Between 11 to 16% of dogs are likely to go missing at least once in five years according to published research on lost pet rates. The studies also reveal that between 71 to 93% of lost dogs are recovered through several methods including rescue efforts, micro-chips and help from animal control.
Jill Barsky from the Lost Animal Resource Group (LARG), a volunteer-based East Coast organization joins us to discuss their efforts in finding lost pets, rescuing them and reuniting them with their pet owners.
1) LARG provides an invaluable service to help rescue animals. How did the rescue organization get started?
The organization was founded to help find lost pets, especially when there are no other options. The animals that LARG helps to rescue often have no one else who is able or willing to search for them, or take the time to rescue them from their life of danger, suffering and loneliness. LARG partners with a range of organizations including animal control and rescue organizations.
2) The organization provides some very specialized services and sometimes offers the last line of hope to find lost animals. Can you tell us a bit about your services from pet tracking, trapping to fostering and adoption?
LARG works to find lost animals – mostly dogs and cats, but they have been involved in locating Peacocks and EMUs. Jill explains that the first step in finding a lost pet is to do the opposite of what most people think is the right thing to do. The best approach is not to chase or call the name of the lost animal – this just increases the fear and anxiety level of a pet that is already scared and running for their lives. LARG works with fosters, adopters and rescues to educate them on this process and to prevent pets from getting lost.
The organization has some highly skilled members that are able to find lost pets, even lost for years and trap them. They use a range of traps from a box trap, missy trap (a huge kennel) and a drop net to capture dogs safely. LARG starts out with a box trap, however really scared animals often won’t go into these traps. Making the trapping more difficult is that these traps are out in the wild. Jill recounts a time when a black bear entered a Missy Trap for a snack and also let himself-out when it was done eating.
Dawn and dusk are the best times for successful trapping because the lost dogs are out looking for food while it is quiet. LARG also uses cameras with motion sensors to monitor activity in the traps, so they can be alerted any time day or night when a dog is safely captured. So when an animal is trapped the staff has to then rescue the lost dog or release a wild animal or whatever has entered the trap. As Jill notes – it is a full time plus a full time job because the volunteers are always on call.
3) How many traps do you have going at one-time?
LARG often has as many as twenty traps in the VA/MD/DC area out in the wild waiting to capture lost animals. They also have partners outside of the local area with their own traps. With this many traps out in the wild, Jill explains that sleep is over-rated. She is always on call when a trap becomes active. Jill is empowered by her mission to re-unite lost animals with their owners and that powers her through the lack of sleep and challenging times. A key is also working hand-in-hand with rescues and with the pet owners. To be successful, it requires a team effort with all parties involved.
4) How many lost animals have you found?
Over the years LARG has found thousands of pets – making so many owners happy. LARG gets calls to help across the United States to help find lost pets. The group is always working to find lost dogs. LARG offers a very unique skill set in finding lost dogs – so they are sought after when these events occur.
5) What is the usual success rate for finding lost pets and how do dogs tend to get lost?
There are a lot of factors. If the dog has recently been adopted and has lived on the street – they are very difficult to find. These dogs know how to avoid traps and are very careful. Dogs that have lived in a home and are used to domesticated life are usually easier to find and capture. Dogs tend to stay within a five mile radius of where they get lost. So it is vital not to scream after a dog or chase the dog – this will only widen their distance from where they originally got lost. So there are so many factors in the success rate in finding a dog.
There are so many scenarios where a dog can get lost. Many dogs have jumped out of open windows in a car – so it’s critical keep to your dog locked in by a seat belt. Kids opening doors can easily lead to a lost dog. In addition, a mishap with a leash can lead to a dog escaping. It’s critical to ensure that your dog is always secured. Another key tip is ensuring that a fenced in yard is locked – anyone can accidentally open the fence and mistakenly let your dog out. Many pet owners get very comfortable with their dog and that is when they may run out. It’s important to always be extra careful to ensure your dog doesn’t run away. So many incidents of pets getting lost can be prevented. Another key tip is not to use a retractable leash – because the pet owner can’t retract the leash in time during an incident for example when a car comes or if another dog comes by. Jill recommends using two leashes – one of for the collar and the other for the harness – this helps to secure your dog. There are so many instances of dogs that escape from a collar or leash. Taking these precautions can save you a lifetime of heartache.
It’s really critical to understand that finding a lost dog is a process – there is no guarantee that your dog will be found – it can also take a long time to find your pet. Jill explains that sightings are really important, but please don’t post the exact location of the dog. This can cause people to try to find the lost dog, however this can easily lead to a dog getting scared and moving to a new location. It is recommended that any sighting be communicated to the pet owners or the animal rescue point of contact.
6) You recently worked with the Lucky Dog animal rescue organization to find a lost dog named Nala? How were you able to find the lost dog?
She was a rescue from Lucky Dog. Her foster opened a door and Nala bolted in that split second. They first had to find the pattern Nala was following to locate her. She was crossing three busy roads on a regular basis. Nala would cross-over to the different sides of the road. Jill could see her with the cameras crossing from one side to another. Jill used a trap on both sides of the road. Nala would come close to the trap, but wouldn’t enter. One night a raccoon came into the trap, so the foster had to let the raccoon out. That same night Nala came by and saw the raccoon in the trap eating the food. The foster let the raccoon out of the trap again. Nala then sniffed the trap, but wouldn’t enter. The foster filled the trap up with more food to entice Nala. A split second later the raccoon entered the trap again. Finally, the foster filled up the food in the trap and this time Nala beat the raccoon to the punch and went into the trap. They carried the trap with the dog and then put several leashes on Nala and let her out. Nala was finally rescued and home at 4:30am… Jill explained this was truly an adventure.
7) How does that rescue compare to some of your most challenging ones?
The rescues tend to be the most challenging because they haven’t built up much trust with their foster or new owner. Each case is very unique because the dog, the relationships, the weather, environment and everything is different each time. Read about other rescue efforts.
8) How can someone with a lost pet take advantage of your services to find their beloved pet?
Jill recommends getting help as soon as you believe that your dog is lost. Review the checklist on LARGs website for things you should do immediately to increase your chances of finding your dog. Also consider contacting LARG to see if they can help with your search effort. You can contact their team of animal rescue experts by visiting this website – https://largcares.org/contact. The sooner you can engage help, coordinate resources, get posters out, broadcast over social media and start working that will help increase your chances of bringing your pet home. To follow the efforts of LARG check out their Facebook page.