We have noticed an increase in pets going missing recently, and as any animal lover knows; this is one of the most heart wrenching situations to be in. We start to question all the possibilities that have lead to his or her disappearance asking why, when, how and where. Was the door or gate left open? Was he intentionally stolen? Did she wander out and accidentally end up in the wrong neighborhood where she felt scared and couldn’t find her way home? Who would take him?
Our thoughts might linger to imagining horrible scenarios picturing our beloved pet caged up in a pet store or found by a breeder, or perhaps being subjected to abuse on the streets, or run over by a car. We might find ourselves needing to blame someone; the housekeeper, the driver, the gardener, the children, the neighbour and even ourselves for being in this predicament.
There could be different reasons connected to Fido’s disappearance; many of which we might never truly know the answer to. In this article Sonja Svensek, founder of Pets in Need and saviour of countless four-legged friends, details productive ways that we can: a) help minimize the risks in losing a pet, and b) in knowing what to do when one goes missing.
Be a responsible pet owner
Being a responsible pet owner means having your pet’s best interest at heart at all times. This includes his/ her health and safety. It is vital that your pet is micro-chipped, up-to-date with vaccinations and also neutered. These are the three basic, but necessary requirements, which a caring and responsible pet owner should ensure. Though there isn’t an official database for registered micro-chipped pets in Saudi Arabia, it will still help confirm his/ her identify in case you are faced with disputes of ownership. Though many indoor pets don’t tend to wear a collar with an ID tag, it is a good idea to have your pet wearing one especially if they go outside.
Having your pet wear an ID tag considerably increases the return-to-owner (RTO) rate if your pet is lost. An ID tag should include the pet’s name and your contact details. Attaching a GPS tracker will also help you locate your pet in a short period of time, but these are not commonly used in the country yet due to incompatible coverage and tariffs, but podtrackers.com is one of the first pet GPS devices that work in Saudi Arabia. It can be purchased online and currently costs $149.00 plus $50.00 for a subscription fee, but this is a small price to pay to confirm Fido’s whereabouts at all times of the day.
The disadvantage of many GPS pet trackers is the battery life, which usually doesn’t last more than 5 hours, but as soon as you notice that your pet is missing, it should give you plenty of time to locate them from the GPS tracker via an app on your phone.
We have seen that the majority of reported missing pets are usually the ones whom have not been spayed/ neutered. When a pet is neutered, they don’t go into heat, hence lowering, if not eliminating, the chance of them wanting to wander out to mate and/or explore. A neutered pet also means the animal wont be at risk of being used for breeding nor reproduce whilst on the streets or if they end up in someone else’s care. But it’s not enough to just have them neutered and micro-chipped; they should be up to date with their vaccinations and have yearly check ups. This lowers their risk of catching diseases that would otherwise pose a problem for those who aren’t protected from catching certain illnesses.
A Clear Pet Routine
To help minimize the potential of losing a pet, all members of the household must be involved or at least made aware of the animal’s daily routine. Who walks the dog? Who is responsible to let the cat out in the garden? Who is in charge of feeding them? Are all the members of your household aware of your pet’s daily requirements? Setting clear boundaries and following a structure by all family members helps minimize the potential of a pet going missing.
What to do if your pet goes missing?
Spread the word. Fast.
If you know your pet has gone missing, don’t delay in informing as many people as possible. The sooner you spread the word, the higher the chance is in being able to find your pet. It is true that in some cases, pets have been known to come back on their own but don’t rely on this, as there could be many different scenarios that could occur between the time they went missing to hours if not days or weeks later.
A few years ago, one of our cats was taken by pest control, and we were only informed days later with the directions of where they had dumped the cats. The area was about 15 km away, and though we frantically scoured the crowded place we did not succeed in finding our cat. About a month or so later, our cat miraculously found his own way back home, only to die the same evening on our doorstep from the long torturous journey back. It is unknown why some animals know how to find their way back home, whilst others, don’t. Either way, we should not depend on the hope of them returning on their own, and instead, try to be productive in finding them ourselves as soon as possible.
Use Social Media
As soon as you know your pet is lost, spread the word via social media platforms by asking friends and animal rescue groups to help share your pet’s picture, contact details, the time and date as well as the location of when and where your pet went missing.
Should you offer a reward?
Most successful cases when pets were found and reunited with their owners, were the ones that offered a monetary reward. If not for the simple gesture of kindness to help find someone else missing pet, a monetary reward can help push people into action. This also means that in case your pet was found by someone whose intentions were to sell the animal to make money, they would gain their monetary incentive by retuning the animal to you. But this only works if whomever finds the pet is aware whom and where to return the pet to.
Put up Posters and Flyers
Create posters with a picture of your pet along with detailed information in both English and Arabic. These posters can be put up around your neighborhood and flyers can be made to distribute amongst neighbors, vet clinics and pet shops. A word of warning from personal experience; it is legally not ‘permitted’ to create flyers to distribute publicly. When one of our rescues ran away from his new adoptive family, I was desperate to find him despite the fact that I was only informed of his disappearance a month later. I created posters mentioning a monetary reward, which I put up in and around the area and stood on a main street passing flyers to as many passers-by as possible. I was eventually stopped by the police and was told this was not allowed. Any printed text needs to be authorized by the Ministry of Information before publicly distributed. However I was not asked to remove what I had already posted, but was given a warning for next time though I did explain I was trying hard to find a beloved lost pet.
I’ve learnt that despite the hurdles along the way, people generally want to help and be part of a solution when given the chance. Three days later, we got a call from a family who had seen one of the posters in the neighborhood and recognized Miggie, the missing dog from the picture and said they had him in their care for a month since he was first found wandering the streets at night. They were happy to bring him back home and happily accepted the reward money.
We have seen other happy endings on PIN after we have helped share other people’s posts about their missing pets and were happy to learn that they were returned because the person who found them, was made aware that the pet belonged to someone. From PIN’s shared posts, we have noted that Twitter reaches more people at a faster rate, then Facebook or Instagram. It is a good idea to share your posts on as many social media platforms as possible, aiming for groups where like minded animal lovers can be connected and who would be willing to help by searching for the missing pet or at least by sharing your post with their own contacts.
Unfortunately for every happy ending there is also sad one. Not all missing pets are returned. Whether it is because whomever finds them do not know whom the pet belongs to, nor how or where to return them, or because they wish to keep the pet or sell them for money. Whatever the finder’s motive, is important for pet owners to exhaust and try all options.
Visit the Animal souk (also known as the ‘pigeon souk’ located in the south of Jeddah) which usually opens on Fridays. Stolen or lost pets have been found there so it’s worth visiting the place even if it is hard to see how the animals are kept and treated there. In addition to visiting the animal souk, inform the local vet clinics that your pet has gone missing and ask whether you can put up a poster on their customer board or if they would be kind enough to help forward your email to all their clients. Checking as many pet shops as possible is also vital, as some missing pets are sold on to pet shops. There was a case of a lost dog who was reunited with his family months after he went missing, because he was found at a pet shop.
Haraj is a website where many pets are put up for sale. If your pet has gone missing, check the site daily to see whether anyone has listed him/her for sale. It could be that your pet was found and taken to another city to be sold. The site is quite popular amongst local breeders and sellers so it’s worth checking daily.
Knowing that your pet is not home safe and sound with you is hard to accept and would be even harder for an indoor domesticated pet. Domesticated indoor pets, especially cats, do not survive well on the streets as they are not able to fend for themselves from danger. It is imperative that you act fast when your pet goes missing. Though it takes a little effort in spreading the word, don’t give up hope. Animal rescue and welfare groups are growing in numbers with more people joining every day, which helps in reaching out to even more people if and when their help is needed.
Once you find your pet
If your pet gets found and is safe at home again, as a gesture of courtesy to everyone who helped spread the word in trying to find your pet, please remove any posters you put up in your area, and also inform and update any posts you might have shared on social media. Every time we get notified that a pet has been reunited with his/her family, we update our posts which not only encourages people never to lose hope, but it also motivates people in doing the same if they find themselves in the same situation. It also removes any confusion and keeps things current if you inform everyone that your pet has been found.
If you find yourself on the other side of the fence and come across a pet that looks like he/she may belong to someone (perhaps they are wearing a collar, seem domesticated and usually, but not always a ‘breed’) then do what a missing pet owner would do; inform as many animal welfare groups, vet clinics and pet stores, since these are the places that owners of missing pets would initially target. Keep the animal safe, and give him/her water and food till the rightful owners can be contacted. If in the unfortunate event of not hearing back from them after giving it ample time, you might want to consider rehoming the pet. This is very hard to do given that the pet might belong to a family already, who are desperately searching for their pet, but the pet deserves to be loved and cared for and not end up on the streets again being subjected to all sorts of potential risk.
In all cases, which ever side of the fence you find yourself in, please keep the animal’s care at the forefront of your actions. As the saying goes: “Our purpose in life is to help others. If you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” Please make sure they are safe from harm and can be given another chance to be loved.
GPS Pet tracker: www.podtrackers.com
Customized Pet ID tags: Pawzy store, Rawdah /Jeddah 055 476 6515
Animal Awareness and rescue groups online
PIN (Pets In Need): https://www.facebook.com/groups/PetsInNeedKSA/
Open Paws Jeddah: https://www.facebook.com/OpenPawsJeddah/?fref=ts
Gus’s Hope Jeddah: https://www.facebook.com/gushopee/?fref=ts