My mom used to say “No good deed goes unpunished.” I never understood that to its fullest extent until now.
Last month I got this “great idea” to start a Lost & Found pets page on Facebook. I’ve been wanting to do a Lost & Found service of some kind for years…since two of our dogs went missing in the ’90’s. Back then, although we’d found one of our dogs right away, the other one was gone almost two weeks, and it was a very stressful experience trying to find her. Starting a page on Facebook seemed perfect to me because of the ease of networking. Facebook really lends itself to a project like Lost & Found animals.
I’d already been sharing animals to a national L&F page, when the idea occurred to me. I thought a page focusing on animals in a single area would be better than a nationwide page. I searched for an Ohio L&F pets page and didn’t find one, so I recruited a friend and went ahead and set one up. (I have since discovered that just because I didn’t find one, didn’t mean that a number of them don’t already exist…I just hadn’t searched the right keywords. There is an Ohio Lost & Found Pet Portal and there are also a number of pages that are county specific.)
But, anyway, I didn’t know that, so Lost & Found Ohio Pets was born.
The page caught on right away, and within a week we were reaching 11,000 people, even though only 300+ had liked the page. Peoople were sharing and cross-posting with the other Ohio Lost and Found pages.
After about two weeks, certain things began becoming clear to me…things I found disturbing. The first being: all those lost pets? Where do they end up?
- In some cases – like the recent spate of disappearances / thefts of pets in Dayton – they end up the victims of dog fighters who are blooding their fighting dogs.
- In some cases, they get hit by cars.
- In some cases, they are found by people in the community…but those people generally can’t hang onto a dog for an extended period while they try to find the owner. They end up turning the animal over to their local animal control or humane society.
- In some cases, they are picked up directly by animal control in a neighboring community.
For now, I just want to discuss the last two scenarios. The lost pets that end up in shelters and pounds. One afternoon I was calling people who had posted FOUND dogs to my page to see if they still had the dog or if they had found the owner, and the majority of them had turned the pet over to local animal control. One case was a pug, and I was anxious to find out if the finder still had him, because someone had just posted a lost pug on the Lost & Found Ohio Pets page. When I called, I got a voicemail recording that said the pug had been turned over to Summit County Animal Control on Opportunity Parkway. (The fact that the Akron pound is on a road called “Opportunity Parkway” seems like an ironic and sick joke.) I called Summit County Animal Control after finding this out and asked about the pug who had been brought in. The man who answered the phone looked at his impound list. He said “We haven’t had any pugs come in.”
I asked him to double check. I asked him to look back a couple of days. He replied something like this: “On Friday we got a pit bull, a pit bull, a shepherd mix, a pit bull and a terrier. On Saturday we got a Pomeranian, a pit bull, a pit bull, a terrier and a Jack Russell. Oh wait…on Thursday, last Thursday, we got a pug. It’s been adopted out.”
This conversation rattled me for a couple of different reasons.
- First, Summit AC has a dubious record.
- Secondly…he had said ‘no pug’ and had to be asked to look back further, even though I gave him a target date when I called. What if that was my dog? What if he’d said “no pug” and I said “OK, thanks” and hung up?
- Thirdly – that seemed like a lot of animals impounded in just a couple of days, and awfully generic.
- Fourth – the pug had already been adopted out…so if that dog’s owner was searching for him, he was no longer stray, and no longer impounded. No longer findable.
- Fifth – I knew that all of the pets there, all of the ones on his list were in imminent danger of being killed, and that some of them, maybe the majority of them, were lost pets.
Now, in advocacy, there are certain things I know. Shelter statistics dance across my desk on a regular basis, and that particular week, I’d heard a lot of them. Practically every place I had turned, there was a new shelter statistic assaulting my senses.
33%-45% of pit bulls end up in a shelter at some point in their lives.
75% of them are killed.(the day I called, the Summit AC had rattled off at least 5 they’d impounded in the past two days.)
The Adrion W Baird Animal Center in Campbell County Tennessee kills 95% of the animals that come through their doors.
Robeson County Animal Shelter in NC has a 90% kill rate.
Montgomery County Animal Shelter in NC has a 99% kill rate! Last year they killed 100 percent of the cats and 98 percent of the dogs that came into their facility.
PETA kills 96% of the animals that enter their Norfolk Virginia shelter.
Between 3 and 4 million shelter animals are killed every year in the United States. That’s 456 animals per hour, or more than 7 animals per minute. It’s more than the combined total human population of North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming!
I’m in Ohio, and my Lost & Found page is for Ohio pets…but Ohio shelters don’t do any better than these shelters in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, or anywhere else in the country.
My “great idea” had just gotten a whole lot more complicated…because now it was clear to me that I needed to make sure that the lost pets on my page get shared to all the animal control facilities in the county where the pet has gone missing as well as surrounding counties.
And in addition to that realization, I also realized that a lot of pet owners are so upset when they lose their pet, that they don’t know what to do. They might post that the pet is lost, but they don’t even always include information like whether or not the animal is male or female, or a phone number where they can be reached! Most pet owners don’t know that if your pet is missing, you have to go to the shelter in person. You cannot rely on the person who answers the phone when you call.
And these realizations mean that I need to give them the tools to find their lost animals!
So now I’m writing a Lost & Found Friday article in my Cleveland Pets Examiner column that gives tips for finding lost pets…which I’ll probably compile into a downloadable PDF when I am finished.
And now I’m worried more than ever for the missing pets on my page – and there are just too many of them.
Are you in Ohio? Please ‘like’ Lost & Found Ohio Pets on Facebook, and share our notices.
And please. PLEASE. Be responsible. License your dogs. Make sure they have ID. Microchip them. Spay and Neuter them. Don’t leave them unattended outdoors or in cars. Don’t tie them out and walk away thinking they are safe. Their safety is in your hands.