Lost and Found Pets


If you have found a stray pet, lost a pet or have an animal control issue, please contact your local law enforcement agency. Lost pets have a better chance of being reunited with their owners when they are turned in to the animal control agency in the area where found, and it also allows the ARL more space for the hundreds of pets already in our care each day. The owner of the pet you found may already be looking for them. You can check the "lost" posts on the IA Pet Alert site. Click here to start your search.

If you find a stray inside the City of Des Moines, please take the animal to the Animal Care and Control Center at 1615 SE 14th Street in Des Moines.

If you think you live in an area without animal control services, please call (515) 473-9102 to see if you are in an ARL service area. If so, you may bring found strays to the ARL's main shelter at 5452 NE 22nd St., Des Moines, Iowa, on Mondays through Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. or from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Next Steps:

The ARL lists all stray pets that are brought to us on IowaPetAlert.com and encourages people who have lost their pets to walk through our stray rooms to see if they are there. If the pet is not claimed after the “stray hold time” (typically 5-10 days depending on the city they were found), they are then placed into our adoption program.

If you find a stray pet that you are interested in adopting, you are still encouraged to bring the pet to the ARL during its stray hold time and we’ll place an “Interested Adopter” tag with the animal. If they are not reclaimed, we will contact you to move forward with the adoption.

Pets have a better chance of being reunited with their owners when the lost & found pet process is followed.


Losing a pet is the worst fear of most pet guardians. If you have found a pet or lost a pet, the following information can help you reunite lost pets with their families. Pets can travel a great distance very fast - either on their own or with human intervention. Therefore, owners of missing pets should initially extend their search to at least a 50-mile radius. Pet owners should persist in efforts to locate their companion animals. The following are some tips for finding your lost pet:

Search. Walk and drive through the neighborhood looking for and calling your pet. Talk to neighbors and anyone who might have been working the area, such as a mail carrier. Check parks, schools and other homes. If your pet is frightened or injured, it may be hiding. Cat owners should check under cars and in trees. Bring a flashlight when looking for your pet, even during the day, you will find yourself peering into dark spaces such as garages, trash bins, etc. If your pet is injured, they are likely to hide in a dark space. Make noise as you walk around the area. Did you know that your pet's ears will perk up at the sound of your voice, even from a long distance! Remember to stop and listen for their reply. Bring your pet's favorite squeaky toy or bag of treats and squeak or shake them to make familiar noises for your pet.

Visit. Repeatedly visit all area animal shelters, animal impoundment facilities and animal welfare organizations within at least a 50-mile radius. Personal visits are recommended since shelters handle thousands of pets and may very easily fail to recognize a stray from a description reported. It is not unheard of for an animal to show up in an animal shelter as much as a year later, but most shelter personnel do not keep checking lost reports that long unless the owner continues to follow up. Be sure to bring a photo of your lost pet with you to provide to the shelter. Note the contact information for area shelters below.

Check Around. Continuously check "found pet" ads in the local paper and online at IA Pet Alert and Craigslist. Call local veterinarians. Someone may have taken your animal to a veterinarian if it is sick or hurt. Call boarding kennels. Some animal welfare organizations house strays in boarding kennels if they have no shelter space and no available foster homes. Search the lost and found pets database.

Promote. Post flyers in as many places as possible - including at the homes of your neighbors - and place ads in local newspapers, providing a picture and general description of your pet, the area where the pet was lost and your phone number. Post online at IA Pet Alert, Craigslist, and Nextdoor.com (also an app). Nextdoor.com is a private social network that allows you to post and notify people in your local community. It helps to have extras eyes looking in your neighborhood, as many times, animals have only wandered a few blocks away. Offer a reward and be sure to notify neighborhood children and mail carriers.

Return. Encourage your pet to return to your home. Cats like to return home under the cover of night. They will usually return to the same door/window where they escaped. Turn off all exterior lights at night and place a high-value food outside (tuna, canned cat food, etc.). For dogs, also place high-value food near the door they usually go in and out of. If possible, keep your windows open so you can hear your pet's cries when they return. If you see the food has been eaten, but your pet is still nowhere to be found, don't get discouraged. Often times they will eat it several nights before they stay long enough for you to know they are there. Also, neighborhood pets or raccoons could be eating the food. If the food is gone but the animal hasn't returned, you can get a "live trap" to put the food in next time. The door will close one the pet enters the trap so they will be there when you check in the morning. IMPORTANT: Do not ever leave a live trap unattended. Traps should be checked every 12 hours to ensure the safety of any animal who may be trapped inside.

Update. Don't forget to update everyone when your pet has returned. Every place you called, every lost report you filed, and every reward poster you placed, should now be updated to let them know your pet has been found. This will help find other pets by not having your flyer still in the mix. Plus - we all love to share in the good news too!

If there are indications your pet was stolen, immediately contact Action 81 (Route 3, Box 6000, Berryville, VA 22611, 703/955-1278). Chartered to prevent and expose the thefts of dogs and cats, Action 81 serves as a national clearinghouse of dog and cat theft information with a contact in every state.

Hours to look for your lost pet at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL), 5452 NE 22nd St, Des Moines are:
Monday-Friday, 9:30 am-7:00 pm or Saturday-Sunday, 9:30 am-6:00 pm.

Here are some other places to check for your missing pet...

Altoona: 967-5132 or 967-5131 (required hold time is 3 days)
Ankeny: 289-5240, Police Department brings to the ARL (required hold time is 7 days)
Ames: 231-1080 or 231-5530 pick up is by Animal Control (required hold time is 7 days)
Carlisle: Local Police Department (required hold time is 7 days)
Centerville: 641-895-0098
Clive: 222-3321
Des Moines: 1615 SE 14th Street, Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-5:00 pm. Saturday & Sunday 10:30 am-3:30 pm. You must do a walk-through of the shelter. No phone calls, please (required hold time is 5 days without identification and 7 days with identification).
Indianola: Local Police Department (required hold time is 3 days)
Kiya Koda Humane Society: 961-7080 (required hold time is 3 days)
Johnston: 278-0822 (day), 278-2345 (evening).
Mitchellville: 967-2935
Norwalk: 981-0666 Police Department brings to ARL (required hold time is 7 days)
Pleasant Hill: 208-5220 (required hold time is 7 days)
Plesantville: 848-3112
Polk City: 984-6565 Local Police Department (required hold time is 7 days)
Polk County Animal Control: Brings animals to the ARL Main Shelter (required hold time is 7 days)
Urbandale: 222-3321, 278-3911 (required hold time is 3 days without identification, 7 days with ID)
West Des Moines: 222-3321 (required hold time is 4 days without identification, 7 days with identification)
WIndsor Heights: City Hall (all day), 286-3632 Polk County Sheriff (evening), (required hold time is 7 days)
Outside Polk County: Local Police Departments

*Note: Alleman, Bondurant, Elkhart, Grimes and Runnells all contract with Polk County.

Most importantly, don't give up. Some pets have been reunited with their families after a year or longer when extensive and continuing efforts were made.

For more tips and strategies on how to find your lost pet, visit the Missing Pet Partnership page.


The best way to protect your pet is to ensure they always have current identification. If your four-legged friend is determined to break free, there are some things you can do to make the reunion a lot quicker...such as:

Spay/Neuter! It's not just about population. Pets tend to run off if they're in heat or they sense another animal in heat.

Supervise Your Dog's Outside Time. Keep fence gates securely locked. Never allow your dog to be outside while unsupervised. Even with a fenced yard, they can quickly dig under the fence, climb/jump over the fence, or escape through a gate if opened by the wind, or even a neighborhood kid.

Stay Home; Don't Roam! Keep your pets indoors! Cats should be indoor-only and dogs should only be allowed outside in a fenced yard or on a leash - and always under supervision! Not only is it illegal to let your pets roam the neighborhood, statistically they will have 1/3 of a lifespan as indoor-only pets. Also, make sure you watch your pets when you're entering and exiting the house. Occasionally they will get a wild hair and make a dash for the door!

Secure Transportation. Always transport your cat in a carrier - All it takes is a car backfiring down the road or some other loud noise, and your cat will bolt to the nearest hiding place! Likewise, always transport your dog with a leash - If he's not in your home or a fenced in yard, grab the leash! If you unroll the car windows for your dog during the drive, make sure they are closed enough so the dog cannot jump out - some dogs will jump out when the car has stopped, but some will even jump out while the car is moving!

Photos! Keep updated photos of your pet - Be sure to get close ups of your pets as well as full body photos, so you will have detailed photos of your pets. This will prove valuable if you ever need to post "lost" ads online or with your local shelter. You'll also want them for missing/reward posters.

Microchip. The first thing a shelter will do when a missing pet is brought to them is scan it for a microchip. The chip has a code, unique to your pet and upon calling the chip company, the shelter can get your contact information and reunite you with your missing loved one. Don't forget to update your information with the microchip company and the shelter you adopted your pet from when you move! The ARL offers low-cost microchipping for cats, dogs, & bunnies at ARL Animal Care & Control (1615 SE 14th Street in Des Moines) every Tuesday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. - no appointment needed! Microchips are $35 per pet or $10 per pet for those on any city, county, state, or federal assistance program (must show proof).

ID Me. Make sure your cats and dogs have collars with a tag that has your phone number on it. Studies show that pets with collars are more likely to be assisted by the public when roaming because they appear to be lost versus just a stray. Additionally, if a Good Samaritan were to catch your missing pet, they can easily and quickly reunite you with your pet versus taking them to a shelter. The ARL collects donated collars through the ID ME campaign to be given out to the owners of reclaimed pets or at the request of those in need. If you have a collar you would like to donate, please visit any ARL location. The ARL also sells engraved ID tags and dog collars. We also sell "breakaway" cat collars that are fastened with Velcro versus a buckle.


If your house cat slips out a door or falls out a window when a screen pops out – here are things you can do to bring your cat safely back home.

First, it is important to remember that most escaped house cats stay around their own yard and close to their house. Many people see their cats run out the door and assume they kept on running, that is typically not the case.

Panicked cats typically will stay alongside the house for comfort; look under decks, bushes, open garage, etc. You may think that your cat will come out when he sees you, but that isn’t always the case. Some cats can be scared and stressed finding themselves in the great outdoors so they will hide even when they see you.

  1. Look all over your yard and house. Be sure and look up in case your cat climbed a tree in the yard.
  2. Notify your neighbors. Tell them your cat is missing and ask permission to look around their yard and in their garage. Provide them with a photo and ask them to keep their eyes open and give them your phone number to notify you right away if they see your cat. Ask your neighbors to let their children know about the missing cat so they can keep their eyes open when they are outside playing. Offer a reward to the parents if their kids find your cat.
  3. Check under the hood of your car and get permission from your neighbors to check under their car hoods.
  4. Make flyers with photos. Post them around the neighborhood (3-5 block radius; and put the flyers in Ziploc bags so they stay dry and legible in the case of inclement weather); indicate that you are posting a REWARD for anyone that finds your cat.
  5. Notify your local shelters, animal control agencies and law enforcement – give them posters and make a report so they are aware you are looking for your cat. Make sure they know that you want to know if they find your cat, dead or alive.
  6. Go to the closest veterinarian offices and emergency clinics and give them a flyer. Someone may have found your cat injured and taken him into the closest clinic for medical attention.
  7. Post online using any ‘lost pet’ services that you are missing your cat; offer a reward. Remember to check the ‘found pet’ ads on these sites in case someone found your cat and posted an ad. Iowa Pet Alert is an important one to post on.
  8. In case someone who finds your cat is not an ‘online person’ – put a ‘lost pet’ advertisement in the local newspaper and have it run for at least two weeks.
  9. Get humane traps and set them around your yard and in your garage (leave your garage door open a crack). Put food in the trap that your cat usually eats. Put a camera on the trap so you can see if the cat is coming around the trap; wildlife cameras work well for this.
  10.  If you have another cat in the home, place a litterbox that has been used, close to the door of your house, so that the cat can smell his other cat housemates.
  11.  Use a Baby Monitor by a food bowl on your porch/by your door. You may then be able to hear your cat meowing by the food so that you can go check for your cat.

Don’t give up. We know of many cases where the cat was gone for days; only to return eventually. Keep on it. It can be tiring, but exhaust all avenues and tips for finding your cat and then continue to stay on it.