Interview: Lost and Found Pets of North Jersey
Pets sometimes find their way to local shelters and pounds. It's not always intentional...as in a case where a pet owner no longer wants his or her animal and surrenders the pet. "Everybody thinks their pet won't get away," explains NJ STRAYS Lost and Found Pets of North Jersey Director Fred Kay. "But they do."
Kay explains that it's not hard to lose a dog or cat, especially when they are allowed to spend time outside. A fence around a yard can easily be breached when a dog chases a squirrel, for instance. And sometimes, cats that roam get into neighbors' houses, and even cars departing for destinations unknown.
The bottom line is this: it's not hard to lose a pet. "People are very desperate when their pet has gone missing," Kay says. "They message our main Facebook page and we tell them to fill out the missing pet report on our website."
Filling out the form triggers an automated lost pet mechanism: a flyer is generated, and a message goes out to local shelters to alert personnel to be on the lookout for a pet matching the description owners provide.
Kay, who used to manage the Essex County lost pet Facebook page, explains that he and his team (Dina Gomez Putz, Lisa Rose-Rublack, Jill Coranoto and Maryrose Hosier) also encourage pet owners to fill out the form, provide photos and reach out to neighbors and shelters nearby. The next step is networking: the Lost and Found team goes through a series of checks, reaching out to Facebook groups and other lost pet pages to spread the word.
Lost and Found Pets operates Facebook channels in Sussex, Morris, Essex, Hudson and Passaic Counties, with an affiliate page in Bergen County. It's a network of thousands of animal lovers who are dedicated to helping loving pet owners find their furry friends. "There's hundreds of groups out there who follow our pages and the word travels very quickly," Kay says. "We also go to their pages and share additional mentions of missing pets, even if the request didn't come directly to us."
It's not always obvious to the team when their hard work has paid off. While most of their efforts happen online, volunteers like NJ STRAYS founder Adriana Bradley, Rose-Rublack and others actually go into the field to search for and trap missing animals. Kay says that sometimes pet owners share the happy news that their pet has been found, but often they don't.
The biggest indicator that the project is working comes in the form of registration for free or low-cost microchips provided by NJ STRAYS and sponsors at make-shift clinics around the state. "If you get your pet microchipped, that's for life," Kay explains, adding that it's easier to track and recover a missing pet who has been microchipped because shelter staff and veterinarians can scan the chip and contact the owner.
"I feel optimistic about the program and I think we're helping," Kay says. "Microchip clinics are attracting bigger audiences. Animal hospitals and groups are following our pages and spreading the word. It's such a good feeling when we do learn that the pet has been found. Every one we can keep out of the shelter is a win."
And that's how the Lost and Found Pets of North Jersey project contributes to the NJ STRAYS mission: it reduces shelter numbers by helping lost pets find their way home.