Printed on: July 19, 2013

Pets on the loose

By KIRSTEN JOHNSON
kjohnson@postregister.com

April Abodeely remembers July 8 well. It was the awful night her 8-year-old Chihuahua, "Chloe," went missing. Abodeely returned home that evening to find Chloe, who she thinks was spooked by fireworks, had escaped from her yard.

"It was just heartbreaking, the 30-year-old from Ammon said.

Since then, Abodeely's tried anything and everything to find her. She scours Craigslist daily and reposts photos of Chloe on her Facebook page. She checks the animal shelter twice a day to see if Chloe's turned up. She's posted stacks of fliers around town, offering a $500 reward, no questions asked.

"I've literally tried everything," she said.

She's had no luck. Chloe's still missing.

Abodeely's situation is unfortunately common during the summer, said Irene Brown, animal services manager at the Idaho Falls Animal Shelter. Brown said the shelter receives up to 10 "dogs at large' calls per day during summer months. During winter months, it receives two to four.

"Animals are on the move, because the weather is nice, and people feel like they can leave their dogs out," she said. "The problem is, if your dog is used to being inside, it's going to try to escape from the yard, especially when there's a thunderstorm or fireworks - those are definitely not good times to leave dogs out."

More calls mean more dogs end up at the shelter, filling kennels up during summer months. Last summer, the animal shelter impounded an average of 235 dogs per month. Last winter, it impounded an average of 196 dogs each month.

When animal services finds a dog and can't find the owner, employees will take it to the shelter. Once at the shelter, the owner has three days to reclaim the dog before it is put up for adoption.

In 2012, 38 percent of the 2,514 dogs impounded at the shelter were reunited with their owners. Around 2 percent of cats are reclaimed, Brown estimates. Last year, the shelter euthanized 4.7 percent of its dogs impounded and 67 percent of its impounded cats.

Brown said chances of being reunited with a pet improve drastically when the pet is ID'd with a tag or microchip.

"It makes a huge difference," she said. "You're almost guaranteed to get your animal back."

Abodeely said that little Chloe, who is normally an indoor house dog, was not wearing a collar when she escaped.

"I'm still regretting it," she said. "If she had a collar, someone could have called me right away."

Brown said owners like Abodeely who are missing a pet come in each day looking.

"Some of them come in tears," she said.

Brown recommends filing a lost report at the animal shelter, putting up fliers, posting ads online and in the newspaper, and posting photos of your missing pet on the shelter's Facebook page. Post Register Classified Manager Hilary Witt said the newspaper offers free classified ads for owners trying to locate lost pets.

"A picture is worth 1,000 words," she said.

To avoid missing pets, Brown recommends keeping them in a fenced yard where they surely can't escape, otherwise keeping them inside the house.

Abodeely said she already does things differently with her other Chihuahua.

"Right now, he's wearing his collar," she said. "I'm never going to take anything for granted. I'll be taking every precaution."