Animal Services & Resources : Lost/Found Pets

Lost or Found Pets

If your pet is lost, call your veterinarian and/or the microchip company right away to make sure the microchip's contact information is up-to-date.

If you've lost or found a dog, cat, or other companion animal, contact the animal welfare agency that is responsible for handling strays in your area.


  • Seattle Animal Shelter: (206) 386-7387
    Serving Seattle
  • King County Regional Animal Services, Kent: (206) 296-7387
    Serving all of King County except: Seattle, Des Moines, Federal Way, Medina, Normandy Park, Renton, Shoreline, and Lake Forest Park
  • Renton Animal Control: (425) 430-7550
    Serving Renton
  • Medina Police Department: (425) 233-6420
    Serving Medina & Hunts Point
  • PAWS: (425) 787-2500
    Serving Bothell, Brier, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, Shoreline, Woodinville
  • Everett Animal Control: (425) 257-6000
    Serving Darrington, Gold Bar, Index, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Monroe, Snohomish, Stanwood, Tulalip, and unincorporated Snohomish County
  • Edmonds Animal Control: (425) 775-4545
    Serving Edmonds
  • Des Moines Animal Control: (206) 870-6549
    Serving Des Moines
  • Normandy Park Animal Control Services: (206) 248-7600
  • Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County: (253) 383-2733
    Serving Federal Way, Tacoma, and unincorporated Pierce County
  • Seattle Humane Society: (425) 641-0080
    We have partnerships with both Renton and Medina to house their strays



Missing Pets: Steps to Help Reunite You with Your Lost Pet
© Copyright 2013 Missing Pet Partnership

Most pet owners never believe that they will lose a pet. But the fact is that pets escape from their owners’ care all of the time! Here are tips courtesy of Missing Pet Partnership to help increase the odds that your pet will be found should he or she escape from your care.


Top Tips for Finding a Lost Pet

  1. Begin your search immediately. The longer you wait to begin your search the less likely you will be reunited with your pet. Waiting for your pet to find its own way home increases the chances that your pet will travel further away or become injured. While there are stories of animals finding their way home, overcoming great obstacles and odds, they are extremely rare. The majority of animals who are displaced from their territory will not be able to find their way home on their own.
  2. Contact all the animal shelters in your county and surrounding counties. A "finder" may take your pet to the local shelter or he may go to one that is further away. Because your description may vary from that of the shelter and because most shelters are required to keep an animal for at least 3 days after intake, be prepared to visit each agency at least once every day to view all the animals there, including those in holding or isolation (sick or injured pets). Some agencies misidentify panicked or scared animals as feral, so ask if the agency has a feral or barn cat program to make sure your cat is not awaiting transfer to a rescue or barn program.
  3. Post a “Lost Dog/Cat” ad on the community “Lost and Found” and “Pets” sections of Craigslist. Also check for “Found” pets on Craigslist to see if your animal has been found by someone trying to find the owner. Re-post your ad every other day, since sometimes there are so many ads that yours will fall to the second page and may not be seen. Be wary of “finders” who contact you saying they have your animal and will return it to you for a reward. Ask for proof that the person has your pet: request that they describe the color pattern in detail, send a photo to you, or meet you in a public place so that you can view the animal before any money changes hands.
  4. Talk to people, especially kids or those adults with an established neighborhood "route" (i.e. mail carriers, meter readers, UPS drivers, etc.) and show them a photograph of your pet. Give them a flyer to keep and ask them to call you immediately if they see your pet.
  5. Make a "Lost Dog/Lost Cat" poster using bright, neon poster board from the craft store. Write “LOST DOG/LOST CAT” in large block print and attach an upside down plastic sheet protector. Use large print and only three or four words to describe your pet (e.g. “Small White Poodle”, “Large Orange Tabby”) and your phone number; that is the only information a finder needs to call you with a tip or lead as to the whereabouts of your pet. If you have large enough poster board and you have a photo of your pet, try to incorporate that. Hang posters, following your town’s sign ordinances, at major intersections so that they can be seen and read by people driving by. If your municipality doesn’t allow posting on telephone poles, try using realty sign “H” frames (sometimes also called step stakes) to place your posters directly into the ground. If your town’s sign ordinances are very restrictive, get permission from neighbors to post the posters in their yards. Posters are critical for letting people know you are looking for your lost pet (including people who may be tempted to keep the “stray” they found) and can generate leads and sightings to help you narrow down your search area.
  6. Create flyers to hand out to people, hang in store windows, post on bulletin boards, and leave at the animal shelters you visit. Hand out your flyers in a 20-block radius around your home. Flyers should have a photo of your pet, a complete description, and your phone number.
  7. Visit all veterinary hospitals in your area (visit and enter your zip code to find all the vets in your area). Leave a flyer and alert the staff that your pet is missing. Should a “finder” bring your pet in after being injured (or sometimes as a checkup for what they mistakenly think is a stray), the vet staff can call you to let you know your pet was brought in. If your pet is microchipped, leave that information with the vet staff.
  8. “Tag” your car using a neon window marker. This is a good way to advertise that your pet is missing. Use several bright colors and write three or four words to describe your pet. For example: “Lost Chihuahua/Tan and White/Twin Lakes/(phone number)”. You might also place a photo of your pet into an upside down plastic sheet protector on your side windows with the words “Have you seen me?” Note: ensure that you can see out of all of your windows for safety!


Additional Pet-Finding Tips
Lost pets do not behave like pets in their own homes. Dogs and cats behave differently when lost, so search methods should be tailored to each species, as well as to the personality of your pet. They demonstrate distinct patterns of behavior often so different from their usual behaviors that their guardians fail to find them even when nearby.


Lost Cat Behavior
Indoor only cats tend to hide in silence near their escape point; they will usually find the first safe place to hide and stay there to remain hidden from “predators.” Cats can stay hidden for many days, until they reach a “threshold factor” when thirst and hunger override their instinct to hide (10-14 days). During this time, cats will normally not respond to calls, even from their owners.

  • It’s important to perform an aggressive physical search, looking under bushes, decks, in crawl spaces, sheds, garages—anywhere a cat can fit or become trapped. Use a flashlight to look for eye shine. For indoor only cats, your search radius should be approximately 3-5 houses (in a normal residential neighborhood). Ask for permission from your neighbors to search their yards, sheds, and garages thoroughly. While they may seem sincere that they are willing to keep a lookout, they may not search as thoroughly as they would if it were their own pet.
  • Indoor/outdoor cats that do not come home have usually been displaced by something, removing them from the territory they are familiar with. This could be a loud noise, construction, a run-in with a strange dog/animal, etc. The search area for an indoor/outdoor cat will be larger than that of an indoor-only cat, approximately a 10-house radius or just beyond their normal territory.
  • If your cat is not found in the first few days, you might consider setting up a food station and wildlife camera to see if your cat is coming out at night to find food. If you catch your kitty on camera, you’ll know this is the right place to set a humane trap. Traps should be set with care, in quiet areas where the cat will be safe and protected from the sun if caught. Traps should be checked frequently (2-3 times per day). If you don’t get a photo of your cat, change the location of your camera and food station every few days.


Lost Dog Behavior
Lost dogs generally travel further than cats. Dogs can go missing in a couple of ways: A) wandering, or following a scent. Relaxed, friendly dogs may run right up to you once found, or may jump into an open car door. Dogs who wander away generally don’t travel very far. B) Panicked, due to loud sounds or sights such as fireworks. Panicked dogs can travel great distances, and will run in a blind panic from people, even from their owners. In the case of a panicked dog, their senses may be diminished and their sense of smell, which they use to identify you, may shut down. Therefore it is recommended that you do not call or chase a dog that is on the run, especially skittish dogs.

  • Use calming signals such as yawning or sitting on the ground, averting your eyes or acting uninterested in the dog. Bringing a crinkly bag of yummy, smelly treats such as warm hot dogs in a potato chip bag may be enticing enough to bring your dog close enough to catch. The goal is to bring the dog to you rather than chase the dog. Once the dog shows interest, drop some food as if by accident, acting as if the dog is not there. If the dog thinks you are no threat, he may come close enough to take the dropped treats and for you to gently take hold of his collar. Try not to sit in a crouching or squatting manner, as that may resemble the predatory-like behavior of an animal about to attack.
  • If bringing the dog toward you with treats and calming signals is not working, try using a “magnet” dog to get the loose dog to follow you. If he does not follow you or show interest, try giving the magnet dog treats and playing with him, again trying to ignore the loose dog until he lowers his guard and joins the fun. If the dog is still skittish, it might be time to consult a search dog team or pet detective with experience in catching dogs using humane traps.


About Missing Pet Partnership
Missing Pet Partnership is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to reuniting lost companion animals with their owners/guardians. They offer phone consultations by volunteers trained to coach families in how to recover a lost dog or cat. Their website offers behavior-based lost pet recovery tips and referrals to lost pet services.


You might also like to:

CONTACT a staff member at the shelter
LEARN about microchipping
READ helpful articles about canine behavior