Almost everyone I know likes to use Facebook and complain about it — it’s amazing how quickly time flies when you’re looking at pictures of your friends’ cute dogs and kids. Occasionally, though, you’ll hear a great story, like this one about a Golden Retriever who was lost, picked up by a trucker, and reunited with her family through social media. I can only imagine the great relief Lucy’s parents felt to have her back home.
Facebook may well be one of your best chances at bringing your dog home safely should she ever be lost — how else can you reach millions of dog lovers, many of whom will happily “share” and spread the word? I always pass along reports of local lost dogs, and even those who are lost outside of my immediate area, especially if they are lost from towns, cities, or areas where I have a good number of Facebook friends.
Occasionally, I encounter a lost dog ad which has very little useful information, perhaps only a phone number, and sometimes without even an area code. When your head is full of worry for your dog, you may forget to include vital information, which can help her get back to you safely.
Here are some tips for making a Facebook lost-pet ad. If you don’t know how to make one yourself or have a Facebook account, ask a friend to help you create an ad.
1. Use a recent photograph of your dog
While I know your dog’s puppy pictures are adorable, use the most recent possible picture. Many adult dogs look little like their puppy selves.
2. Use text in the photo
Put the most critical information on the photo itself without obstructing a view of the dog’s face or critical markings. Include phone number (with area code!) and email address of owner; identifying information (“Black Lab wearing purple body harness”); the city, state, and date the dog was last seen; and any absolutely essential information (“Needs diabetes meds”). Include the word “reward” if one is available.
You want to have this right on the photo itself because information included in a Facebook photo caption may not get passed along to the people who need it most. Plus some will download the file and share via email or other social networking sites, so you definitely want them passing the critical stuff along!
If you add a caption, include information like where the dog originally went missing and when; a secondary contact (friend or vet’s office) in case you are unreachable; whether the dog is microchipped; quirks (“dog is afraid of men,” “dog is afraid of strangers, do not approach,” “dog is friendly and likely to approach other dogs”); and something cute or wonderful about your dog. Please, no dissertations. Also, some people may be more likely to pass along if they feel they have a connection with a dog (“Loves swimming — area pool and pond owners, keep your eyes peeled!”).
3. Adjust your privacy settings to make the photo public
This may sound like a silly thing, but your Facebook friends probably already know your dog is missing — you need to spread the word to the rest of the dog lovers online!
4. Reward amount — to post, or not to post?
While large rewards may encourage prank calls or emails from scammers, not posting an amount may make someone assume the reward is too small to bother making a call to help bring your pet home. Remember, not everyone loves our pups as much as we do!
For dogs who may have a high resale value, particularly toy breeds and young, friendly purebred dogs, a thief may reconsider his plans if he knows he can make more money by bringing the pet back, no questions asked.
I don’t know that there is a right or wrong answer here, but I do know this: Whatever reward you offer, do not give it to someone until you have your dog in your possession.
5. Don’t forget traditional outlets
While Facebook is a good way to reach a large audience, many of the “shares” may be well out of your geographic area. Contact local vets and rescue and shelter organizations and call animal control, and place posters in your neighborhood.
The Lost Dog Recovery Guide from Pet Search and Rescue is probably the most thorough resource I’ve seen. It contains all kinds of information on just what types of posters work best, how to make and hang them, and how to protect them from the elements (and potential vandals!) along with instructions for canvassing, jobs you can assign friends who are willing to help, etc.
6. Don’t give up
While it is true that a heartbreaking number of lost dogs do not find their way home, many do. Sometimes it takes a long time, but don’t give up. Keep sharing on Facebook. If you move to a new location, even if it’s been a couple of years, update your lost dog’s microchip information accordingly. Consider for a moment the story of Cassey, the Border Collie who found her way home four years later.
Have you posted a lost-pet ad on Facebook? Please tell us about your experience and share some tips in the comments!