What to do if you Find a Lost Pet

Most people are compassionate animal lovers. When they see a pet lost or in danger, they want to help reunite the animal with their family.


In the days before social media, it was not an easy process. You could put an ad in a newspaper, check for signs in your neighborhood and community bulletin boards and maybe put up a found pet flyer. Then you just had to hope that the owners would find you.

Technology has come a long way since then. When you find a lost pet, there are several steps you can take to increase the odds of seeing the animal returned home.


  1. Check the collar. If the animal has an identifying tag with the owner’s number, call right away.
  2. Take the animal to a local shelter or veterinarian to check for a microchip. Microchipping pets is becoming more and more popular, and the odds are good that the animal may have one. Unfortunately, owners do not always think to update their phone numbers and other information in the national registry.
  3. If neither of the above steps results in finding the owner, then it is time to take a good picture of the animal. Remember, please keep some information about the animal private. Examples are if an animal has scars, distinctive markings in one area, or perhaps even the sex. You want to make sure that anyone who claims the pet can identify something about the animal that is not visible on the picture.
  4. Use an app like FindShadow. If someone has lost a pet, apps like this one are the first place many owners turn. FindShadow also has a team of volunteers that scour social media and shelter websites for photos to help match missing and found animals. Take the best picture possible and upload it to the app.
  5. Let your neighbors know about the animal you have found. Word of mouth is often a great way to see a happy ending for lost pets.
  6. Use the power of social media. Post the picture of the animal both on your personal profile and in local lost and found groups.
  7. Contact area shelters to see if they have a missing pet report that matches the pet you have found.
  8. Put up a “Found Pet” Flyer with a picture of the animal.
  9. Keep your phone, and any messaging apps used as a contact nearby and check them frequently. Remember, whoever lost their pet is probably frantic and will want a response as soon as possible to know their animal is safe.
  10. Give it time. It is often difficult for those who find lost pets to keep them safe. They may live in a place that does not allow pets or have other animals that do not get along with the new animal. If you find yourself in this situation, try to find someone to safely foster the animal for a few days while you attempt to find the owners.

If you are unable to find someone to foster the animal, then contact a local rescue. Rescues are usually preferable to a local animal shelter as the animal will be kept in a less stressful environment. If you must turn the animal over to a shelter or rescue, please continue to search for the owners so that you can let them know the location of their pet.

If you are able to keep the pet with you and the owner does not turn up within five days, please consider taking the animal to a veterinarian for a wellness check. This helps to ensure that the animal is healthy and is a good opportunity for you to learn how to care for the animal.


Most lost pets are reunited with their owners. Unfortunately, after 5-7 days, you may need to consider if you are able and willing to take responsibility for caring for the pet. If you cannot care for the pet yourself, then please work with friends, family, neighbors, or a reputable rescue to home the animal. During this time, remember to keep updating lost and found sites, social media, and apps like FindShadow.

Some people are not equipped to care for animals. Even more disturbing, some people seek to use animals for nefarious purposes like breeding, fighting, or as “bait animals.” If you must re-home a found pet, please be responsible for your choice of finding a new home. Do not put up an ad offering the animal for free without any way to check the home or the potential owner’s intentions.