Even during the best of times, locating a lost pet can be challenging and heart-wrenching. But how do you search for a pet during a worldwide health crisis when a stay-at-home order and social distancing are the new normal?

While protocol continues to change since the COVID-19 outbreak reached Northeastern Pennsylvania, many organizations are willing to help residents find their lost animals, according to Ashley L. Wolo, Griffin Pond Animal Shelter executive director.

“There are a lot of organizations that are still operating to assist the public in every way possible, including law enforcement,” Wolo said.

Not sure where to begin your search? She recommends pet owners file a lost report with their local police department, veterinarians and animal shelters so if any of these organizations find your dog or cat, they’ll have vital information on file.

“If you find yourself in a difficult position with an animal, just give us (the shelter) a call and we will do our best to help you,” she noted.

Before you contact these organizations, be sure you have a photo and as much information as possible about your pet to share.

“It’s always best to include pictures and as much detail about your animal,” Wolo advises. “For example, does your dog have long or short fur? Does your cat have any distinguishing marks on its fur?”

Social media can also play a vital role in getting the word out locally and in outlying areas. Now, more than ever, in this time of isolation, social distancing, and travel restrictions, Fran Fitzgerald, Scranton, emphasized the degree to which we look to our furry kids for emotional support.

On Sunday, March 29, Fitzgerald began her search for her two labradoodles, Mackenzie and Bailey, after the dogs dug their way out of her fenced-in yard and ran through the woods to the Lake Scranton Estates. After Fitzgerald and her companion drove around and looked through the woods and neighborhoods, they started posting online to alert neighbors and friends.

“I began posting alerts on as many sites as I could find,” Fitzgerald explained. “I have so many people to thank for the safe return of Bailey. Amid this human isolation, I am thankful for social media.”

Mackenzie was found near Spring Brook by a pet rescuer who brought her to “Friends with Paws Pet Rescue.”

“She saw my post on Facebook,” Fitzgerald said.

However, Bailey remained on the run until Thursday, April 2, when Fitzgerald found her near the entrance to Montage Mountain Ski Resort with guidance from Bellabon’s Pet Recovery Services in Muncy.

Wolo also advocates social media as one of the tools pet owners should utilize while following social distancing guidelines.

“There are many [social media] pages for animals that are lost or found,” she said. “Of course, we can’t get a group of people together like we normally would, but we want to help as much as possible with locating your animal, so we will utilize every other resource we possibly can for a safe return.”

She also offers these additional suggestions:

  • Follow social distancing rules and search with the people you live with.
  • Search for your pet where it went missing.
  • Hang flyers while you’re out searching. You never know who might have already seen your pet.
  • Bring a blanket or an item from home with your scent on it. Try leaving some of your clothing items that haven’t been washed, such as a sweatshirt, on your porch or right outside of your house. Cats and dogs have a great sense of smell, so this may help them find their way back home.
  • Leave treats or a can of pet food.
  • Check-in with your local animal shelter. Lost animals are often brought to the shelter.
  • Get your animals microchipped once the stay-at-home order is lifted. It’s the best form of identification especially if your animals wear a collar with tags. It’s always a possibility that your animal could lose its collar at any point in time.

Call Griffin Pond Animal Shelter at 570-586-3700 or visit the shelter’s Facebook page for additional details.