Missing pet dogs are often not found by their owners, with many being euthanized at shelters. This study aimed to describe times that lost dogs were missing for, search methods associated with their recovery, locations where found and distances travelled. A retrospective case series was conducted where self-selected participants whose dog had gone missing provided data in an online questionnaire. Of the 1210 study dogs, only 61% were found within one year, with 34% recovered alive by the owner within 7 days. Few dogs were found alive after 90 days. There was evidence that physical searching increased the chance of finding the cat alive and 75% of dogs were found within 500 m of the point of escape. Up to 75% of dogs with outdoor access traveled 1609 m, further than the distance traveled by indoor-only dogs (137 m; p < 0.001).
These findings suggest that thorough physical searching is a useful strategy, and should be conducted within the first week after dogs go missing. They also support further investigation into whether shelter, neuter and return programs improve the chance of owners recovering missing dogs and decrease numbers of dogs euthanized in shelters
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