First of all, an animal is not yours to keep, whether it be a dog, cat, pig, or horse. Depending on your location, the law may require that you turn in an animal to the nearest shelter. Keep in mind that not everyone owns or uses a computer and will likely visit the nearest shelter looking for their pet. Families are often devastated after losing a pet and want nothing more than to be reunited with them. I’ve provided steps to take to when you do find a stray animal.

At some point in your pet’s life, s/he is likely to escape your house or yard and end up “lost.” A microchip is one way to help reunite with your pet. A microchip, however, only contains a number, so if you don’t register the chip and keep your contact information updated, no one will find you. There are a few free microchip registries: foundanimals.org and freemicrochipregistry.org.¬†Take a moment to have your pets microchipped and then register the numbers with your vet, the shelter, and online.

Your approach to finding your cat or dog will depend a lot on their personality and how socialized they are. If a skittish cat or dog gets out, it is less likely to approach people. House cats that escape tend to stick close to home, but won’t make a sound, even if they know you. Dogs will usually run until someone is able to catch them. If your animal does get lost, time is of essence. Here are some actions you can take whether you’ve lost or found a dog or cat:

  1. For lost cats, check high and low for dark hiding spots within 3 houses from yours. S/he could be locked in a neighbor’s shed or garage, so ask neighbors if they can check. Ask neighbors if they’ve seen your pet.
  2. For a found animal, take it to the nearest veterinarian where they will do a free microchip scan to locate the owner.
  3. File a lost or found report at your nearest shelter. In the Treasure Valley, that would be Idaho Humane Society for the Boise area and West Valley Humane Society for the Nampa/Caldwell residents. This step is time-critical as there is a short hold period for animals after which they can be put up for adoption or euthanized if unclaimed.
  4. Post a free ad on craigslist.org community/pets and community lost/found. If you found a pet, leave out some identifying information so the caller has to positively identify the animal or show you a photo. Sadly, there are people who pick up free animals for bad reasons.
  5. Post in Lost and Found Facebook groups. Here are a few: 208 Lost and Found Pets, Lost & Found Pets Kuna, Idaho, LOST & FOUND Pets BOISE Idaho, and Treasure Valley Missing/found/spotted Pets!
  6. Put up posters in your neighborhood.
  7. Post a lost or found pet on Nextdoor.com to alert neighbors.

Idaho has many predators, both animal and human. Animal predators that can take out a cat, kitten, or small dog are hawks, eagles, owls, coyotes, attacking often at night, but have been knows to swoop in during the day for their meal. Make sure your pets are safe inside, especially at night. Check into DIY perimeter cat fences and catios to help protect cats.

There are people who do not want animals using their yard as a potty or they just don’t want animals in their yard. Your pet is at risk of being shot, trapped, dumped, or killed. In Idaho, there’s not a lot of recourse for you, as a pet owner, as the state’s animal cruelty laws are sorely lacking. You must have proof of cruelty by a person and that’s usually difficult to achieve. Watch your pet as you would your child.