Lost Dogs in the USA

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While out walking, dogs can wander off. Try to remain calm. They usually retrace their route back to where they left you but you could well have moved on. If a dog has visited the area before it usually knows the route home so it will often return home or to your car before you unless someone intercepts it.

If your dog has been missing for more than 12 hours you need to start checking with the Police, Dog Warden, vets and rescue organizations. Be prepared to provide a license number, name and description.


You may have only 72 hours to find your dog before it is put up for re-homing or destroyed.

If you trace your dog after that time for example in a rescue center it is usually cheaper to adopt the dog since the fines will total more than the rescue are asking for it.


Because many of these numbers are police emergency numbers, keep the call short. Give time and place lost, breed, color, sex, size, age, and any type of identification. Be sure to call back if you find your dog. Visit them several times at different times of the day. If your dog has been found and reported to them you may need to talk to the person that it was reported to who may only be there at a certain time of day.

The police usually only keep the dogs a few hours before passing it on to a local Dog Warden or Rescue organisation.

Do not assume that because your dog is fitted with an identification microchip that the Police will be able to trace it back to you. Some Police stations do not have chip readers and those that do may not read the latest version of microchip.

We suggest you make sure to get a Crime Number from the Police so that your loss is logged on their computer.


Dog Wardens are employed by the local authority and may only keep stray dogs for 72 before they pass them to a rescue center that could be many miles from where the dog was lost. If there is no room at any local rescue center the dog could be destroyed. Leave details of your lost dog with your local dog warden and with dog wardens of neighboring areas. Ask them where they send stray dogs.


Vets will usually treat an injured dog if they can. They will then pass it along to their preferred Rescue Organization that could be 50-100 miles from where you lost your dog. Leave details of your dog with all the local vets and ask them where they send stray dogs.


The Police or a member of the public may take your dog directly to a rescue center. This could be 50-100 miles from where you lost the dog. Check the yellow pages for rescue centers and leave details of your lost dog with them along with several contact numbers (home, work, mobile and/or a person who is likely to be in most of the time). Ask them for details of any other rescue organizations they know of. Don't let them put you off by saying they don't receive dogs from your area. Give them the information anyway.


These are transponders that are about the size of a grain of rice and are usually fitted under the skin in the scruff of the neck. When a detector is placed near the chip it transmits an identification code. This code is then passed to Petlog, they check the database and tell the finder whom to contact regarding the dog. Most vets and many rescue centers can fit these for $10-$25. Microchips are not a substitute for a tag since very few people carry a chip reader in their pocket! If your dog ends up with a dog warden you are more likely to get it back if it is microchipped.


Make sure your dog has attached to it a tag that has on it your house and street number, your ZIP code, and phone numbers of people who can be contacted during the day. Tags are better than containers because they can be easily read when it is wet.


If your dog has been found it could be many miles away. Some people who find dogs may keep them for several weeks before deciding to hand them over to a rescue center!


Don't assume someone is going to find the dog and return it to you.

Don't assume that the Police, Dog Warden, Vet, Rescue Organization, APL will inform you if they find your dog even if it does have a collar tag or microchip.

There is no central list of lost dogs. Give the details of your dog to all the Police stations, Vets, Dog Wardens and Rescue centers within at least a 50 mile radius of where you lost your dog.

Ask at all the local drug stores and Post Offices near to where you lost the dog in case someone has mentioned it.

Check with the drivers at the taxi rank. They drive around the local area day and night so are likely to see stray dogs wandering about.

Make up some flyers preferably with a color photograph (find someone with a computer and color printer or a color photocopier). Bold, readable type is best. Be sure to include: the pet's name, a description (size, color, sex, markings, etc). Give these to the postman and milkman in the area. They cover the area slowly so are likely to see stray dogs wandering about.

If there are farms near where you lost the dog check whether your dog has been seen. Ask to check outbuildings, barns, etc as these are comforting places for a dog to shelter.

Keep checking with the above even if you have done so several times already.

More tips on what to do about your missing dog

Put your dogs' details on the lost and found database on the web

Page updated: March 27th 2023
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