Finding Fido: Reduce the Stress Level by Having a Game Plan for the Upcoming Disaster Season

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San Diego, CA (June 2013) – Sadly, over 10 million pets are lost every year and many are not returned to their loving parents for a variety of reasons. Pets often flee when spooked by a disaster or loud noise and with the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma, fires in California and the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, Petco wants to ensure no pet parent faces the tragedy of losing a pet forever. Below are tips to prevent pets from getting lost and advice on how to find them should the situation occur.

According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), less than two percent of cats and only 15 percent of dogs are returned to their owners when they become lost. To keep the family pet from adding to that statistic this summer, there are a few simple things one can do to keep Fido or Fluffy safe at home.

Be Prepared: More pets are lost on July 4th than any other holiday and much of this is due to pets becoming spooked by the loud noises of fireworks. As numerous summer celebrations get underway, be sure to check the surroundings to see if there are any red flags that may cause a pet to get loose. Summer parties may mean guests leave doors or gates open and crowds may cause animals to run away and hide. Loud booms and natural disasters can scare even the most laid back pet. Caring for a pet’s emotional health and providing them a safe place to get away from the noise can help ensure they don’t bolt at the first signs of stress. Knowing what triggers may cause a pet to run prior to it happening will help pet parents prepare for everything, even in an emergency situation. Once these are identified, take precautions to prevent a potential disaster. 

Be Aware of Theft:  According to Last Chance for Animals, over two million dogs were victims of pet theft last year alone. To avoid pets falling victim to such a horrible crime, treat them as a small child. Never leave a pet alone in a car or tied up outside. It only takes a second for a pet to be stolen. Similar to other lost pet situations, having up-to-date tags, as well as having the dog microchipped is very important to their safe return.

Leave no Man (or Pet) Behind: Although pets may be left alone during the day while a pet parent is at work, never leave a pet alone for an exorbitant amount of time. If pets must be left alone, leave them a toy or, better yet, a puzzle game to keep them mentally stimulated. Bored pets tend to look for items to curb their curiosity and can lead to exploring outdoors. To prevent pets from getting out, check to make sure fences and other barriers in the backyard are secure. Also, it’s smart to check locks on small animal and reptile enclosures to prevent these critters from accidentally escaping. Make sure dogs are always on a leash and never leave them outside a shop or in unfamiliar surroundings. The dog could easily slip through his or her collar or chew through the leash, especially if they are nervous and left in a strange environment. This is particularly true in an emergency. Pets left alone may venture out in search of food, social companionship or refuge and can become easily lost. If you must leave a pet during an emergency, ensure cat and dogs have enough water for at least a week. The same goes for small animals, reptiles and birds. Don’t feed fish, as this will cause water to become dirty and phosphates will become high. Instead prepare for an emergency with a battery operated air pump that can operate if the power is out. Leave a note on the front door with how many animals are inside the house, as this helps with the rescue effort.

Get Identified:  Without ID, 90 percent of lost pets never return home. Ensuring proper identification is securely fastened to them is vital to a pet’s safe return. It’s important to always list a cell phone number on a pet’s tag, as this can help greatly if a pet parent is traveling or if a family is evacuated during an emergency. Be sure the pet has a good collar that can’t slip off, thus taking the tags with it. Regularly check the fit of the collar to make sure it hasn’t loosened up. Pet parents should also microchip pets because it can greatly increase the chances of that pet being found. For example, a cat that is microchipped has a return-to-owner rate that is 20 times higher than if the cat was not.

Travel Safe: Although most pets love to go just about anywhere with their family, some can become anxious when traveling. A nervous dog will become spooked and run more easily. Before opening a door, take extra care to ensure a pet doesn’t bolt due to excitement or nervousness. Ensuring pets are properly buckled in with an auto safety harness also helps keep them secure not only while traveling in a car, but when the car stops as well. Traveling with a familiar blanket or toy can also keep pets emotionally happy and secure. Whether flying or driving, be sure contact information is not only on a pet’s collar, but on a crate or carrier as well. Check the crate or carrier’s latches to ensure they are secure and tight. If a bolt is lose, tighten it or purchase a new container so there is no chance of a pet getting out.

So what is one to do if the unthinkable happens and the pet goes missing? Follow these steps to increase the chances a pet gets back home safely:

Get to Work Immediately: The first 24 hours are key in finding a lost pet. Start searching immediately after someone notices the pet is gone. Check favorite hiding places, sources of food and familiar neighborhoods, as these are the most likely places a pet will end up. Bringing a treat or a pet’s favorite squeaky toy on the search may also help coax a pet to the pet parent if they are lost. Hearing and smelling familiar sights and sounds is comforting to a lost pet and may help in their return.  Walk your neighborhood, tell your neighbors that you have lost your dog. When first out, dogs will typically stay in the area around your home before wandering out further.

Get on the Phone: Call local shelters, veterinarians and even the police department or animal control, grooming salons, and pet retailers to let them know a pet is missing. They often have a large network of contacts who can help with the search. Also, it’s important to make sure someone is by the phone listed on the pet’s ID tags, preferably a cell phone. Turn the ringer on at a high volume so no call is missed.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Having a recent photograph of the pet can make a world of difference. Not only can this photo help assist the pet parent when explaining what a missing pet looks like, but it can also be used on posters. When making a poster, be sure to include a cell phone number and a description of where the pet was last seen. Post it on local community bulletin boards, including dog parks and even grocery stores. Handing out some posters to friends, family and even the local postal carrier can help spread the word quickly.

Get Social: Social media can be a pet parent’s best friend in a dire situation. Post photos to local shelter groups’ Facebook page, Tweet out images of the lost pet and ask other pet lovers to share. Posting to major pet-friendly social media sites, like Petco’s Facebook page can also be helpful.

Be Patient: Some of the most miraculous pet rescue stories have reunited pets with their families months after the pet first went missing. Keep visiting local shelters and dogs parks with a photo of the pet. Pets have amazing abilities to recognize familiar surroundings and one may never know when they will turn up at home.

What if Disaster Strikes? In the wake of the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma, the Petco Foundation is actively working with local shelters to provide them with much needed resources. If your family has been displaced by this emergency and need a place to take your pet, please contact the following rescue organizations for help:

  • Animal Resource Center at 405-604-2892 or go to www.arcokc.org. They are currently accepting animals for temporary boarding as well as strays.
  • Moore Animal Shelter at 405-793-5190. They are currently taking strays in at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds located in Norman, OK.

In addition, those in the Moore, OK area who would like to help can visit their local Petco store to donate staple pet supplies like food at the in-store donation bins. All donations received will be dispersed to local animal shelters in need.

For more information on preventing and finding lost pets visit: www.petco.com/wholepets.

About Petco

Petco is a leading pet specialty retailer that provides the products, services and advice that make it easier for our customers to be great pet parents. Everything we do is guided by our vision for Healthier Pets. Happier People. Better World. We operate more than 1,200 stores nationwide and in Puerto Rico, including more than 50 Unleashed by Petco locations, a smaller format neighborhood shop, and www.petco.com.  The Petco Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization, has raised more than $110 million since it was created in 1999 to help promote and improve the welfare of companion animals. In conjunction with the Foundation, we work with and support thousands of local animal welfare groups across the country and, through in-store adoption events, help find homes for more than 350,000 animals every year.

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