April 23 is National Lost Dog Awareness Day. In a perfect world, no pets would go missing, but, unfortunately, 10 million pets are reported lost or stolen in the U.S. every year, according to Mars Petcare.
To help keep pets safe and owners reunite with their missing furry friends faster, Haylee Bergeland (CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, RBT), Daily Paws' pet health and behavior editor, is offering her tips on what to do if your pet goes missing.
A great preventative measure to take to protect your pet from staying lost for long is getting them microchipped. This is a simple, safe, non-invasive procedure where a tiny microchip loaded with a pet owner's contact information is implanted under a pet's skin — often between the shoulder blades. This microchip, and the information it holds, can then be detected by a scanner used at vet offices and animal shelters, so if a missing pet gets picked up, their rescuers know where to return them.
"Microchipping is the safest way to find and keep your pets," Bergeland tells PEOPLE.
Of course, pet owners don't want to sit around and wait for their pets to be found and returned to them by someone else. Bergeland also has tips for what to do immediately after realizing you don't know where your pet is.
"Go to the places your pet knows," Bergeland says of what owners should do.
It is common for animals that get lost to seek out familiar and comfortable places. Visit your pet's favorite parks, playdate spots, and homes outside of your own. While you are driving or walking around these locations, Bergeland recommends talking to neighbors and others in the area to see if they have recently spotted a pet that matches your missing animal's description. Even if these individuals haven't seen your pet, now they know to look out for them.
It is also possible that Animal Control comes across your pet before you do or that a concerned animal lover might find your pet alone and bring them to a shelter. Call rescues and shelters local to you to see if they have received a pet that could be yours.
While you are out trying to locate your pet, Bergeland suggests having a friendly face stay at your home, in case your pet makes their way back while you are out.
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Taking all of these actions immediately after your pet goes missing can help you find your furry friend faster.
Additionally, this search isn't something you have to do alone. Familiarize yourself with sites like Paw Boost and local Facebook groups for lost and found pets. These resources can help you spread the word that your pet is missing, so others in your area can be on the lookout too.