Your pet is lost! What now?

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Losing a pet can be distressing, but don’t lose heart.  Stay calm and follow the steps below to help you find your animal, but do not wait to see if your pet comes home on its own.  A pet can wander quite a distance in a short time.

Conduct a Search

Get out and call for your pet by name. Ask friends or neighbors to help you walk or drive the immediate area. Have each one head in a different direction and move outward. Don't try to predict where your pet could or wouldn't have gone – YOU NEVER KNOW. The best time to call for your pet is at night, and at dawn. If you are calling from your car, drive slowly, roll down all the windows, stop and turn your vehicle off frequently to listen.

Notify people who are familiar with your pet that it's lost (for example, newspaper and mail carriers and neighborhood children). The more people who know you have lost a pet, and that you are upset, worried, and desperately trying to find your pet, the more people will call you if they see an animal in the woods or on the road, or in their backyard.

Submit a Lost Pet Report on the Regional Center's web site.

List your lost pet on the Regional Center web site's online Lost Pet List by filing a report.  If possible, please submit a photograph with the report.

  • When posting a lost pet report on the website, be aware that posts do not appear automatically but must be approved by RCACP staff.  Please do not post reports multiple times.
  • Many people have success with posting their lost pet on Craigslist (lost and found), as well as local Facebook sites posting lost and found pets.
  • Filing a lost pet report is only the first step to having your pet returned to you.  RCACP staff make every effort to monitor lost pet reports, but you must visit the Regional Center regularly to make sure your pet is not waiting for you to find him.
  • If you see an animal resembling your lost pet in the photos of animals being held at the RCACP, you must visit the Regional Center and identify your pet in person.
  • To reclaim your pet when it has been picked up by an animal control officer, visit the Regional Center during normal business hours - 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
  • You will need to have a picture ID, proof of current rabies vaccination and a city tag if your pet was picked up in Roanoke City.
  • If you have filed a lost pet report on the website, and the pet has been found, please call 540.344.4922 to have the report deleted.  You cannot delete the report from your home computer.

Visit Every Area Animal Shelter, Every Day.

It's important that you visit every animal shelter in the area, every day or two, to look for your pet because animals can often wander far from home.  It is important that you personally look for your pet in every shelter because the description you give of your pet over the phone may not be the description another person would provide for that animal.  For instance, what one person considers a black dog with white markings may appear to another person as a white dog with black markings.  You can get of list of these shelters from the Regional Center or click on these links to search for your lost pet:
Salem Animal Center
Bedford County Animal Shelter
Franklin County Animal Control
Franklin County Humane Society/Planned Pethood

Also, please do not assume that a shelter will house your animal any longer than 5 or 10 days depending on whether your pet was wearing identification at the time it was found, or that a shelter worker will identify your pet. Shelters are extremely busy places, and your pet may not be recognized among the hundreds of animals that may pass through a shelter in a week.  If you live in the City of Roanoke, the Counties of Roanoke or Botetourt, or the Town of Vinton, visit the Regional Center’s online Found Pet Log to review the pictures of the animals that have been found. When you visit the Regional Center to see if your lost pet is here, be sure to also check the Found Pet Log at the reception desk, to see if someone has found your pet and called the Animal Center to report it.

Leave a Picture at Shelters.

If you don't find your pet at a shelter, leave pet and owner information and a current photo of your pet with the shelter staff. Most shelters have a bulletin board for pictures of lost pets and maintain "lost pets" and "found pets" logs.  Shelter workers and the public can help watch for your pet. But please don't rely on the shelter to find your lost pet!

Post Flyers.

Post flyers in the area where you live.  Put up a simple flyer right away. Replace it with a flyer containing a picture if the pet is not found the first day. "LOST DOG (or CAT)" should be at the top of the flyer in large, easy to read (even from moving vehicles) bold letters.  Then include a brief description or breed type. Don't assume that people will know your particular breed of pet, so always include a description. Include the pet's name; it may make it easier for someone to call your pet over and capture her, and it also identifies your pet as a valued member of your family, and not just another lost animal statistic.  Offer a reward - don't state how much in the ad - and include a couple of contact telephone numbers in large bold print at the bottom of the poster.

Contact Veterinary Clinics and Animal-Related Businesses.

Contact veterinary practices and emergency veterinary hospitals in your area. People often notify the closest vet about a stray animal or an animal that they have found. Clinics usually have bulletin boards in their offices and will post a notice for you.  Call animal control, local boarding kennels, pet sitters, the highway department, dog training clubs, grooming shops...get the word out!

Use the Newspaper - Place a "Lost" Ad and Check "Found" Ads, Too.

Read the "found" ads and take out a "lost" ad in city and community newspapers, the first day your pet is missing. Many people will first care for a stray animal for a while before taking it to a shelter, and they will place and read ads to try to find the owner.

If Someone Calls You about Your Pet

Try to get a positive identification on your animal from the caller.  Have specific details in mind (a scar or peculiar feature) that will identify your animal from a similar one.  Do not put all details on your poster.  There are extortionists who will claim to have your pet.  Think of a special question that only someone with your pet will be able to answer.  If you offer a reward, make sure you have your animal back before you turn over the money.

Don't Give Up!

Some pets are found after months and months of searching! Don't give up! Other people will follow your lead and will continue to help you. Be aggressive in your search, get lots of help, and get the word out right away.

Once You Find Your Pet

Prevent it from happening again, by following the suggestions outlined in the "Preventing a Lost Pet" section of this site.


Regional Center for Animal Care & Protection

1510 Baldwin Avenue
Roanoke, VA 24012
Phone: (540) 344-4922

Hours of Operation:

Mon - Sat 9 AM - 5:30 PM

Adoption Hours:

Mon - Sat 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM


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