Getting Cats back home
Across the nation the laws protecting cats and regulating them fall short. Shelters and rescue organizations are bursting with cats who seem to need to be rehomed. Many of these cats can be reunited with homes they already have but the effort to make that happen cannot land squarely on the shoulders of the shelters and rescues, changes must be made by the citizens of the communities.
Here in Lane County there are regulations out there for the care and treatment of dogs. Unfortunately there are not a whole lot of laws in place to protect cats. We as a community need to step up and care for cats and stop looking at them as a disposable animal or vermin.
After running the Lost And Found Pets of Lane County Oregon page on Facebook for several years, I’ve noticed that dogs were not only being returned more but that their posts get shared more. That’s when I started having even more questions about what other trends were happening within our community when it came to getting lost cats back home.
I decided to ask our central reporting agency First Avenue Shelter about what we as a community are doing well and what we still need to work on to increase owner returns of cats.
Report, Report, Report
One of the issues in our area is that there are not enough people reporting to First Avenue Shelter. Some may want to help by caring for the animal while looking for the owner instead of placing an animal in the shelter system. That’s not a problem, you still need to report it.
Reporting a lost or found animal to a central reporting agency makes sense. Yes by all means put in a report anywhere and everywhere they take them but please make sure if you do not report anywhere else, that you report to First Avenue Shelter. First Avenue Shelter IS our central reporting agency for Lane County. Even if you do not want to take the animal there, at least put in a report. Animals can’t be connected to home if the information is not there to have a connection.
It is important to report as soon as possible, especially if you have lost your cat. First Avenue Shelter abides by the county code because they are working with the county government. The time frames are listed in Lane Code 7.065. This is why it is very important to put in your report as soon as possible. It is also extremely important to microchip your cat, even indoor only cats. Collars with identification can come off. If you microchip your cat it will have a better chance at being returned. Minimum hold time is longer for an animal with identification but again, reporting as soon as possible can get an animal returned sooner.
The time frames listed in Lane Code 7.065:
7.065 Lane Code 7.065
(a) An unlicensed animal, or an animal, the owner of which is unknown,
which has not been redeemed within 72 hours after impoundment, may be adopted or
(b) A licensed animal, or an animal, the owner of which is known, which
has not been redeemed within 120 hours of notification of the owner by telephone
contact, or by mailing or by posting at the owner’s dwelling the impoundment notice,
may be adopted or euthanized.
*Please note that First Avenue does not count days they are closed. These are business hours.
**Also please note that other rescue organizations should abide by the hold time laws for citizens, not the Lane County Code unless they have a document stating differently. The Rules and Recommendations for “Stray Cats” can be found on the Lane County website. It states 6 weeks.
Report to First Avenue first and then start working on letting other rescue organizations know since their hold times should be longer.
I also asked about rescue organizations putting in reports for the “strays” they receive and found the answer a little disheartening. There is only one organization in the area working with cats who are consistently reporting the “strays” they receive at the time this article was written.
I’ve heard of several cats who have been returned to owner by the rescue reporting to First Avenue. This is a huge win for any organization who takes this step. This means those cats will not have to take up valuable resources or space in the rescue program which is needed for the real abandoned and homeless cats who need their help.
This makes sense. First Avenue Shelter already has a process in place to help reunite pets with owners. They are the central reporting agency. Why would a rescue want to take on an animal that may not need rescuing? Why would a rescue want to take on the task of finding an owner without reporting if their chances of finding one is increased by reporting and working with First Avenue? Saves resources, lives and volunteer hours in my mind for all involved and it may keep an animal out of ANY rehoming program. #ReuniteDontRehome #WorkingTogetherSavesLives #ThinkLostNotStray also applies to organizations. We need more organizations to work with First Avenue Shelter to keep cats out of our rescue system as a whole who already have homes.
I am hearing a lot of good feedback about the increase of owners returns if posters are placed in the area that the animal was lost or found. It increases even more if posters are put up in at least a two block radius, the further out you go the better.
It makes sense, the person who lost the animal may go to that area to put up posters for the lost animal. Or they may not even know their animal is lost but frequents that area. There are a number of reasons why putting up a poster for a lost or found animal helps.
Not everyone is on the computer. We still need to use non computer ways to get the word out about an animal that has been lost or found. If you have the ability to put posters on every door that is the best way to get the most people seeing the information. Do not put them in mailboxes, it is against the law.
Don’t forget to send the posters to area veterinarians, animal hospitals and rescues to let them know. Some places have a binder they use to put their “posters” in. Some place them on a wall. Some have a file, etc.
Posters – Size matters
Binders of course will need a full page but walls or boards could benefit from something smaller, not too small though. A half sheet instead of full. When contacting an organization, veterinarian, anywhere, you may want to ask what size is preferred before sending it. If you are contacting them by email you may want to include the different sizes to make it easiest. I honestly don’t know the solution that will work for each of them but know that size does matter sometimes.
If you are putting up a poster in an intersection or somewhere you want drivers to see it. Please see this great article from Missing Pet Partnership. about the best sizes and how to make them stand out.
A picture is worth a thousand words
The biggest message that everyone would like to share is…
Please include a picture on any form of advertisement. Not as a separate attachment in email, a comment on a post, etc. please. I must say even on the Lost And Found Pets of Lane County Oregon page…. posts with pictures get notice more and shared more.
You will never be able to describe what a picture can reveal. There are several types of stripe formations for tabbies alone. So even if you say it’s a black and tan tabby…. we need to see the stripes to see if it’s a ticked, classic, or other type of tabby to see if it matches.
Pictures – Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
I get all kinds of excuses as to why someone doesn’t want to put a picture of the animal on a post or a poster. Here is my answer to them…
Shelters require identification and proof of ownership. There is no reason you can’t do the same. You can ask for pictures of the pet from the person claiming to be the owner. Require them to show a picture of the animal with the person or you can ask for vet records. I’ve seen people pull them up from their phone to show proof. Asking for proof is not unreasonable and it also shows that you are looking out for the animal in your care. The real owner will appreciate that you took these steps to insure the animal is with the right person.
I want to caution people who give or do not give an animal back based on “how the animal behaves”. It may be a really friendly animal who loves everyone. This does not prove the animal belongs to them. Require proof. On the flip side of that, an animal may be a newly adopted pet or it may have other issues that make it seem afraid or shy. Again, don’t assume, require proof. More on that topic can be found on Missing Pet Partnership.
Writing TOO MUCH information is not helpful. The posts/posters are too much to read and people pass them by.
With clear picture(s) include:
Pet Name – Helpful but not required (it does help create a connection to the pet)
Last location – either lost or found – CROSS STREETS AND CITY
Gender – Whether it’s Spay/Neutered
Identification/distinguishing marks- Microchipped, Tags, Tattoos, birthmarks, scars, etc.
BRIEF description of other characteristics.
EASY Contact information. – Phone number is best
Facebook Users – Facebook messaging is horrible at best if you are not friends with someone. The “other” folder that these messages show up in does not appear to be found from a phone. This is a problem because that’s where most people are accessing Facebook. I have personally tested this and have had several other people test this and the only place we can see the “other” folder in messages is on the computer. So… don’t count on that!!
If you are worried about putting your phone number out there for the world, there is a solution. Please please please look into using Google Voice as a solution. This way your real number is not out there for the world to see but a phone number is the easiest and fastest way someone can contact you.
These are only a few of the things we are doing well and things we can work towards to better care for the lost and found cats in our community. Please help spread the word to others about what we all can do to get kitties back home instead of immediately keeping them, sending them into an already stressed sheltering/rescue system or rehoming them.