With No State-Wide Plan, Lost Pets Can Be Difficult to Find

Golden retrieverAs part of my duties as a member of the Board of Governors for the Illinois State Bar Association, I was assigned to be the liaison to the Animal Law Section Council. In the meetings for the Council, I learned that Illinois does not have a state-wide organized plan for lost pets.  There is simply no singular resource for you to turn to when you are desperately trying to find your four-legged loved ones, which can make the experience of having a lost pet even more traumatic.  Having a dog (Abbie) and a cat (Zoey) of my own, I have continued to worry about how this would affect my family if either pet was lost.  While this issue is a problem that I hope can be addressed soon, in the meantime, here are some points to consider if you have a pet.

First, be aware that most counties have their own animal control divisions and/or animal shelters.  Plus, many towns and cities have their own animal control departments and/or shelters within those counties.  Most of the time those animal control departments and shelters do not communicate with each other.

Unfortunately, our pets do not care about city or county boundary lines and they can travel miles away from home if they are lost.  This means that if you lose a pet, you need to check with not only your local animal control and animal shelter(s), but also the various animal control departments and animal shelters in the surrounding area. In fact, you should expand the radius even larger than you think your pet can travel on their own because the shelter where your pet ends up will sometimes depend on who finds your pet.  For example, if your dog wandered off towards the county line, someone driving by might be from two counties over, and they might bring your dog to the shelter in their county, because that’s the shelter that they know.

Basically, if your pet gets out, you have a ton of phone calls to make and lots of legwork to do. 

  • Call people who can help. Notify your local police department and your vet.  They may have additional suggestions relating to your particular area. 

  • Let the community know. Given that your pet might not have travelled far, you should consider printing and distributing Lost Pet fliers around your town, in stores, and on bulletin boards at veterinarian offices.

  • Use the internet and social media. Publicize your lost pet through sites such as Facebook and Craigslist, which have ‘Lost Pet’ pages or groups.  Some animal shelters have a page or website that you can post on. If your lost pet is a dog, you can go to and register your pet.  They also provide several helpful links for other types of lost pets, including the Facebook page for Lost Cats Illinois.

  • Get the chip. Given the uncertainty of where you might find your pet if they are lost, you are much better off if your pet helps someone find you.  Consider having your pet microchipped and have the microchip tested at your regular vet appointments.  You should also ensure that your pet has tags with legible and up-to-date contact information.  Knowing that you will be notified if someone finds your pet will be a huge relief if you are ever trying to find your lost friend.