Finding their way home

Lost and found pet sites invaluable tools in reuniting animals and families

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LOST PET (left) 11-year-old Destiny has been missing since Dec. 31 in south Cullman. She was spotted in Carroll Acres in early January. She may have traveled to areas near Bolte Road or Stone Bridge Farms or nearby subdivisions Derby Creek, Fox Meadow or Oak Meadow. She is a short-haired "blue tortoise" (gray and tan calico) with light green eyes and weighs 8 lbs. She's wearing a pink collar with a pink bell and gold tag engraved with her name and address/phone number (205-447-8650). Her collar is a tear-away type, so the tag may be gone. Her front paws are declawed and tan-colored. FOUND PET (right) This dog was found last week along Butler Branch Road in Arley. The family who found him describes him as very friendly with a nice electronic collar on, but says he is very skinny, and his toenails are very long. (The REAL Friends of Cullman Animal Shelter) (Smith Lake Lost Dogs and Cats)

CULLMAN, Ala. – When thunderstorms roll through Cullman County as they did Monday evening, inevitably there will be an increase in the number of lost and found pets in the area. Luckily, there are individuals out there who have taken their love for animals and their willingness to volunteer their time to run social media pages in hopes of reuniting pets with their families.

Ruth Ann Tucker created Cullman County Alabama Lost and Found Pets in 2015. Although she is not a resident of Cullman County, she saw how valuable lost and found sites were near her home outside of Huntsville. She now helps maintain 25 sites in Alabama dedicated to helping pets and pet owners.

“When I started this five years ago with our local lost and found pets, they worked so closely with our shelter. They brought that shelter from a kill shelter to a 95% no-kill shelter. We discovered that with a lot of the pets that weren’t from our local county, there were so many areas that had no lost and found pet sites,” said Tucker. “I went to every county in north Alabama that didn’t have a lost and found pet site and started sites. That way, if a pet is lost and it is posted on our local state sites, we can get them back to the county they are lost from and possibly get them home faster.”

Even with the sharing and exposure a lost or found site can generate, Tucker said, “Sadly, we probably only get 25% reunited and that’s sad.”

Still, she said, for that 25% the sharing means everything, and the awareness created is priceless.

Like all reputable lost and found sites, rehoming of pets or selling of animals is not allowed on Tucker’s watch. The page is intended to be a resource for those desperately seeking to find their pets or to those who have provided safe harbor to a found pet until the rightful owners can be found.

People are quite passionate when it comes to the welfare of animals, and things can get frustrating when moderating a site dedicated to them. Tucker said she knows this all too, sharing stories of the rudeness some people easily hurl at others on social media.

“I am very mild mannered and real calm,” she said. “It takes a lot to push my buttons, but there are days when I just think, you know, I don’t deserve to be talked to like that.”

Tucker said of the Cullman site, “To be honest, out of all my 25 sites, it’s my favorite. I don’t even live there, but we have a lot of good members. It’s got a lot of members and everybody is so helpful to try to keep it going where some of my sites, it’s like, ‘Oh, dear Lord, just give me strength to get me through this conversation.’”

Tucker shared several tips she recommends after years of being involved in animal rescue and reuniting lost and found pets with owners.

What to do if you lose a pet

  • File a lost report with your local shelter.
  • Post on area shelter and vet sites.
  • Post signs, including your front yard.
  • Post on local lost and found pages.
  • If microchipped, file a report with the chip company.
  • Make sure microchip information is current.
  • Place familiar beds, blankets, clothing, etc. outside to provide familiar scents.

Lost cat

  • Place litter box outside and sprinkle some litter around your property.
  • Place favorite canned food, e.g., tuna, sardines, bacon (smelly is better) outside.
  • Check in trees.
  • Ask neighbors to check outside sheds, garages, crawl spaces and attics.

What to do if you find a pet

  • Never assume the animal is homeless/stray.
  • Contact your local shelter or law enforcement agency for options and laws regarding strays and legal requirements.
  • File a found report with your local shelter.
  • Post on area shelter and vet sites.
  • Post on local lost and found pages.
  • Check with your local animal shelter or a vet to see if the animal is microchipped.

If someone comes forward claiming ownership, ask them:

  • To provide photos
  • To identify markings
  • To provide registration papers
  • To describe collar
  • For vet records
  • For the pet’s name (does the pet react?)
  • Also, watch pet’s reaction to the person

The REAL Friends of Cullman Animal Shelter is another local site set up in 2010 to better showcase the animals at the shelter. However, the page is not officially affiliated with the shelter and has changed trajectory over the past few years to be another resource for those wanting to share lost and found pets. Administrators from both pages closely monitor the other to help share information for those needing help.

Cullman’s Lost Pets was a page set up quickly after the April 2011 tornadoes to help gather information following the devastating storms.

Tucker said she hopes the efforts to reunite lost and found pets are an asset to local animal shelters. “It takes a community to get together to help make these shelters successful. I think things have gotten better because of the sites. People are out there and aware that we have sites to post a pet to get them back home. I would love for every one of the shelters to just slam my page with the animals they intake. It’s the best way to get them seen and get them back home, and that’s our goal.”

Find Cullman County Alabama Lost and Found Pets on Facebook at http://bit.ly/3iWfKlJ.

Find The REAL Friends of Cullman Animal Shelter on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/Realfriendsofcullmananimalshelter.

Also, find Smith Lake Lost Dogs and Cats on Facebook at http://bit.ly/3ontvea.

Visit the Cullman County Animal Shelter at www.facebook.com/cullmancountyanimalshelter.

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com