Natural disasters such as wildfires, tornadoes, and floods are examples of events that can cause fear and displacement for anyone.

These stresses not only affect people but also pets. They may instinctually run away from danger to try and protect themselves. National animal rescues have recommendations on how to protect your furry best friend and what to do just in case they become lost after a natural disaster.

Be Proactive

Before a disaster strikes, take proactive steps to help prevent losing a pet. For example, before adopting a pet, and if the property has a fenced-in area, ensure the fencing and gates are tall and secure with no cracks or loose boards.

The following items should be collected when you first adopt your pet and updated as necessary.

  • Microchip with the owner’s current contact information. The Humane Society of the United States has specific information on microchipping.
  • A weatherproof collar and name tag with the owner’s current contact information.
  • Clear and recent photos of your pet from multiple angles.
  • Notes on any indicators that are specific to your pet (curly tail, unique coloring, etc.)
  • Notes on breed, weight, height, temperament, etc.

Act Fast

It doesn’t always take a disaster for a pet to escape or run off in fear. A scared dog or cat, instead of running, may just hide under a neighbor’s car or in an open garage. Thoroughly check your immediate surroundings as soon as you realize they are gone. According to the American Humane Society “the faster you act, the better your chances are of finding your lost pet”.

Check The Neighborhood Regularly

If your pet is hiding somewhere nearby but is too afraid to come out, there are some tricks you can do to attract them to you. Calling out in a calm manner may help. If you are panicked and yelling, they will think they are in trouble and they will not come to you. Your dog will eventually become hungry. Put out their food bowl, some of their favorite treats, and their water dish in an open area. Your pet has an excellent sense of smell and, once hungry enough, may come straight over to eat. Other things to put out that your dog may smell should include some of their toys, a recently worn t-shirt of yours, their bed, or their favorite blanket. Your pet, who is alone and afraid, will be drawn very quickly to anything that has a positive familiar scent.

Keep in mind that your pet may not try to move at all during the day. If they are hearing sirens and a lot of people, they may wait until it is dark outside to try to find food or make their way back to their home. Search throughout your neighborhood at night, using the same food and toy tactics as you would during the day.

Visit Local Shelters

There are animal rescue organizations and good Samaritans during a natural disaster that are specifically searching for lost pets. The North Shore Animal League of America rescued 60 dogs on April 25, 2020, as a result of tornadoes that had hit the southern states the week prior. If a rescue organization finds your pet, it will most likely take them to its rescue or to the closest shelter to have its microchip scanned. Animals that look like they are pets are normally kept on hold so that they have a chance to try to contact their owners.

An important reminder from Best Friends Animal Society is to make sure you are “checking shelters in person, and not just calling”. During a disaster, with many animals being dropped off, it may be hard to locate your specific animal over the phone. Your pet may even look a bit different after being rescued. For example, your large, white, fluffy dog may now be very dirty or wet and has lost a bit of weight. Visiting a shelter in person every day or two is the most secure way to know if your dog is actually there.

Post An Online Ad

A good Samaritan, instead of taking your pet to a shelter, may feel more comfortable hanging on to them until they are able to find you. The first way they might try to find you will most likely be social media. Social media is a great resource for finding lost pets. It is fast, easy, and can reach a large number of people in a very small amount of time. Post a “Lost Pet” notice on all of your social media platforms and on local “Lost & Found Pet Groups”. Ask your friends and family to share. The greater the reach of the post, the higher chance the person who may have found your animal will see it.

Be Wary of Pet Recovery Scams

Once you post an ad online, anyone, including scammers, will have access to it. Scammers are known to attack those who are in vulnerable situations and who may overlook crucial details because of this. If someone contacts you claiming to have your pet, ask them questions that your “Lost Pet” ad wouldn’t have the answers to. Questions such as, “What color are her eyes?” or “How many tags does he have on his collar?” could help to confirm that the person contacting you actually has your pet. Be especially wary of those who ask for you to wire money to them before they have given you your pet back.

Check the BBB Scam Tracker for pet-related scams in your area and report any potential scammers to your local Better Business Bureau.

Don’t Lose Hope

Losing a pet is more common than you think, especially during a natural disaster. For some, their pets didn’t turn up until at least a few days or even a few weeks after. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals conducted a study that reported: “85 percent of … lost dogs and cats were recovered.”  Keep checking online ads, local shelters, and your neighborhood regularly.

Remember that while you are looking for your pet, your pet is looking for you.


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