The following article (edited) was written by Michael McCann who has given groups like ours permission to use it. While we have had missing greyhounds in the past, all have been found thanks to the good information in this document. Please print this article and keep a copy of it in your adoption folder for future reference (and we hope you will never need it!).
Okay, you’ve lost him. He slipped his collar, or ran out of the open gate; He was spooked by lightning and jumped the back fence; you dropped the leash, or you let him run off lead, he saw a squirrel and suddenly he was gone. How he was lost doesn’t really matter now: What matters are the steps you have to take to get him back. He’s out there and he’s depending on you to find him. He’s lost and can’t find his way home. It’s been a couple of hours now. You’ve scoured the neighborhood, and you are hoping to see him in every yard and around every corner. But, you are beginning to realize that you can’t find him. Here’s what you have to do:
■Change your mindset: This is most important, and most difficult step. You have to stop checking every street and back yard yourself, and start recruiting an army to do it for you. Most greyhounds are found within a mile or two of where they were lost, but a two mile radius is nearly 13 square miles, an impossible area to search adequately alone. You have to stop looking for your dog, and start looking for people. Everything that follows depends on it. With every hour that goes by, your chances of finding your dog, on your own, diminish. You now have to find someone who has seen your dog. You need a sighting and in order to get a sighting, you need help! Ask everyone you know, including your friends, co-workers, adoption group and son’s Cub Scout pack to help you. Don’t wait until tomorrow, do it now.
■Get the Word Out: Whether you have help or not, you’ve got to get the word out about your lost dog. You and your volunteers are going to search yes, but while you’re searching, you’re going to post flyers on every available telephone pole, in every super market, drug store, school, church, police station, vet’s office or any other public place surrounding the area. Ninety percent of lost dogs that are found are found because someone saw a flyer. The flyers don’t have to be fancy, but get them printed on the brightest, most fluorescent paper available. Begin with the words, “LOST GREYHOUND” (in big letters), “IF SIGHTED PLEASE CALL……….” A silhouette of a running greyhound works great as an attention grabber. Five hundred of them are a good start, but you may need more. The area should be so saturated with flyers that you can’t turn around without seeing one. Don’t expand your search area until you’ve totally covered the area where he was last seen.
■Knock on doors and talk to everyone you see – the mail person, the UPS driver, the local landscaper. Any of these people may see your dog, and if they do, now they won’t just think it’s some dog on his way home, they’ll know he’s lost. Give everyone you talk to a flyer.
■Schools are a great resource for search help. Ask the principal to make announcements about the lost dog and leave flyers to pass out and post on bulletin boards. Kids see everything in the neighborhood but will ignore dogs running around unless asked to look. If you hand one kid a flyer, five more will have seen it by the end of the day. Don’t ignore the little kids either. They tell their folks everything.
■Call every veterinarian’s office, animal control officer and police department within two or three miles from where he was last seen. In rural areas, expand your calling to every nearby town. Follow up with a flyer or several. Faxing them will save you some time but it is important that they see you, rather than just a piece of paper. If you show people how concerned you are, they’ll want to help you. Don’t just call them once. Call them every few days and in the case of the police, during every shift, to make sure everyone knows about your dog.
■ Run newspaper ads in the local papers, and while you’re at it, talk to a reporter and see if she’ll run a local interest story on the lost greyhound. Local cable access stations often will run your lost dog ad for free and local radio stations and TV stations will often run the story on a slow news night
■ Check your local animal shelters every few days, in person. It is amazing how many folks who work in these places don’t know dog breeds. Your greyhound could be hanging out at a local shelter, up for adoption, because they think he’s a Whippet or a Doberman mix.
■ Get in touch with your local Department of Public Works, or Highway Department. Sadly, they often will pick up an animal’s body from the road, and if there is no identification, the owner will never know. Collars often fall off when a dog is loose or struck by a car.
■Tools You Will Need: Print some maps of your area to give to the volunteers. Make notations of areas that have been well posted. Set up grids and utilize them to cover all the locations in your search area. Send teams to each grid area. Get some heavy-duty staple guns and use those for putting up your flyers on telephone poles and clear packing tape for other hard surfaces (Don’t use duct tape; it looks messy and some localities bristle at having these flyers posted; you want the locals helping you, not trying to shut your search down). If available, try to keep in touch with your teams with cell phones or walkie-talkies so that when you get a sighting, you can have them go immediately to the sight.
Make sure that there is always someone available at the phone number you posted. You don’t want people to call with a sighting only to hang up because they got a machine.
■Don’t assume anything: Don’t assume your dog has been picked up, it’s the trap that everyone seems to fall into: “No sighting, someone must have picked up my dog!” Greyhounds are notorious for disappearing in the woodwork. A person can walk right by a brindle greyhound lying in a pile of leaves and never even see him. Some go for months or even years without being found, because people assume they have been picked up or are dead.
■Don’t assume that the call you got about a dog five miles away is yours. Follow it up, yes, but when you start getting calls about dogs, ask questions: What color was the dog you saw? How big? Which way was it heading? What time and on what day did you see him? Have you ever seen him before? You don’t want to be running out of your search area just to find that someone called you about a beagle they saw running through the yard. These false leads are actually a positive sign, they mean your efforts are working; people are looking out for your dog. It’s just that they don’t know the difference between a greyhound and a Jack Russell terrorist.
■Don’t lose hope: A few days or a week of searching can be discouraging. A lack of sightings or no word at all can be tough on a positive attitude. Just remember, your hound is still out there, and someone has seen him. All you have to do is to find that person. It’s only natural to start thinking the worst. But, as non-street savvy as greyhounds are, they are survivors. Keep looking. Don’t give up. Your grey is counting on you.
■A note about rewards: Lost greyhounds, especially shy ones, are extremely difficult to catch. Your goal should be to encourage people who see the dog call you with the sighting. Once the sightings have established where the dog is hanging out, set up feeding stations. Then, you can set up a humane trap for the capture.
In our experience, rewards often work against getting sightings. What happens is that you will increase the numbers of people looking for the dog yes, but the new people tend to be bounty hunters, teenagers or “cowboys” who just think of the money, not the safety of the animal. Often, when they see the dog, the first thing they do is chase, and sometimes they chase the dog right out of the safety of the territory the dog has felt comfortable in. These people rarely call in sightings because they want to cash in.
We suggest that the wording of that flyer should be something like: “LOST GREYHOUND, IF SIGHTED, PLEASE CALL, (555)555-5555, PLEASE, DO NOT CHASE”. We never mention a reward. We feel that if someone does catch the dog, and asks for a reward, we can still pay it, but we don’t ask for trouble by offering money in advance.
Would you rather have a hundred sympathetic animal lovers helping you look for your dog, or a couple of hundred clueless bounty hunters trying to cash in? We’ll go with the animal lovers every time.