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Lost Pets and Stray Animals

Putting the focus on lost pet reunification makes sense because loose or lost animals are the largest intake group across shelters (according to Shelter Animals Count Q1-Q2 2023 reports). Those kept in the neighborhood where they’re found are more likely to make it home to their families—that is because most of those pets are less than a mile from their home.  If you spot a cat or dog outside without a pet parent in sight, odds are that you've just met someone's family pet. Even if you're not sure whether you've encountered a lost pet, a stray dog, or a community cat, it's always best to err on the side of caution and allow every potentially lost pet to return to their loving home through a RTO (return to owner) community based model.  Let us explain.

According to the ASPCA “About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.” But only 17-30% of dogs are ever reclaimed by their owner.   For cats the stats are truly appalling – only 2 – 5% of cats ever get reclaimed.


Thanks to new technologies, lost pets no longer need to be brought to a shelter if they are healthy and friendly, and with a little help from the pet finder, can be returned home within minutes or hours of getting lost.

Let's Talk About RTO
(Return to Owner)

The Return to Owner model focuses on returning pets in the field back to their owners without ever bringing them into the animal shelter. This frees resources for animals that truly need to be brought into the shelter.

When stray animals are found, either by field officers or members of the community, they are usually taken to animal control and/or a municipal shelter where hopefully they will be reunited with their family. People are willing to help with reunification efforts when asked.

Nine communities that have adopted the Human Animal Support Services model were surveyed, and 510 respondents reported taking a pet they found to their local shelter. Of these, 88% said they would have agreed to hold onto it while they searched for its owner if they had been asked by the shelter to do so and offered support and guidance; and 51% said they would do it for more than a week if needed. This makes sense—people who already took the initiative to let the shelter know about a lost pet are likely to take an extra step and help get it home.

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