animal shelters, especially ones that are run by cities and counties, aren't usually on the forefront of technology. You may be able to look them up online and check their website to see if your pet has been brought in, but it tends to be more effective to call the animal shelter or visit in person. You cannot trust that your dog is not at the shelter just because he hasn't been posted on its website.
Some shelters will only hold pets for three business days before they euthanize them. You have to be extremely vigilant in checking for your missing dog if you believe he could be at the shelter.
Reclaiming Your Pet
You can expect to have to provide proof of ownership if you want to reclaim your pet from the animal shelter. Veterinary records, photographs of the pet and any dog licenses that you may have been issued by the county or city should be adequate proof of ownership, but it never hurts to call and ask your local shelter what you will need to bring with you to reclaim your pet.
Some shelters may charge you a fee to reclaim your pet or charge you for the cost of boarding the pet. If your pet is being held due to legal issues, such as animal neglect or if the dog has bitten someone, you may not be able reclaim the animal.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.