You should consider the dog you found as lost, with a home and an owner; not a homeless stray. Never assume a dog you found was dumped, abandoned or homeless until you have concrete evidence or until all efforts to find the owner have failed. Think about what you would want somebody to do if they found your lost dog.
Safety First. Make sure you protect your family, your other pets and the dog you found. Keep the dog you found separate from other pets and children. Keep the found dog secure so that it does not get loose again.
1. Check for Identification
☐ Check for tags. If the dog is wearing a county tag, call the phone number on the tag to get information about the dog’s owner. For Maricopa, call 602-506-7387. For Pima, call 520-724-5969. When you call, if you are told the tag is an older tag and is not in the system, ask to speak to a supervisor about having someone manually research the tag.
☐ Have the dog scanned for a microchip at any veterinarian office or shelter. This should be a free service but call first to make sure they can do the scan.
☐ Make sure the scanner being used is a UNIVERSAL scanner, able to detect all chips.
☐ If a microchip isn't found, please get a second scan at a different facility, with a different person, for good measure. Chips can be missed.
☐ Get the microchip number from the veterinarian and look it up at http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/. Call the company, report the found dog and obtain the owner’s information. Some vets may do this for you.
☐ If no registered owner information is available or it is incorrect, ask for the name of the store, veterinarian, rescue or shelter that purchased the chip. Contact that organization to see if they have owner records. Additional help for researching microchips can be found at this website: http://lostdogsofamerica.org/how-to-trace-dead-end-microchips-and-tag-information-on-found-pets/
☐ While you are at the vet, have them help you check the dog for tattoos. Tattoos are generally found inside the ear or on the inner thigh. Tattoos can be registered with companies who will maintain owner information. National Dog Registry (www.NationalDogRegistry.com) is one. You can also keep tattoo information as a way to verify ownership.
2. Take a Walk
☐ If you can safely do so, walk the dog around the neighborhood with the dog on a secure collar and leash. The dog may lead you to its home.
☐ Ask neighbors if they know whom the dog belongs to.
☐ Look for “Lost Dog” signs in the immediate area.
3. Consider Surrendering the Dog to the County Shelter
☐ If you’re unable to hold the dog while you search for the owner, please take it to the shelter. One of the primary reasons why lost dogs are not reunited with their families is that the animal shelter is typically the first place where owners will look for their lost dog but it’s often the last place where people take found dogs due to fear that the dog will be euthanized. The stray hold period in Arizona is 72 hours for dogs without discernable identification (tags or microchip). If owners aren’t found within that time frame, animals can go up for adoption, rescue or be euthanized.
☐ If you are unable to hold the dog and do not want to take it to the shelter, you may be able to find a reputable rescue that will hold and look for the owner. Be very careful to screen any rescues and make sure they will search for the owner. Please note that many reputable rescues do not take stray dogs from the public.
☐ Don’t give a found dog over to strangers for fostering or adopting. This can be very dangerous to the dog.
☐ Get the animal ID number from the shelter. It will typically start with an A. You can then post this number to direct any owners that come forward. You can also use it to monitor the status of the dog in the shelter.
☐ Please continue to look for owners while the dog is at the shelter.
☐ If the owners do not claim their dog, you can work with local rescues to help them save the dog by agreeing to provide a foster home. You will most likely be asked to fill out a foster application and have a home visit prior to being approved to foster. http://www.lostdogsarizona.org/rescue-list.html
☐ Let the shelter know if you are interested in adopting or fostering the dog if its owner does not claim it. Many shelters will allow you to do this but make sure it is clear and a hold is placed on the dog.
☐ Change the dog’s status to “Surrendered” at www.HelpingLostPets.com/mypets
☐ Submit a found dog report to your local animal control and humane societies. See our shelter list at http://www.lostdogsarizona.org/shelter-list.html
☐ Notify local police departments
☐ Contact veterinarians in the area
☐ Alert your Homeowners Association
☐ Contact animal service businesses in the area – retail stores, trainers, pet sitters, kennels, etc.
☐ Contact breed specific rescues. Worried owners may be in contact with them to look for their lost dog. http://www.lostdogsarizona.org/rescue-list.html
5. Create “found dog” flyers and posters
☐ Determine at least once piece of information about the dog you found that you will withhold from all communications. You will use this to verify that the dog is returned to the rightful owners.
☐ Submit the form to have the dog you found listed with Helping Lost Pets and posted on Lost Dogs Arizona: http://www.HelpingLostPets.com/LDAZ
☐ Create posters that you will post as signs in the area, on poles, in stores, in your yard, at the exact location the dog was found, etc. We recommend using the large photo option provided by Helping Lost Pets (Flyer Template #3). Attach to neon colored paper as a background. If you want to create your own, include date, where dog was found, description and contact phone. The photo and the phone number should be large for visibility from a moving car. For examples, visit http://www.missingpetpartnership.org/recovery-tips/posters-5555/
☐ Create flyers that will be handed out to people. We recommend the 4 per page option provided by Helping Lost Pets flyer service. You may need to print as many as 200-500 flyers.
☐ Post flyers at local animal service businesses (veterinarian offices, groomers, feed stores, etc.) and other local businesses such as coffee shops and grocery stores.
☐ Post flyers at the County shelter or animal control facility. In Maricopa County, flyers can be e-mailed to: email@example.com -- in your email, specify if you'd like the flyer hung at the East county shelter, or West, or both.
☐ Look for “lost dog” flyers as you are out posting “found dog” flyers. Make sure you recheck the area routinely. Lost dog posters may not go up right away or there may be extenuating circumstances (person is disabled, on vacation, etc.). It doesn’t mean the dog is homeless or unloved.
6. Social Media and Websites
☐ Post to Lost Dogs Arizona and Helping Lost Pets by submitting this form: www.HelpingLostPets.com/LDAZ. Check the HelpingLostPets.com map and photo albums for matching lost dogs.
☐ Post your found dog on http://www.craigslist.org in both the Community/Pets and Community/Lost & Found sections, in your area and nearby areas. Monitor craigslist for lost dog ads. If you use the craigslist email, make sure you check your email often, including your “spam” folder.
☐ Post your found dog on www.PetHarbor.com if any local shelters use petharbor. Enter your zip code. Select the shelter or shelters the family will be searching at. Then select “Found a pet.” After you select the animal type (Dogs, Cats, Others), you can “Register your Found Pet.”
☐ In Maricopa County, post your found dog on the county interactive map. Also check the map for lost dogs in the area. https://gis.maricopa.gov/ACC/Stray/index.html
☐ Post on NextDoor.com (social media for neighbors)
☐ Post on local Facebook pages/groups (HOAs, Sell/Swap pages, etc.)
☐ Post and follow Lost and Found Facebook pages and groups. Here are a few of the larger ones. Do a search for others. Make sure you check your posts often for comments! Also check your “other” inbox for personal messages.
Lost Dogs Arizona
Lost Dogs of Arizona (group page with a similar name)
Lost and Found Pets of Pima County
Lost Pets of Northern Arizona
☐ Post and check ads in local newspapers
☐ In Tucson, tweet to @whatsuptucson
7. Rehoming a found dog
☐ If you’re unable to find the owners, please start from the beginning and expand your search area (put up additional flyers, refresh your online posts, etc.).
☐ Please do a thorough search for the owners for a minimum of 1-2 weeks. Take care of the medical needs of the animal before rehoming him / her (vaccinations, spay / neuter, microchip, etc.) Screen homes and charge a rehoming fee.
☐ We recommend turning the dog over to a reputable rescue instead of trying to rehome the dog yourself. They will understand breed specific issues, vet the dog and help ensure the dog is going to a good home. http://www.lostdogsarizona.org/rescue-list.html
☐ If you’re rehoming on your own, here are some helpful articles:
☐ Change the dog’s status to “rehomed” at www.HelpingLostPets.com/mypets
8. Reuniting the Dog with Family
☐ When someone calls in response to an ad and/or flyer, ask the caller’s name and telephone number and tell him/her, you’ll call back right away.
☐ Do not offer a description of the dog, let the person inquiring describe the dog including unique identifying characteristics (i.e. scars, tattoo, behaviors, color patterns, etc.) Also find out where the dog was lost and when the dog went missing.
☐ Ask for Proof of Ownership (one of the following): Vet records (call their vet to confirm); Rabies certificate or license; adoption papers, registration papers, transfer of ownership or bill of sale; Photos (dated and w/family members)
☐ If you are meeting to return the dog; be sure to let a friend or family know where you are meeting or ask one of them to go along. Plan to meet at your local police parking lot, your vet office or any public place in the daylight.
☐ Observe the meeting of the dog and person; does the dog show familiarity with the person?
☐ If the dog didn’t have a collar/or tags when you found it, please encourage the owner to bring them when you meet. You may also want to help educate them on microchips, low cost spay / neuter options, etc.
☐ Change the dog’s status to Reunited on the Helping Lost Pets website: http://www.HelpingLostPets.com/mypets
☐ Remove all flyers and posters. Take down web postings and discontinue ads. Let all agencies you contacted know the dog has been reunited and thank them for their assistance.
☐ Congratulate yourself for saving a life and reuniting a family!
Lost Dogs Arizona
Helping Arizona's Lost Dogs Get Home