Rutgers LAS

Comparative Medicine Resources (CMR)

Help! I’ve lost my pet!


Every day hundreds of people lose a loved pet, be it a cat, dog, ferret, bird or you-name-it. If you have just lost your pet, or your pet has recently died, you are not alone. Many organizations, both national and local, exist to help reunite you with your pet, but you must act quickly. There are also a few pet-loss support hotlines to help ease your pain and give som goog advice.

Remember, you are not alone.

We here at Rutgers Laboratory Animal Services have compiled a list of actions that one should do immediately after discovering that the pet is missing. We also want to address other issues involving missing pets, including prevention, organizations, laws and research. The USDA maintains sites with information on lost pets.

Steps To Find Pet

LAS feels that the best information for locating a missing pet is available from the US Department of Agriculture APHIS website. The address is:

Act Immediately!!!

The faster you act, the quicker and easier you will find your pet. The less time that your pet is missing, the better condition he or she will be in. An animal can only go so many days without clean food and water. The world out there is also dangerous - cars, fences, and other animals may hurt a loose pet.

Also, shelters are not likely to hold animals very long before they are adopted out or, at worst, put to sleep. Each state has its own laws which regulate how long a shelter must hold an animal. You are best off contacting local shelters ASAP.


The following are a list of suggestions to help minimize the chance of losing your pet and aid in faster recovery if your pet does get loose. Some of the suggestions below are required by law.

  • Be sure your pet has a current rabies vaccine/tag (required by law)
  • Walk your pet on a leash at all times and do not let your pet roam free
  • Register your pet with your municipality and be sure the tag is on the animal AT ALL TIMES (required in many towns)
  • Have your veterinarian place an ID chip underneath your animal's skin (See ASPCA for more info on this innovative, effective technology.)
  • Keep a current photo of your pet.
  • Have the numbers of animal control, local shelters and your veterinarian handy.
  • If your pet lives in an outside enclosure, inspect it daily for breaches before you let your pet into it.
  • Keep a lock on any gates to enclosures.
  • Spay or neuter your pet. This cuts back on the stray animal population and ensures that your pet will not come back and give you eight little surprises in a few months.

Pets And Research

When people lose a pet, they frequently ask, “Will my dog wind up in a research Lab?” In New Jersey, the answer is definitely not and in all others, the chance is negligible for several reasons. New Jersey passed legislation which forbids research oriented facilities from using “random source” (feral animals, lost pets) from the state of NJ. Other states have stringent laws which make using random source animals very difficult and expensive. Also, most facilities use only animals which are specifically raised and bred in clean facilities for research. This eliminates many variables which cannot be accounted for. Animals from other sources are also not trained to be in a lab setting and are thus usually not suitable for any research. LAS has only lab reared animals.

For more information on lost pets and animal research, please see The New Jersey Association for Biomedical Reseach Pet site (to be posted soon) or AAALAC.

Pet-Loss Support

(Courtesy Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine)

“Loss of a pet can have a significant impact on you and your family. Companion animals give us support, love and loyalty; and, losing a family pet can be one of the most difficult times in your life. The staff at the Pet Loss Support Hotline understands this. Loss of a pet, whether due to death, disappearance, or inability to keep them, is the loss of a special and unique part of everyone's life. Knowing that there will be no “replacement” causes pain to those who love their pets.

Whether your pet is a cat, dog, horse, bird, fish or any one of the other myriad of animals that share our hearts and lives, the staff at the Tufts Pet Loss Support Hotline understands your feelings.

If you are anticipating the loss of a pet, or you want to talk to someone about thoughts and feelings for a pet that has died, please call us at the hotline. The Pet Loss Support Hotline supports your decision making, and we are available to help you explore your feelings.”

The hotline is staffed from 6pm - 9pm, Monday through Friday.

Pet Loss Hotline: 508-839-7966

Tufts also has a list of books which explore the emotions of pet-loss.

Organizations And Links

The following site contains the addresses of most of the animal shelters and rescue organizations within the United States.

The USDA maintains a number of very useful pet and wildlife related sites:

Cats, dogs and small animals are not the only ones to be rescued by humane societies:

Other links: