Spring 2012 Magazine

Cover Story

Internet Help for Lost and Found Pets

By Nancy Marano

We've all seen the posters tacked up on trees.


A picture of the animal looking happy, playing with its toys and generally enjoying life makes it even more heart wrenching to think of the pet trying to fend for itself in an often unfriendly world. According to estimates from the ASPCA, 10 million pets go missing every year.

In addition to the traditional posters, people now use computers and social media to get out the word about lost pets. This vastly increases the number of people who know an animal is lost and speeds up getting information to possible searchers.

Several women in New Mexico understand the agony a lost pet causes in a family so they use their time to help others find their lost pets.

Claudia Inoue and Mary Shepherd are two of these caring people in Santa Fe. In 2010, Inoue started the E-mail list lostdogalert@msn.com. Shepherd runs the website Santa Fe Lost and Found Pets. These lists are two approaches to the same problem. They function well together to get news about lost animals out to willing searchers in the Santa Fe area.

Inoue's email list currently goes to 247 people. This includes members from the Santa Fe and Espaņola shelters, local veterinarians and the emergency animal clinic. She searches Craig's List every day for lost or found animals in the Santa Fe area. Then she sends an email to those on her list giving information about these animals with a description and a picture if possible. She also is notified about lost pets by list members or people who've heard of her list.

"My email list is intended to make people aware of lost pets as they are out and about during their day. If they see a listing on my email in the morning then see an animal matching the description, they can call the shelter or animal control," Inoue said. "This list is enormously comforting to owners of lost pets. Just knowing their beloved pet's information was sent to so many people who care and will look for their pet makes them feel better."

Inoue began lostdogalert because of Jager, a 12-year-old dog, who was lost at the Santa Fe Ski Basin. A friend of hers saw him but no one knew he was lost. Everyone thought he belonged to someone else. Unfortunately, Jager was never reunited with his owners. Recently her list had a better result. Simon, a blue merle cardigan welsh corgi, appeared on Craig's List as lost in the Casa Solano area. Inoue posted it and quickly heard from one of her members.

Patti Rogoff responded saying, "Claudia I found Simon and he is back home with his owner. I'm so glad I checked my emails before I went out. My dog Willie alerted me to Simon in the bushes. He was scared and shaking. I had a leash with me so I climbed over a low wall and put the leash on him. Then I notified Craig's List and the owner picked up Simon."

This is a perfect example of what lostdogalert is designed to do. Inoue is sorry now that she named the list lostdogalert because she includes other animals as well. If you live in Santa Fe or the surrounding area, particularly north toward Tesuque and Espaņola, Inoue hopes you will sign up to be list members. Sign up by contacting her at: lostdogalert@msn.com.

The website Santa Fe Lost and Found Pets is a bulletin board of lost and found animals run by Shepherd and her sister. People fill out a form describing their lost pet and include a picture, if possible. These are put up on the bulletin board. There are direct links to organizations where a person can check whether their pet is listed, links to general resources on lost pets and tips for finding your pet. Shepherd is on the lostdogalert list so she puts the lost and found animals listed there up on her site immediately. To list an animal go to www.sflostpets.org.

When an animal gets lost in a rural area, it is difficult. A dog can cover many miles through the woods without anyone noticing him. And how do you paper all the trees with posters?

Joyce Lewis, founder of East Mountain Pet Alert, has deep empathy for people who lose their pets. She understands the grief and fear a person feels that something might happen to their animal. To help people better find their lost pets, Lewis started an email list similar to Inoue's. Currently she has 235 members on her list who receive an email whenever an animal is lost in the East Mountains. She also has a website similar to Shepherd's at www.eastmountainpetalert.org where she lists lost animals and posts their pictures with a description. The area covered by East Mountain Pet Alert reaches from Tajique north to Golden and Madrid and east to Moriarty and McIntosh.

As Lewis said, "The networking has been a terrific tool, but when serendipity is added, we have truly amazing stories."

One such story concerns Denver, a sheltie who was lost on November 17, 2011 in Placitas. He eventually found his way to the East Mountains where a caring couple picked him up and cared for him. On December 5, Lewis received an email and picture from the woman who sends out PetAlerts in her area about a found dog.

Denver's owner, Deborah Emrick, spent weeks looking for her dog and putting up posters in Placitas, Bernalillo and Albuquerque. On December 5, she went into Miller's Feed Store in Albuquerque. The owner gave her an Albuquerque Journal article on PetAlert. She immediately sent her dog's information and picture to PetAlert. Lewis contacted the PetAlert member in San Pedro Creek Estates and sent her the sheltie's picture and information. They juxtaposed the photos of the sheltie they had with Deborah's and sent a message saying, "Looks like we have a winner." Deborah and Denver enjoyed a happy reunion.

PetAlert is expanding their efforts. Genghis, a bloodhound owned by a PetAlert member, is being trained in trailing and obedience. This will expand PetAlert's ability to find lost pets wherever they are. They need safety equipment and liability insurance for the search teams and they are in the process of becoming a 501c3 nonprofit. If you want to volunteer to help PetAlert as part of a search team or in another way, contact Lewis at www.eastmountainpetalert.org.

Another form of search is available if a person has the money. Websites such as Findtoto.com and Lostmydoggie.com provide the equivalent of an Amber Alert for your lost pet. The service calls your neighbors to alert them about your animal and, depending on the package you choose, they will also call pet-related businesses in your area such as veterinarians, pet supply stores, and groomers. They send you professionally designed posters, too. These services definitely increase the number of people who know about your animal. Costs usually start about $60 and go up depending on the package you select.

Another option for finding a lost dog is a GPS sensor on the dog's collar. One such product is Tagg. They immediately email or text the owner when their dog wanders outside a designated safety zone. The charge for this service is $99.95, which includes a complimentary month of pet tracking. To find out more about this service, go to: www.pettracker.com.

There are some basic things everyone should do to protect their animals just in case the unthinkable happens and the animal runs away.

1. Microchip your animal. If your animal gets away, this is the first thing animal control or a veterinarian will check. If a chip is found, it will get the rescuer to the company who made the chip. They will contact you. Be sure you keep this information up-to-date if you move.
2. Make sure your animal has a collar with a current rabies tag and current ID tag attached.
3. Pet-proof your yard. Make sure animals can't jump over your fences or dig under them.
4. Keep gates securely locked.
5. Always transport a cat in a carrier. This minimizes the risk that your cat will slip away from you. A frightened cat will hide and not come to you.
6. Always leash your dog when taking it anywhere.
7. Get a good picture of your animal now.
8. Train your pet to associate good things with a dog whistle. You might be able to get your pet to come to you this way.

Losing a pet is awful. Feeling helpless and not knowing how to search for your pet is worse. Do not despair. Many people want to help you be reunited with your animal. Reach out to the people mentioned here for help. The Internet definitely is helping create many happy reunions between people and their pets.

PETroglyphs has started a new section in our Resource Directory titled "Lost & Found Animals." This section will provide links to groups in New Mexico and elsewhere where you can list or search for a lost or found pet. If you know of other services that do this, please let us know at nmarano@aol.com.

Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who is owned by three cats, Sammy, Callie and Max. Callie and Max are new additions to the family. She is a member of the Cat Writers' Association and Dog Writers of America.

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