Losing a pet is terrifying. Whether it's a dog, cat, bird, pig, goat (hey, people keep all sorts of animals as pets these days), it's always scary when that pet gets out or runs off.
Luckily, St. Louis is full of animal lovers; we are the ninth best city in the U.S. for dog owners, after all. Angela Smith, communications manager for STL Lost Pets, says she knows people -- she calls them "lost pet angels" -- who spend their free time matching lost-dog reports from the site with found-pet reports spread across the Internet.
"There are people on our page who are just Good Samaritans," Smith tells Daily RFT. "I swear they spend all day matching lost reports. There are people who are just really committed to that. If we had the time to cross-examine every report, we would do it all day long."
If you know what you're doing and have access to an Internet connection, you too can harness the power of the local organizations, volunteers and connections who can reunite you with your pet. Here are ten tips for finding your lost pet using St. Louis' community of pet lovers and animal organizations.
1. Get your pet microchipped.
Yes, we know, this is a worthless first step if your pet is already missing. If you're frantically searching for a pet, skip to No. 2. If your pet is safe and sound, consider getting your pet implanted with a microchip.
"If that animal is microchipped, that is going to make the whole process expedited," Smith says.
2. Talk to your neighbors, mail carrier, meter reader, stoop snooper and anyone else on your block.
Keep it local. Pets usually stay within a mile of home, so ask neighbors and people who travel around the neighborhood to keep an eye out. Ask around.
3. Make posters and put them up in your neighborhood.
Again, start local. Put posters up on your street, then work your way out into the neighborhood. In this digital age it may be tempting to start by launching a Facebook page or hashtag campaign for your lost pet, but Smith says a physical flyer is still the best first step.
"The sweet little lady on your street with a lot of cats isn't going to be on the Internet," but she may be the one taking care of your lost pet, Smith says.
4. Contact your local animal control.
It's one of the first places your pet will end up if it's found. Start there.
5. File a description with STL Lost Pets.
Three of St. Louis' main animal organizations use STL Lost Pets to keep track of missing pets. That means when you report your lost pet to STL Lost Pets, the report also goes to the Animal Protective Association, St. Louis County Animal Care and Control, and the Humane Society of Missouri. Ninety percent of lost, stray and unwanted pets in St. Louis end up in one of those three agencies. Plus, the "Lost Pet Angels" will use your reports to cross-reference found pets across the Internet. (More on this next.) You can resubmit every 30 days.
6. Share your lost pet's photo and description online.
There are lots of places to post notice about your lost pet, including Craigslist, Reddit, and many Facebook groups dedicated to missing pets. Some neighborhoods have their own Facebook pages, where you can alert neighbors who may notice a status update before they see your posters.
Get as detailed as possible in your description, especially if your pet has any special needs or conditions.
7. DO NOT SPAM the websites from tip No. 6 with updates about your missing pet.
Unless you want admins on Facebook to delete your posts or block you from your own neighborhood group, be considerate when posting about your lost pet. We know that's hard to do when you're scared and upset and searching, but posting constant photos and messages online will only cause your friends and neighbors to tune you out.
Smith offers some sage advice when it comes to sharing without oversharing. She suggests focusing on lost-pet sites because the online communities there are looking for lost pets. "Put the information where people want it," Smith says.
8. Tour the shelters once a week or more.
Let local animal shelters know you're looking for your lost pet, and you can arrange to come for a quick walk-through every few days.
These organizations aren't connected to the STL Lost Pets network, but they are on the front lines of caring for stray animals. If your pet is still missing, check to make sure they didn't pick it up.
Smith adds, "If you live in St. Louis City, give Stray Rescue or Animal House a call. City and county residents should also contact their local animal control right away to check for their pet. Also check with any other shelters nearby."
STL Lost Pets spreads the word about your pet over social media. Instead of bombarding your friends with frantic messages about your pet, ask them to retweet or share posts from STL Lost Pets so the posts have as far a reach as possible.