How to Help When Pets Go Missing

Whatever you do, don’t chase a pet who is lost because chances are high they’ll run from you.

Lost animals are often trapped by rescue groups to reunite them with their humans. By: wallboat

If you are lucky, you live in an area that has plenty of support for pets who are lost, missing or in trouble of any kind. For example, there are several groups in Massachusetts and on Cape Cod that work entirely off of volunteer power and are largely responsible for many missing or lost pets making it back home safely.

These groups often have systems established that were set in place after a lot of trial-and-effort volunteer work. Sometimes, though, they run into trouble when well-meaning individuals interfere with rescue efforts.

What should you do if you encounter what looks like a pet either in a trap or out on the loose? How can you connect with your local support groups to be a part of the solution? Let’s take a look at exactly that.


Most rescue groups use a variety of traps to capture shy, anxious or otherwise difficult-to-capture lost pets. These humane traps are set, baited and monitored by volunteers or members of those specific organizations.

If you encounter a trapped animal, please do the following:

  1. Call your local police department or animal control officer.
  2. Look for any identifying tags on the trap indicating who may have set it and if there is a number to call. If there is, call that number.

Never release the animal from the trap. Allow local animal control officers or rescue group members who have been involved with the capture to make that decision. Here’s why:

  • On Dec. 13, 2017, at approximately 11:30 p.m., a dog named Chewy who had been on the loose for 6 months was finally trapped in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
  • A member of the rescue group responsible was monitoring the trap via video, saw the capture and immediately started out to retrieve Chewy.
  • While she was a mere 3 minutes away, and although the traps are clearly marked with the rescue organization’s information, an unknown woman came along and released Chewy.
  • At the time this article is being published, Chewy has yet to be recaptured.
Here’s the Facebook post detailing Chewy’s premature release. By: Missing Dogs Massachusetts
  • It is the hope that the unknown woman thought she was doing a good deed. However, with the subzero temperatures that have moved into the region, Chewy’s situation does not look good.

The moral of the story here is to leave traps alone. Also, you have no idea what that animal is capable of — they may attack you. For the safety of the animal and your own personal safety, leave traps alone and make calls instead.


It’s almost impossible to resist the desire to help an animal you see wandering down the side of the road. You just want to get them to safety and back to their families, but chasing them is the worst thing you can do.

“The most important rule to understand when the lost dog you are looking for is sighted is not to chase,” advises Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. “By chasing the dog — even a dog you know — you scare it away from familiar ground. A lost dog is in flight mode — if they don’t respond and come to your voice, chasing the dog will only make matters worse.”

Missing Dogs Massachusetts agrees: “When a dog is lost and in flight mode, its brain does not slow down long enough to recognize that the ‘scary noise’ that it hears belongs to its beloved owner or companion. We have seen many a lost dog run when called to, even by his/her parent.”

Dogs, cats and other animals that are lost or loose are in flight mode. They’re unlikely to return to their person and in most case are definitely not going to come up to a stranger. What they will do is run.

So never chase a lost pet. If you spot an animal who looks like it could be a missing pet, go online and check local rescue groups to see if there is an animal who matches the description. You can also contact your local animal control to see if anyone has reported a lost pet.

Never chase an animal who is lost — they’ll likely just run from you. By: nick fullerton

How to Help

Not to worry — there are many ways you can help missing or lost pets make it back home.

Take note of any animals you see. Try to get a photo if you can — if that’s not an option, jot down some descriptive characteristics. Note where you see the animal and what time. With this information, contact your local police department and/or animal control. You can also go on social media and look for local rescue groups and post the information. You may even stumble across a post about a lost pet who matches the pet you saw.

If you safely capture a pet — say for example, a cat comes into your house — keep the animal safe and warm while you contact local authorities. If you can’t keep the animal in your home (no shame or blame in it), perhaps either animal control or a local shelter can hang on to the animal while their humans are located.

Information is more valuable than gold when it comes to missing and lost pets. Even just sightings can give people hope and help authorities narrow down search areas, making it that much more likely that an animal will make it home safely.