Lost Pet Checklist

I found a lost pet – now what?

When you find a lost pet, sometimes it can be a challenge to reunite the animal with its owner. The steps below are the appropriate actions to take to find the owner and create a happy ending for the pet and its people!

  1. Approach with caution! Even though we want to help lost pets, they don’t always see it this way. Scared or injured pets are more likely to bite. Remember, you don’t know this animal’s health or vaccine status! Make sure to protect yourself first.
  2. Contain the animal. Place the animal on a leash, or move to a fenced yard. If you are comfortable moving the animal into your home or garage, this is also an option. If the animal won’t come close and you cannot contain it, contact animal control to give a description of the pet and the area that it was located.
  3. Check for collars and tags. Once you have the pet contained safely, check to see if the animal is wearing a collar or tags. Many owners will put a contact number directly on a collar or tag, and this is usually the best way to reunite the pet. Even if the pet does not have a tag with a phone number for the owner, they often wear a rabies tag. If you can still read the tag, try calling the vet clinic where the vaccine was given – the clinic can likely look up the pet by the tag number and help you get in contact with the owner.
  4. Check for a microchip. If there are no identifying collars or tags, take the pet to be scanned for a microchip. Any veterinary clinic can scan the pet for a chip. Veterinary emergency clinics can also scan for a microchip and they are open 24 hours a day. Microchips are not GPS trackers, so the chip has to be registered with the owner’s information to help you reunite the pet.
  5.  Post the lost pet. If you are able to keep the animal while searching for its owner, there are several places you can post the animal’s info. Many shelters will take lost and found pet reports, and if you call with a description they may be able to help you reunite the pet. You can also hang “found pet” posters in the area the dog was found. There are many groups on social media focused on reuniting pets – look for groups specific to your area when searching for them. The popular app “Nextdoor” is also an option for a post if the animal was found in your neighborhood.
  6. Relinquish to animal control or a shelter. Pets have the best chance at being reunited with owners through animal control or animal shelters. This is the first place that comes to mind to check for a lost pet for many people. Each shelter has different requirements for bringing in stray animals so be sure to call the shelter first for the best information on how to proceed.

Other helpful tips:

  • Although we all mean well, if a pet has a microchip they legally must be returned to the owner. Pets are considered property in the states of Kansas and Missouri, and if you keep the pet you could be charged with theft. If you suspect that the animal is in a bad situation, make a report with animal control.
  • If you find a cat with no identification, it is best to check in the direct area first. Many cats are allowed outdoors and may be close to home. Make sure this isn’t the case before removing them from the area.


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