Every year approximately 10 million pets are lost or stolen in the United States. That is a startling statistic! What should an RVing pet owner do if their pet goes missing? What steps should be taken if you are traveling in your RV when your pet gets lost? Good questions! Here are some answers:
Practice loss prevention, but be prepared in case of loss
As with most emergencies, a bit of preparedness can help a lot!
- First, if possible, have your pet “chipped.” Your vet can place a microchip under the skin of your dog or cat. The information on this chip can prove invaluable if your pet goes missing. If you change your contact information or address, be sure to have the chip updated. Register your pet with an online registry site like Michelson Found Animals Registry.
- It’s also important for your pet to wear a collar with tags. Not only will this prove your pet has had its required vaccinations but you can also supply your current contact information on a tag. If someone finds your lost pet, there’s a greater chance s/he’ll be returned to you if wearing tags. If the jingling of tags annoys you or you’re worried they may fall off (they might!), check out these collars where your contact info is embroidered right onto the collar. They’re great!
- Pet tracking devices that wirelessly connect with your cell phone have become popular in recent years. With a tracking device you can pinpoint your pet’s location. Some advanced devices also provide information about your pet’s health (e.g., heart rate). This may give you peace of mind, especially if your pet has health concerns or is elderly.
- Have a current picture of your pet. When canvassing the campground, you can show the picture. If the picture includes you, it will also help to prove ownership.
- Do all you can to keep your pet safely contained inside your RV, or outside on a chew-proof leash or in a secure enclosure. If you must be away from your pet for any length of time, consider getting a pet sitter. More and more campgrounds offer pet services. If in doubt, ask! If you plan to boondock, it might be best to plan activities that include your pet.
Lost! Now what?
- Be absolutely certain your fur baby is really lost. Check behind furniture, inside closets, and any other places where s/he may be hiding. Many pets feel insecure in unfamiliar places and campgrounds have many unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells that can frighten an animal.
- Designate someone who will stay near the RV while you begin to search just in case the pet returns on its own or someone attempts to return it. Exchange cell phone numbers so that you can check with each other often.
- Print two copies of your pet’s picture. Post one picture on the campground’s bulletin board and take the other picture with you. If you have additional people joining your search, give them a picture of your pet, as well.
- Take a flashlight even if it’s midday. You’ll need it for checking under bushes and behind trash bins or other shadowy places. Also bring along some of your pet’s favorite treats. Treats may help you lure your cat out of a tree or coax a frightened dog that cowers out of reach. You may also want to take along a favorite toy that your pet enjoys, like a squeaky toy, bell, or whistle. Sound the toy often as you search and call the pet by name.
Canvas the campground and the immediate area surrounding the campground. If others offer to help, provide your pet’s favorite treats and toys to help them search.
- If the person staying at the RV is willing and able, suggest they contact the local SPCA, Humane Society, shelters, vets, and animal control. Plan to check back with these organizations and/or visit them in person. In addition, you can simply Google (name of state + animal shelters) to find local shelters near your campground.
- You can post information about your lost pet on local social media outlets, too. Think Facebook. Pretty much every county, town, and/or city in the country has a lost pets Facebook group. Be sure to join this and post your missing pet! Also check with craigslist.org, neighborhood associations, and more.
- Here are some national sites to consider:
- Post neon-colored “Lost Pet” flyers in surrounding communities. Include a picture of your pet and your phone number. Limit other information to keep the poster’s font size as large as possible. If space allows, include “Do Not Chase.” An animal in an unfamiliar area generally will not approach a stranger, and when chased may be frightened even farther away from your RV.
- If your pet is not chipped or wearing tags and is dropped off at an animal rescue organization, they will house the pet for a limited amount of time. After that the rescue organization may put it up for adoption. Check Petfinder and Adopt a Pet if your pet is missing for a longer period of time.
Do not give up hope! Patches, a cat thought to be killed in a mudslide, showed up three years later! Three years! You can read Patches’ story here.
A word of caution: Scammers may call claiming they’ve found “Fluffy.” They then demand payment before agreeing to return your pet. Don’t fall for it! Never send money or any other form of payment before verifying the claim is legit.
Here’s hoping you won’t need this information. Ever! But if you do, we’re hoping these suggestions will give you a strategy for successfully finding your pet.