Keep current photos of your pet, and should anything happen you can post “lost” pictures of it.
Have you ever called your dog or cat’s name and they haven’t come to you? It is the feeling that chills every pet owner’s heart. You may face an open gate, a slipped leash or an empty yard. Your pet could be anywhere except where they belong: at home with you. The sooner you start looking for them, the better the chance of a successful reunion.

Losing a pet can happen to anyone, even if you are a responsible owner. But, you never know when a family member or garden service may leave the gate open.

A good idea is to keep current photos of your pet, and should anything happen you can post “lost” pictures of it.

Don’t underestimate being neighbourly and friendly when out walking your dog. Introduce yourself and your dog to your neighbours. If your dog does run off down the road your neighbours should recognise them and call you.

Training is vital. It is your responsibility to train your pet not to roam and annoy neighbours.

Training must start early, which will make it easier. When you teach your pet recall, have plenty of tasty treats and give lots of praise. If your pet does run out the gate but does come back, remember to reward them for coming back and don’t punish them for running away.

Training schools and puppy classes help with socialisation.

Pets go missing for different reasons. They can travel too far from home and not know the way home. Many pets are fearful of loud noises, such as thunder, gun shots and fireworks, so they obey their inbuilt flight instinct. Unsterilised pets may venture off on a wanderlust journey that may take them a few blocks or even many kilometres from home.

Keeping the dog away from open gates, using a secure collar and lead, teaching them to sit and wait while you greet guests, are all measures that will help but there is no guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen. Radio fences that work as transmitters to a receiver collar that the pet wears can be quite effective.

You can do plenty to increase the chances of finding a lost pet by having the right identification.

Pet ID includes microchips, collars and tags and tattoos.

A microchip is an inert glass the size of a grain of rice containing a bar code. This is implanted under the pet’s skin with an injection. The insertion of the chip is painless and requires no anaesthetic.

This chip can be scanned and the bar code is matched on a database with the owner’s details. If your pet already has a chip get your vet to check that it functions and that your personal contact details are correct.

You’ve heard this before but it is worth repeating: your pet should always wear a collar and tag! The tag should be readable and have your contact phone number.

Tattoos are rarely used these days but some breeds have a number tattooed in their ear that can be traced through the breed’s federation.

What to do if your pet goes missing? Make a lost poster with a recent colour picture of your pet. Include a full description of your pet and where the pet went missing. Add your contact details - give at least two numbers. It does help to offer a reward.

E-mail this poster to local vets, rescue organisations and security companies in your area. Put it up at the local shops and, if possible, on lampposts. Post your lost pet on Facebook or use either of these websites to post your pets details: www.petslostandfound.co.za and www.petfinders.co.za

What to do if you find a stray. Approach the pet calmly and in a friendly manner. Try to ascertain if it is friendly or aggressive. If it is a dog, try to loop a leash around its neck or try to tempt small dogs and cats into a box or basket.

If the pet is injured, be very careful handling them as they are more likely to bite or scratch when in pain.

If the pet is dead at the side of the road and you are brave enough to pick them up, please do take them to a local vet who may be able to trace the owner and at least give them a dignified cremation.

If the pet has a tag, contact the owners. If there is no tag, take the pet to your local vet or rescue organisation so they can scan it for a chip.

Every veterinary practice is obligated to take in and treat injured strays. For many practices healthy strays cause problems and you may be asked if you can take the pet home with you or to a rescue organisation.

Remember this pet is probably someone’s beloved baby. Do not take the pet into your home to keep. Think lost, not homeless!

Try to trace the owner: phone vets, rescue groups and check websites and Facebook. Put up “found” posters and question people in the area.