Dogs and cats are enormously popular as companion animals in the United States. In 2002, it was estimated that 36% of American households owned dogs and 32% of American households owned cats.1 Not only are dogs and cats popular, but their owners consider them part of the family. In the 2004 American Animal Hospital Association Pet Survey, 50% of respondents indicated they would choose a dog or cat as their sole companion if stranded on a desert island, and 56% said they would be very likely to risk their lives to save their pets.2
A pet that strays from its home can be at serious risk for starvation, injury, or death. Also, given the strength of the human-animal bond and the emotional attachment that many owners have to their pets, having a pet stray from its home can be traumatic and distressing for the owner. Thus, veterinarians may provide a benefit to both their patients and their clients by counseling pet owners on methods to prevent lost pets and effective means to ensure the rapid recovery of pets that do become lost. Traditionally, owners have identified their pets with tags on the pets' collars and have placed advertisements in newspapers or searched local animal shelters to recover lost pets. Newer technology has led to the use of implanted microchip identification methods and Web sites devoted to finding and returning lost pets to their owners. However, the effectiveness of the various methods available for recovering lost pets has not been reported. The purposes of the study reported here were to characterize the process by which owners search for lost dogs and identify factors associated with time to recovery of lost dogs.
Copies of the telephone survey are available from the corresponding author on request.
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