Home > Animal Rescue, Lost Dogs, Missing Pets, Pet Topics > Let’s stop thinking “stray” and start thinking LOST

Let’s stop thinking “stray” and start thinking LOST


All one has to do is look at the Lost Dogs-MN Facebook page to know that there are a LOT of missing dogs out there. A LOT. In fact, almost too many to count. Then you head on over to the Lost Dogs of Wisconsin page and you begin to realize, this isn’t just an issue in Minnesota, it’s an issue everywhere. It makes one wonder… How many missing and lost dogs are there out there?

Recently, Lost Dogs-MN, Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Lost Dogs Illinois published their recent statistics. The numbers were astounding.

Between January and May of 2012:

Lost Dogs Illinois – 825 dogs reunited with their owners (778 safe, 47 deceased)

Lost Dogs-MN – 258 dogs reunited with their owners (240 safe, 18 deceased)

Lost Dogs of Wisconsin – 497 dogs reunited with their owners (450 safe, 47 deceased)

Combined total of Lost Dogs- MN, Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Lost Dogs Illinois for this year so far is 1588 reunions (1476 safe, 112 deceased).

(If we averaged that number just among the three states in which those pages reside (Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin), that would be approximately 529 reunited dogs per state. Extrapolate that number across all 50 states and that’s 26,450 dogs that could be lost and reunited nationwide – and that’s just January through May!)

Given these numbers, it makes me wonder why we continue to use the word “stray” anymore. If there is anything I have learned over the past seven months, it’s that many of the dogs we have called a “stray” is someone’s lost pet, someone’s stolen dog, someone’s missing companion.

We’ve got to start changing our mindsets and our vocabulary when it comes to the dogs we see running around our neighborhoods and cities. Yes, I recognize that some dogs do get dumped and left behind by their owners, certainly this is the case in many of our larger cities, like St Louis and Los Angeles, and even in our smaller, rural towns. But it’s not always the case. There are just too many missing pets out there to not wonder how many “stray” dogs are actually just lost dogs.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this when I saw this posting by a shelter in rural Minnesota on the Lost Dogs-MN page. In the past, this dog would have been labeled a stray and no one would have thought anything more about it. But thanks to organizations like this shelter and Lost Dogs-MN, this dog was reunited with his owners.

Let’s stop thinking stray and start thinking LOST, shall we?

Randy – Former lost dog

Original posting: One more found dog today. Randy is a found boy about 1 year old. He was found in the northern part of Mora. The finders had him for awhile and tried to find his home with no luck so he came to the shelter about a week ago. We have noticed he is a happy dog that seems well cared for. So we are hoping a weekend visitor had lost him and will look here at the shelter. If you know anything about Randy please call the shelter. Please share to see if we can get this boy home.

Here’s the update: Today the family came to see if it was him. Randy was getting happy to be at the shelter with new friends but he barked like crazy so happy to see his people. Did all his tricks and we were sure he was one of the family. He is on his way home and happy now. He had a thankful look on his face as he said good bye.

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  1. June 18, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    Our dog was a “stray”… or “lost”… and no, he never found his original owner, who we suspect beat him with a broom and threw him into the streets. He’s mine now, and I’d say he’s been found.

    I do feel a pang of guilt, though, for the kids in the family who might be missing him. At the same time I hope they didn’t acquire a new puppy for mom or dad to beat with a broom.

    I don’t remember the last time I saw I dog wandering loose. The shelters are full, so obviously “stray” dogs exist… but I never see them myself. And some of the shelters here are unscrupulous, to say the least– within 3-7 days, the dog is dead. Every state and province needs a lost dog registry. In the era of the internet, it’s gotta be SO easy.

    • June 19, 2012 at 6:17 AM

      Great point about the lost dog registry. There are a bunch of databases out there already from various tagging services.

  2. June 19, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    Agree !!! Stray just doesn\’t create the feeling of urgency, and putting ourselves in the fur parent\’s shoes. Well done article. ~~~ Thank you ~ Amelia

  3. June 19, 2012 at 6:22 AM

    Such a good post, Mel. I always stop when I see a dog roaming off leash and not once have I found a truly homeless dog. I’ve seen dogs that have broken their collars, dogs who wandered away when a repairperson left a gate open, and dogs who have jumped the fence.

    I’ve found their families by following them home, calling the SPCA in case they were reported, putting signs up around the neighborhood, and leaving an ad on Craigslist.

    Of course it’s best to keep close tabs on our dogs. But things happen and dogs get away (as you so painfully know). And I’d feel so much more comfort if I thought a local shelter, animal control, or a good Samaritan was working as hard to find me as I was working to find my dog.

  4. June 19, 2012 at 6:50 AM

    You make a valid point. Many dogs are indeed lost, and their owners do try to find them. Sadly there is a kink in the system though. If your dog is lost who do you call first? Animal control. If you find a dog who do we typically not call? Animal control. You see how that can be a problem.

    • Mel
      June 19, 2012 at 7:13 AM

      Exactly Rumpy. Most people don’t know what to do first when looking for a missing dog. I think many dogs remain missing because people don’t know what to do and too many people assume an abandoned dog.

  5. June 19, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    I like the mentality of “lost” more than stray. I know when some people find a lost dog they just assume it’s not wanted anymore and keep it without thinking about the owners that miss their pet. It’s not that they are evil, it’s just they don’t fully think through the whole situation. Thinking of lost dogs as “Lost” and not “Stray would surely fix the problem

  6. June 19, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    When a Samoyed greeted my husband in our back yard a few weeks ago, we got a dog biscuit from a neighbor, coaxed him onto our screen porch, and called Animal Control. I also looked up everything I could find on the Net to list – Fido Finder came up first. Before I could finish filling it out, the Animal Control guy was there, found the chip, and said “Come on, Boy, Let’s go home.” …. Hope he wasn’t abandoned! I know “Animal Control” can seem like the Kill Guys, but they are the central resource, and work directly with the shelters.

  7. June 19, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    When it comes to dogs, I completely agree. It’s so rare these days in North America that a dog living on the streets is actually a stray. I’ve often wondered about my dog’s former family as that is exactly how she was found. I wonder if they ever looked for her.

    On our walks I’ve come across many dogs running at large. Luckily, there is usually a nosy neighbour around who can help me get the dog back home. Only a few times have I had to resort to calling Animal Services. I wish people would just put a tag on their dogs with a phone number. I’d much rather contact the owner directly!

    Thanks for sharing the happy reunion story. We hear so much bad these days it’s hard to remember that most dog owners love their pets and desperately want to find them again.

  8. June 19, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    People need to microchip their pets – dogs and cats. More publicity is needed and perhaps a lowering of the cost.

    The vets and shelters also need to pass the scanner around the entire pet. BJ’s microchip has slipped down along his shoulder. If he were to be scanned at just the neck and top of his back, the chip would not be found.

    • Mel
      June 19, 2012 at 9:38 PM

      Really, really great point Lynda. Micro-chipping is so important. I also have a dog, Daisy, who’s chip migrated. Of course, that was the chip from when she was a puppy mill dog (or rescue) so it didn’t work anymore. I had her re-chipped. Thanks for bringing up such an important point.

  9. Lost Cats MN
    June 20, 2012 at 2:03 AM

    “Think LOST, Not Stray” is actually the trademarked motto of Missing Pet Partnership (www.missingpetpartnership.org) They are trying to help re-educate everyone to look at a “Stray” with the mindset of “LOST”, not abandoned. While there are some pets that are indeed homeless, or strays, most pets have, or did have a home at one point — they just need our help to get back home again! While the Lost/Found system is still very broken, with many lost pets still falling thru the gaps every day, it IS slowly getting better with more and more people understanding that pets can become lost for all kinds of reasons. Also, with being able to post pictures and networking across City/County (and even State) borders is saving many Lost Pets from going into the Rescue system, or sadly, being needlessly euthanized. For example: if you live in Mpls, but border 2 or 3 suburbs you would have to constantly check with 3 or 4 Impounds every few days. Searching for a Lost Pet can be exhausting and heartbreaking, (and expensive!) especially if your pet has been missing a long time.

    Before Lost Dogs of Wisconsin was formed it was known only as “the Wisconsin Ladies” ~ people here in MN would say, “Call them – they can help you find your dog!” Now, in just a few years so much progress has been made and their FB page will hopefully be a model for eventually a National Network of pages for each State! As Kathy Pobloskie (one of the original ‘Wisconsin Ladies’) would say, “Most dogs don’t need a new home ~ they just want to GO Home!” …and, of course, Cats do too! >”<

  10. June 20, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    Thank you so much, “Lost Cats MN” Now, why didn’t we know that? Can you post from time to time in Craigslist? There are so many postings for lost animals there!

  11. June 20, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Well said! I never want to believe the worst in others and I really think a lot of “abandoned” dogs are lost. I had a dog disappear many years ago. It broke my heart and I always hope he found a new home where people loved him as much as we did.

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