Found a stray pet?
The owner of the pet you found may already be looking for them. Here’s how to help them find their way home.
- Check for ID. If there’s an ID tag, contact the owner immediately. If there’s no ID tag, take the animal to a local veterinary office, law enforcement agency or animal shelter to be scanned for a microchip.
- Check IowaPetAlert.com. Check the lost pet posts.
- Check FindingRover.com.
- Contact your local law enforcement agency. Lost pets have a better chance of being reunited with their owners if they are taken to the animal control agency in the area in which they were found. If you find a stray inside the city limits of Des Moines, please take the animal to ARL Animal Care & Control at 1615 SE 14th St. in Des Moines. If you find a stray elsewhere, check the "Who to Contact" list to determine which agency to call. If you think you live in an area without animal control services, call (515) 473-9102 to see if you are in an ARL service area.
- Post online and make fliers. If possible, take a photo of the pet and post fliers around the area where the pet was found. Be sure to also distribute the fliers to local veterinary clinics. You should also make posts online on Nextdoor, Craigslist, and on social media sites. If you have a Facebook account, search to see if your community has a Lost and Found group on Facebook to post in.
Finding a lost pet
These steps can help you locate your lost pet as quickly as possible.
- Spread the word and search. Tell your family, friends and neighbors, and search your neighborhood, calling for your pet. Post fliers throughout your neighborhood using a clear, up-to-date photo. Talk to mail carriers and neighborhood businesses. Offering a reward can also be helpful.
- Visit animal shelters and impound facilities. Personal visits are best, since facilities may be caring for hundreds of pets and may not be able to recognize your pet from a description over the phone. Bring a current photo of your pet, and make repeat visits if you do not find your pet. Call local veterinarians, as well, since your pet may have been taken to a vet if it is sick or hurt.
- Use online resources. Post your lost pet online at IowaPetAlert.com, Craigslist and Nextdoor.com (or on the Nextdoor app), and on social media sites. Check those sites continuously for found pets. You can also visit the Missing Pet Partnership site for additional tips and strategies.
- Notify your veterinarian and microchip company. Let them know your pet is missing, and confirm they have current contact information for you.
- Encourage your pet to return home. Place high-value food near doors they have gone in and out of. If possible, keep windows open so you can hear your pet’s cries if they return.
- Don’t give up. Some pets have been reunited with their families after a year or longer when their families continued efforts to find them.
When your pet is found, remember to take down any notices you’ve posted online and around your neighborhood.
Preventing lost pets
There are several steps you can take to keep your pets safe and reduce the likelihood that they’ll become lost or stolen.
- Have your pet microchipped. Microchips are an implanted form of identification equipped to access your contact information when scanned at an animal shelter or veterinary clinic. Remember to update your information with your microchip company and the shelter you adopted your pet from when you move. ARL Animal Care & Control offers walk-in microchipping several days a week.
- Make sure your pet is wearing a collar and ID tag. Studies show that pets with collars are more likely to be assisted by the public. If you need a collar or tag for your pet, we sell engraved ID tags and collars in our Animal House store. Be sure to include a current phone number on the tag.
- Spay/neuter your pet. It's not just about population. Studies have shown that spayed or neutered animals are less likely to roam.
- Keep your pets indoors, and supervise outside time. Keep your cats indoor-only. Indoor cats are safer and statistically live longer than outdoor cats. Dogs should never be outdoors unsupervised, even in a fenced yard. They can quickly dig under or climb/jump over fencing. Always leash your animals when outside, and keep them close to home and away from traffic, unfamiliar animals and those who may not concern themselves with your pet's best interests.
- Keep them safe when you're out and about. Always transport your cat in a carrier and have your dog on a leash. If your car windows are rolled down for your dog during the drive, make sure they are closed enough so the dog cannot jump out.
- Keep updated photos of your pets. Be sure to get close-ups as well as full-body photos in case you ever need to post "lost pet" fliers.