Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Lost Dogs Illinois crossed the 700 lost dogs recovery mark in September. We have a grand year-to-date total of 730 lost dog recoveries (679 safely, 51 deceased). The bottom line?
679 dogs did not take up space in shelters and/or rescues meant for homeless dogs.
What we have learned?
1. Most dogs don't want a new home. They just want to go home. Most owners are desperately searching for their dogs. They just need some help, advice and encouragement.
2. There is a confusing array of shelters, animal control agencies, rescues, town offices and police departments that hold lost dogs. They generally don't communicate with each other. Some don't have microchip scanners or websites. Many don't post "stray" photos on line.
Finding your dog can become a full-time endeavour and is like looking for a needle in a haystack. And you'd better hurry - because there is a good chance that your dog may be adopted out or killed before you get there. The majority of dogs in our animal shelters have ended up there because they are "strays" - lost pets. They committed no bigger sin than to have escaped the custody of their caregivers.
What are our biggest challenges?
1. The mindset and misperceptions of ill-informed people: Good Samaritans, rescuers or shelter staff who feel that people that have lost their dog don't deserve them back and rush to keep or rehome them instead. Also, the common misperception that found dogs have been dumped, abandoned or abused doesn't help. Lost dogs are usually just lost, confused and scared.
2. Rescue groups who do not hold the official stray contract for an area but who accept lost dogs in a misguided attempt to "rescue" them. They seem to think it is their inherent right to rehome somebody's dog whom they've deemed are unworthy owners.
Interestingly enough, dogs are also being lost from shelters, rescues, transports and foster homes in record numbers. Rarely a week goes by when we don't have at least a couple of these. We would love to train more shelters and rescue groups in effective search methods so that they can form their own teams of volunteers.
3. There is also a whole boatload of bad advice that is dished out to the owners of lost dogs. This is often shared and blogged about and yet has very little basis in fact. Rumors that dogs are being stolen for dog fighting bait, research, or have been eaten by coyotes or hawks. This gloom and doom (which in reality, rarely happens) cause people to stop searching far too early.
When the four of us began this venture, I think we envisioned having four or five dogs a month go missing who would need our help. Instead it is more like four or five a day. On certain days (those with fireworks, thunderstorms, blizzards or long holiday weekends) we've learned that we can expect even more.
Our public Facebook pages are pretty straight forward. We post lost dogs for owners, and found dogs that are missing their owners. We also post educational tips daily and we have resource tabs on the left hand side of the page.
But in addition to the main Facebook pages, I wish the public could sneak a peek at the behind the scenes action on our closed Facebook volunteer groups. To watch these volunteers in action is amazing. Posting, emailing, checking shelter websites, Craigslist - at the speed of light because of the power of the computer and the internet. Keeping hundreds of dogs straight - remembering details, remembering circumstances. I am in awe of our volunteers and their talents and abilities. Most of us have never met face to face, but we've built this incredible team via Facebook and the internet. Facebook fans are getting in on the action also by checking local newspapers, internet sites, cross-referencing and posting.
So, to the 48 volunteers and the 8,927 Facebook fans of Lost Dogs Illinois and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin - a huge thank you from Susan Taney, Jodi Hunter, Kathie Dowe and myself, Kathy Pobloskie.
YOU are saving lives.
Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.
- Author Unknown