What To Do When Your Dog Goes Missing

UPDATE: From 31st of March 2016, it has been a legal requirement for all dogs & puppies to be microchipped. Failure to comply with the legislation could result in a fine of up to €5,000.


Interesting stats today from a UK survey by OnePoll on behalf of the Dogs TrustWhat happens when dogs go missing? I’d imagine our Irish stats will be slightly different, probably more dogs straying, but otherwise not dissimilar.

Do you know what to do if your companion goes missing? Find out here!

The Survey Says …

Lots of stuff to be aware of in the UK survey. Let’s go through it with an Irish perspective, starting with:

29 per cent of dog owners lose their pet at least once during its lifetime.

Do be aware, and keep an eye on your pooch.

64 per cent of owners do not know whose responsibility it is to care for missing strays.

In Ireland, dog wardens are responsible for stray dogs. As are the guards, though they don’t always seem to know that. In some areas, local rescues may pick up strays. So you need to cover all these options if your dogs strays, or is stolen:

46 per cent say they would get in touch with a family member or neighbour, rather than correctly calling the local council.

So check the list above and report your missing companion to your local dog warden, garda station, SPCA and animal welfare organisations – it’s worth checking vets and pet shops too. There are also loads of online sites you can post and look for your companion – more information here. And for a comprehensive list of things to do to find your companion see the ISPCA’s excellent check list.

72 per cent are unaware they have only seven days to recover their missing dog once it is in local authority care before ownership can be transferred or the animal might be put down if a new home cannot be found.

Technically, in Ireland you have five days before ownership of your companion transfers to the pound. At this point, at worst your companion will be killed, at best they’ll be put up for adoption by the warden or pound.

Many places don’t kill these days – 23% were killed in 2013, compared to 65% in 2005. Don’t take this stat for granted though – it’s the national average – the breed of your dog and your location make a huge difference. For example, in 2013 Cork City killed 10% of the dogs they took in, while Cork County killed an appalling 67%; six county pounds as good as killed 100% of the greyhounds they took in.

So don’t risk waiting if your companion goes missing.

15 days – how long, on average, people think a dog owner has to recover a missing dog.

Wrong! 5 days. See previous comments.

110,675 stray and abandoned dogs handled by councils between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014 – down one per cent on previous year.

That’s the UK stat. In Ireland nationally, during 2013, over 15,000 dogs were handled by councils – 23% were killed (down 3% from 2012)- that’s an average of ten dogs killed every day. How many could have been saved by a microchip? See our latest analysis of the annual pound statistics here.


  • These Irish statistics only include pounds, not rescues.
  • With Ireland’s population being around 1/10th of the UK, you’d expect to see a proportionate difference in the number of dogs handled by councils – in fact, as you can see, Ireland handles proportionately more.

What to do Before your Companion Strays

Microchip, microchip, microchip. Compulsary microchipping of your dog will be legally required by 2015. But, if you want to be sure you find her again if she strays, microchip now. A microchip provides permanent and undeniable proof of identity / ownership. You have to update your contact details with the reunification service attached to the microchip, otherwise it’s next to useless.

Although the microchipping of cats isn’t legislated, it’s also a Good Thing To Do if you care about your feline companion.

Obviously, there’s no point in microchipping your companion if guards, wardens and shelters aren’t going to scan for chips. When I first arrived in Bantry, scanning was practically non-existant – now it’s becoming standard practice. Wardens will have to scan once the new legislation comes into force. In the meantime, why not check with your local warden, vet and animal shelter and encourage them to check, if they don’t already?

Why Microchip?

  • Microchips reunited 80 percent of cats with owners after the Canterbury earthquakes of 2012
  • Loads of studies show that microchipped companions have a much higher rate of return to their guardians than those without microchips, eg. Ohio Study, AVMA. There is next to no research in Ireland that I know of, but there’s no denying microchipping works.
  • Indoor only companions also need chipped – if they do manage to get outside, they have little experience of finding their way home.
  • Animals like Inky find their way home.

To summarise, microchipping will help return your lost companion to you – but, for it to work, you need to keep your information up to date with the chip company and scanning of lost animals must be standard practice – including vets, pounds, shelters, wardens, guards – and, unfortunately, road sweepers.

Note that September is Ireland’s National Microchipping Month – the month to chip and publicise – loads more info on their site! The hashtag for the month is #ChipItCheckIt.

And check out our microchipping information here.

Related Links

Posted in Must Reads, Responsible Guardianship, Useful Links.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Happy World Animal Day! - Animal Advocacy

Leave a comment - we'd love to hear from you!