Sarah Ernaberger dealt with a few sleepless nights when temperatures plummeted into the teens last week. After finding three stray dogs in the Purser Crossing subdivision in Killeen, she went online to Facebook and Craigslist and called anyone she could think of to get the pups out of the cold and back to their owners.
In a stroke of accidental luck, however, Ernaberger’s small-town search spread statewide. While posting her “found dogs” flier online, she garnered the help of Lost Dogs of Texas, a statewide volunteer organization that uses social media to bring stray dogs home.
A virtual and volunteer-driven organization, Lost Dogs of Texas began in 2012 with the purpose of helping people reunite dogs with their owners. Using social media sites like Facebook, Craigslist and Twitter, broad-reaching, virtual “Lost Dog” fliers provided by the organization helped Lost Dogs achieve a 52-percent “Safe at Home” rate last September.
“We are all volunteers and provide free fliers because that is the best way to find a lost dog,” said Marilyn Litt, founder of Lost Dogs of Texas. “Our fliers are easy to make and clear to read. That is exactly what a frantic person needs to be offered when their beloved dog is missing.”
The fliers are a mix of high-tech and traditional, much like the organization. With a quick-read scanner in the left corner, the rest of the printable sign includes the physical description of the lost or found dog, location, contact information and the pet’s photo.
Of course, “LOST” or “FOUND” is blazingly typed across the top and the logos of Lost Dogs of Texas and its partner organization, Helping Lost Pets, are nestled in the bottom corners.
Helping Lost Pets helps with Lost Dogs of Texas’s IT work and provides a nationwide virtual map that pinpoints the locations of reported dogs.
Texans associated with misplaced dogs can use a link on the organization’s Facebook page and complete the appropriate flier — either the “lost dog” or “found dog” template. Then volunteers create the sign and post it to social media sites.
“There are many, many caring people who share the posts or go through already existing listings to match dogs … our matchmakers,” said Killeen-based volunteer Liz Rainey. “We also have pet detectives: People who are experts at tracking down disconnected phone numbers, trace unregistered microchips … They also intervene when called upon in theft cases, as advisers and facilitators.”
The site posts about 45 lost or found dogs from around the state daily and Killeen dogs are posted a few times a week, Rainey said.
Lost Dogs helped reunite dogs that traveled more than a hundred miles across the state or were lost for up to 248 days.
As of Friday, however, none of the Killeen-area canines listed in the past week had found their way home.
“Nobody has come forward …” said Ernaberger, referring to the pit-mix, Labrador and terrier-mix dogs she found and took into her home. “I was sick to my stomach the night it dropped to 20 degrees. I guess (the dogs) just grew on me.”
For information or to post with the organization, go to its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/findtexasdogs.
Five things to do if you have lost your dog:
1. Immediately put out food, water and your dog’s bed or an article of your clothing at the location where your dog was last seen. There’s a good chance that your dog may return.
2. Get the word out by using flyers and signs (like yard sale signs) with a picture of your dog and your phone number, and then check your phone often. Go door-to-door with your flyers in the neighborhood where your dog was last seen.
3. Contact your local animal shelters and animal control facilities, vet clinics and police departments to report your dog missing. Fax or email them a photo of your dog and your contact information.
4. Instruct anyone helping you to NOT call or chase your dog. This will prolong your search. If they see your dog, tell them to sit or lay down (no eye contact) and gently toss out a tasty treat to lure your dog in.
5. Post your dog on your local Craigslist, in your local paper and on other lost-and-found pets Internet and Facebook sites.
Source: Lost Dogs of Texas
Five things to do if you have found a dog:
1. Check for a license or ID tag. No tags? Ask around your neighborhood in case the dog lives nearby.
2. Take the dog to the nearest veterinarian or shelter to have the dog scanned for a microchip and checked for a tattoo.
3. Notify all of the correct authorities to report the dog found. Call your local police (nonemergency line). Also, call your local animal control agency to complete a found dog report or bring the dog to them if you are unable to keep the dog while searching for its owner.
4. Create “found dog” flyers and post them around the neighborhood and at animal service businesses.
5. Post on your local Craigslist, in your local paper (found ads are often free) and on other lost-and-found pets Internet and Facebook sites.
Source: Lost Dogs of Texas
Contact Courtney Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7559