Lost and Found Pets

Tips for finding a lost pet:

First things first. Call us. Please call (207) 985-3244 as soon as you suspect your pet is missing. We keep a detailed log of missing animals and compare each incoming animal to that log in hopes of reuniting a family.

Many dogs and cats are quickly picked up by town Animal Control Officers or by concerned citizens and are brought to the shelter. Dogs are held for 6 days, but cats are only held for 24 hours as required by state law. Calling as soon as possible increases your chances of being reunited.

We also encourage frequent visits to the shelter while your pet is missing.

Investigate EVERY nook and cranny. Don’t assume that your pet would never crawl into a tiny space. Look behind, under, and inside washing machines, clothes dryers, stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers. Look behind water heaters, in boxes, under furniture, under beds, in closets, in cabinets, in shelves and bookcases, in drain pipes, in sewer drains, in culvert pipes, under vehicles, in crawl spaces under the house, inside sheds and barns, etc. In the case of cats, also look in attic crawl spaces, drop ceilings, on the roof, in roof gutters, and up in trees.

Go door to door in the neighborhood. Make up flyers with your pet’s description and your phone number. Leave them with each resident you speak to, or attached to the door of those who are not home. Don’t write down your name or address on your flyers. Also, if you offer a reward, don’t state the amount.

Gather clues. Ask everybody if they’ve seen or heard anything unusual in the neighborhood. This could include strange vehicles, work crews, people or activities.

Broadcast familiar noises. Have all of your family members call the pet’s name. Make any other noise that your pet might recognize. If your pet has a favorite “squeaky toy” bring it along and use it. Carry a box of your pet’s favorite treats and rattle it loudly while calling your pet’s name.

Use familiar smells. Place strong-scented articles outside your home to attract your pet. Place some of your dirty clothes outdoors. It can also help to put out some smelly food such as tuna or warm, freshly cooked chicken. Be sure to protect the food if you can, so that other animals don’t eat it.

Lure them home with familiar items. Place a dog or cat’s bedding and favorite toys outside. For cats, put their litter box outside as well.

Lure them home with familiar friends. In warm weather, crate other family pets and place them outside in a safe and secure area. Make sure they have plenty of water and shade. Use common sense if it’s dangerously hot.

Use a dog whistle to get your pet’s attention. The high-pitched sound from these whistles can carry up to a mile or more. Cats are attracted to this sound as well. It’s also important to stop regularly, be quiet, and listen for your pet to make a noise in reply.

Illuminate hiding spots. Bring a flashlight (even during daylight hours) for checking in dark spaces. A frightened or injured pet will hide in dark spaces and may not come to you. Use your flashlight for checking under houses and other dark spots. Also check storage sheds, garages, dumpsters, trash cans, and under cars. Don’t forget to look in trees for cats.

Check with veterinary offices. Call local veterinary offices during the day. After 5pm, call veterinary emergency clinics. Find out if your pet was injured and taken to any of these offices or clinics for treatment.

Find out if your pet has been killed on the road. This is a sad but necessary task. The road crews for your local and state department of transportation (DOT) usually pick up dead animals from the roadside and city streets. In some cases, Animal Control does this as well. Call around and find out which agencies handle this service in your area.

Post flyers. It is extremely important to post MANY flyers about your lost pet within a 1-mile radius of where it was lost.

Tips for your flyers:

  • Use only your phone number. Do not place your name or address on your flyer.
  • If possible, place a color photo of your pet on each flyer.
  • Use 8.5″ x 11″ fluorescent-colored paper for high visibility.
  • List the date and place your pet was lost, breed of dog or cat, sex, age, weight, color, markings, and your telephone number. Offer a reward, but don’t state the amount.
  • It is very important to withhold several identifying marks and characteristics of your lost pet. You may need to use these later to verify that a person has actually found your pet and is not trying to scam you.
  • Post the flyers at waist level on telephone poles and at eye level in such places as veterinary offices, grocery stores, community bulletin boards, convenience stores, near schools, and on school bulletin boards.
  • Examine your posted flyers frequently and replace the ones that are missing or damaged.

Use your local publications. Place an ad in the daily paper. Also place an ad in any “Penny Saver”-type publications you might have in your area. Check “found” ads in the newspaper every day. Most newspapers provide free ads to people who have found lost pets.

Don’t give up. Pets have been known to find their way back home after being lost for several months.

What NOT to do when looking for your lost pet:

  • Never respond to a “found” pet contact alone. Take a friend or two along with you.
  • Never invite a person to your home unless you happen to know them well. Instead, arrange to meet in a public place.
  • Don’t fall for a money scam. A common one is a person calls you claiming to be a long-haul trucker. He says he picked up your pet and is out of state now. He heard about your ad, flyer, etc. and says he will return your pet if you pay to ship it home. This person does not have your pet and is only trying to take your money.
  • Don’t wander around looking for your pet alone — day or night. Always bring a friend.
  • Never give out all of the identifying features of your lost pet. If the person who claims to have found your pet cannot describe these features to you, they do not have your pet.

When you find your pet:

  • Let us know. We will remove your pet’s description from our lost animal book.

How to protect your pets now:

  • Pet-proof your fence so your cat or dog will be safely confined. Be sure to check your fence regularly for new escape routes.
  • Keep fence gates securely locked. This is for the safety of both your pet and any visitors.
  • Never allow your pets to roam free in the neighborhood. Leash them at all times.
  • Always transport a cat in a carrier. Never take your cat to the vet or anywhere else unless it is secured. An unsecured cat can bolt and hide if frightened.
  • The same goes for dogs. Always leash them when taking them anywhere.
  • Take some good photos of your pet now.
  • Take close-up shots so details show up well. Keep taking pictures until you get a few good ones that really look like your pet. Most snapshots of pets look like any other cat or dog. You want your photos to be unique and your pet to be unmistakable. These photos will be invaluable to you later if your pet is ever lost.
  • Train your pet (cat or dog) to associate a dog whistle with pleasant things. Blow the whistle just before you feed them each day. They will be more likely to come running to you when you use the whistle to find them.
  • It is absolutely vital that your pet have a CURRENT rabies tag on it at all times.
  • And finally, spay or neuter your pets. Both males and females will be much less likely to wander if they are “fixed.” An added benefit is that they will live a longer, happier, healthier life if they are spayed or neutered.

Ensure that YOU can be located if your pet is found:

  • Always keep a collar on your pet with a tag that has your CURRENT PHONE NUMBER on it, including the area code.
  • Always have a CURRENT rabies tag and pet license tag attached to your pet’s collar. You can be found by the number on the tags.
  • Talk to your vet about a microchip implant. A microchip provides positive and reliable identification for your pet, and most shelters scan animals for this ID device.


If we have your pet — claiming an animal at AWS:

We’re glad that you have been reunited with your lost pet. While your pet was at AWS, he received food, water and care to the best of our ability. Unfortunately, these services are not free for us to provide. We do charge a claim fee when you pick up your animal.

Prior to picking up your pet, please check with your town to see if they have an impound fee to offset the costs to their Animal Control Officer. We will not release an animal unless proof of impound fee payment is provided.

The following towns require an impound fee: Acton, Biddeford, Hollis, Lebanon, Limerick, Limington, Lyman, Saco, Shapleigh, Ogunquit, Old Orchard, Waterboro and Wells.

Our shelter claim fees are as follows:

  • All Dogs:
    • Daily rate, first 7 days: $27
    • Day 8 and on: $33
  • All Cats:
    • Daily rate: $17
  • Other Animals:
    • Daily rate: $22, plus food costs
  • Non-stray Reclaims:
    • Daily rate: $33