Monday, October 3, 2011

Teamwork + the Internet = Lives Saved

Annabelle - lost in Wisconsin in September

Annabelle, recovered  safely (but stinky) 24 hours later. 

Lost Dogs Illinois and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin crossed the 700 lost dogs recovery mark in September. We have a grand year-to-date total of 730 lost dog recoveries (679 safely, 51 deceased).  The bottom line?
679 dogs did not take up space in shelters and/or rescues meant for homeless dogs.

What we have learned?
1. Most dogs don't want a new home. They just want to go home.  Most owners are desperately searching for their dogs. They just need some help, advice and encouragement.

2. There is a confusing array of shelters, animal control agencies, rescues, town offices and police departments that hold lost dogs. They generally don't communicate with each other. Some don't have microchip scanners or websites. Many don't post "stray" photos on line.

Finding your dog can become a full time endeavour and is like looking for a needle in a haystack. And you'd better hurry - because there is a good chance that your dog may be adopted out or killed before you get there. The majority of dogs in our animal shelters have ended up there because they are "strays" - lost pets. They committed no bigger sin than to have escaped the custody of their caregivers.

What are our biggest challenges?

1. The mindset and misperceptions of  ill-informed people: Good Samaritans, rescuers or shelter staff who feel that people that have lost their dog don't deserve them back and rush to keep or rehome them instead.  Also, the common misperception that found dogs have been dumped, abandoned or abused doesn't help. Lost dogs are usually just lost, confused and scared.

2. Rescue groups who do not hold the official stray contract for an area but who accept lost dogs in a misguided attempt to "rescue" them.  They seem to think it is their inherent right to rehome somebody's dog whom they've deemed are unworthy owners.

 Interestingly enough, dogs are also being lost from shelters, rescues, transports and foster homes in record numbers. Rarely a week goes by when we don't have at least a couple of these. We would love to train more shelters and rescue groups in effective search methods so that they can form their own teams of volunteers.

3. There is also a whole boatload of bad advice that is dished out to the owners of lost dogs.  This is often shared and blogged about and yet has very little basis in fact. Rumors that dogs are being stolen for dog fighting bait, research, or have been eaten by coyotes or hawks. This gloom and doom (which in reality, rarely happens) cause people to stop searching far too early.

When the four of us began this venture,  I think we envisioned having four or five dogs a month go missing who would need our help. Instead it is more like four or five a day. On certain days (those with fireworks, thunderstorms, blizzards or long holiday weekends) we've learned that we can expect even more.

Our public Facebook pages are pretty straight forward. We post lost dogs for owners, and found dogs that are missing their owners. We also post educational tips daily and we have resource tabs on the left hand side of the page.

But in addition to the main Facebook pages; I wish the public could sneak a peek at the behind the scenes action on our closed Facebook volunteer groups. To watch these volunteers in action is amazing. Posting, emailing, checking shelter websites, Craigslist,  - at the speed of light because of the power of the computer and the internet.

Keeping hundreds of dogs straight - remembering details, remembering circumstances. I am in awe of our volunteers and their talents and abilities. Most of us have never met face to face, but we've built this incredible team via Facebook and the internet. Facebook fans are getting in on the action also by checking local newspapers, internet sites, cross-referencing and posting.

So, to the 48 volunteers and the 8927 Facebook fans of Lost Dogs Illinois and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin - a huge thank you from Susan Taney, Jodi Hunter, Kathie Dowe and myself, Kathy Pobloskie.

YOU are saving lives.

Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.  
- Author Unknown


  1. Thanks for your work, dedication and caring. On my tags, I say "If alone, I'm lost." I tell people to always first assume the dog or cat they found is lost with a devastated family looking for them. My almost horror story was of a dog "found" in the country (he was doing his thing) and brought to me by well-meaning truckers. I put him in the newspaper, I listed him with our local Humane Society, I put him front and center on my Petfinder page - which is where, several weeks later, a relative saw him and contacted the family. THEY NEVER LOOKED FOR HIM; THEY ASSUMED HE HAD BEEN HIT BY A CAR!!! I told the woman who called to bring photos and documentation which were virtually moot once he saw her; he was ecstatic! I was appalled they didn't even try to find him :(.

  2. I recently adopted a senior lab mix who didn't stand much of a chance of avoiding euthanasia. I feel HORRIBLE (although I love this dog) because SOMEBODY spent a great deal of time and love on her. Her household behavior and everything about her is impeccable. Makes me sad that I KNOW someone is missing her and just didn't look in the right place!

  3. well done to you all , hope the world will follow your method keep up the fantastic work xx

  4. It was only when I started reading about the No Kill movement that I began to realize that most "strays" in shelters are actually lost pets. I don't think the general public has any more idea of this than I did, but I tell people now whenever I get the chance. The before-and-after pictures above are especially telling . . . now that I know better, I would no longer assume that a bedraggled, dirty or skinny cat or dog was "dumped" or abused. And I would not assume the animal was mine to keep.

    I think one positive development in addition to the wonderful work of groups like yours is the proliferation of community websites that carry both news and all sorts of other hyperlocal information -- where I live, each is specific to a particular part of the city and their pet pages are very active, showing both lost pets and found ones.

    Thank you for your work and for reiterating these important points!

  5. 2. Rescue groups who do not hold the official stray contract for an area but who accept lost dogs in a misguided attempt to "rescue" them. They seem to think it is their inherent right to rehome somebody's dog whom they've deemed are unworthy owners.

    I agree with this wholeheartedly, but there are some exceptions.

    A lady found a dog in a nearby town and called our rescue to see if we could take the dog. The rescue I'm with takes in seniors, special needs, dogs with behavioural issues.. you name it. The local shelters tend to euthanize for all of the above, so she felt more comfortable contacting our rescue.

    The dog was brought to our vet and scanned for a microchip - none found - and briefly checked over for health issues. It was apparent that she'd had a few litters.

    The owner did not contact any of the local shelters, nor did she put up any flyers in her neighbourhood. She put up one post on Kijiji which I found hours later. I contacted the owner and atfer confirming that this was indeed her dog, arrangements were made to return the dog.

    While this was going on, one of the volunteers was also looking into it and it was discovered that this lady is of the larger backyard breeder variety. Although it killed me, the dog - named "black dog" by the owner - had to be returned.

    Since the owner never contacted the Humane Society, they would have held the dog for 3 days and then put her up for adoption if she passed their crappy temperment test.

    I hope to hell this never happens to me again, but if it does, you better believe I will do more investigating before contacting an owner and will think twice about contacting an owner again.