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Fliers and signs alert the public that a dog is lost, missing, or stolen. They encourage sighting calls from people who think they've seen the dog, and from others who might see it in the future. See "SIGHTING CALLS" document. Start the task of making notices for a missing pet immediately.

There are many kind-hearted people willing to help you, but they need to know what to do and how to do it. You must make it easy for them to match a "stray" dog they've seen to the description you've provided. Creating a notice that will grab attention is simple, yet the design and layout can hinder a search effort. Focus on important details, limit non-essential words, and omit the distractions of fancy graphics and borders. By sizing information, you can make use of all the available space and avoid crowding text into the margins. Signs and fliers will not work hard for you, or your dog, if largely ignored due to legibility or poor placement.

Check with local authorities to see if there are ordinances that specifically prohibit posts on utility poles. If you can't post on poles, inquire about realtor-type signs that you can stake in the ground. You need permission of landowners before posting on private property. Never use nails to post on trees. Highlight a map to show where you set signs and distributed fliers, especially if you're unfamiliar with the area. If setting a large number of notices, buy a small, upholstery-type staple gun - using thumbtacks is laborious. The easiest tool to use is a hammer-tacker, using ¼" T50 staples (found in the hardware section of stores). Post fliers or signs on metal utility poles using heavy-duty tape (clear packaging or duct).

Work to stay ahead of a lost dog. Concentrate on getting signs up quickly, posting them at key spots in at least a 3-mile radius from where the dog was seen last. No sightings? Pick locations further out and put up more signs. They cover a wide area and will buy you some time to get fliers distributed on a door to door basis.

CREATE SIGNS using "neon poster board" (heavy 11 x 14 paper in fluorescent colors) and a magic marker. Many people are not breed savvy, and your dog (purebred or mixed) may not be easily recognized by the public. Carefully choose what few words would best describe your dog to a stranger. Fewer words and large print maximizes impact. Letters and numbers should be plain, bold, and CAPITALIZED - just like traffic signage. List basic details and provide phone numbers (with area codes) where people can reach you. Cell phones are more likely to be answered on a 24/7 basis and usually the first contact number listed. People with sighting information will try calling local numbers before those that look like long distance. Identify home and cell phone numbers with a prefix such as "C" or "H." If listing "toll-free" or "call-collect" numbers, describe them as such.


  • LOST DOG, BEAGLE, SEEN HER?, DON'T CHASE, Cell 508 208-XXXX, Home 508 589-XXXX

Signs not only alert residents, they reach out to non-residents who travel through the area on a routine basis. Signs, highly visible and easy to read, allow drivers to jot down information and call you using their cell phones. Excessively large signs will flop over or blow away in bad weather and you'll waste valuable time re-doing them. It's hard to think clearly when your dog is lost, but try your best to work methodically when setting signs. Carefully choose utility poles easily seen by the majority of traffic, be it vehicular or pedestrian. Positioning is important - people in vehicles should be able to read most of a sign before they drive past it. Set signs to face oncoming traffic at a chest-high level that's easy to read from a small car or a big SUV. Don't wrap signs around the utility poles - place them to lay flat and readable, then tack them down securely. Staple a picture or a picture-flier of your dog below signs at key locations within an established search area. Don't post on poles that have fire alarm boxes or "sensitive" signage (such as those found in historic districts). Avoid posting on high-speed roads, bridges, on curves, and other treacherous spots. Post just before or right at intersections, then as needed on long roads. Drive around to see how well you can read the signs - it is a big deal.

CREATE FLIERS on standard letter-sized paper (8 ½ x 11) using a color picture and the shortest, most exact description of the dog. Every dog is special, so flier layouts will vary.

See "SAMPLE FLIER" - a basic design.

A good flier makes it easy for people to focus on small details and helps them remember key information. Omit unnecessary words and punctuation marks. List distinctive details or critical information such as: "POINTY EARS", "WAS WEARING RED BANDANA", "DEAF", "NEEDS DAILY MEDICATION" . Constant exposure to sunlight can make colors fade quickly - use black ink for text so words don't "disappear." Fliers inserted in clear (not satin) sheet protectors (open side down) will last longer in wet weather. Consider creating fliers in a second language if the area has a high percentage of residents who are bilingual.

Phone calls get the word out quickly, but people really need a hard copy of your flier to look at and refer to. Fliers are used as a "handout" for animal control officers, shelters, veterinarians, residents, and businesses. Fliers are mailed, emailed, tacked on bulletin boards, taped to store windows, and posted in a variety of places. Lost pet fliers are often seen on utility poles, but it's very difficult to read the small print from inside a vehicle, especially one that is moving! It's better to post a sign and tack the dog's picture or picture-flier underneath it. It is not legal to stuff fliers inside U.S. Postal Service mailboxes - they're for processed/stamped mail only. You may place or tape a flier anywhere outside of the box, or put it inside a newspaper bin.

The following information should be included on a flier, generally in the order given below:

$ REWARD A reward with or without a dollar amount is generally either the first or the last line on notices. Don't assume a reward will guarantee a pet's safety or assure a speedy return to its rightful home. It might. A reward flier can get people too excited and motivate them just a little too much, especially the select few who care mostly about the money. A reward tells people your dog means a lot to you, BUT it also does a great job of encouraging people to chase your dog. Sighting calls might increase, but that's usually due to your hard work. Many people decline to take reward money - they are just happy to have helped you get your dog back. Try using a phrase that will discourage people chasing your dog. Examples: "REWARD FOR INFORMATION ONLY" or "REWARD IS STRICTLY FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO OUR DOG'S SAFE RETURN." A reward may entice someone to call with information on your dog's whereabouts, or to tell you that it is alive, safe, and well. If someone finds your dog, likes it and wants to keep it, and THEN sees your reward flier, you might get your dog back if you aren't pre-judged as a "bad" owner for allowing your pet to get lost. Be aware of scam artists who claim to have your dog, but don't, and the idiots who think it's "fun" to make a crank call - verify information and never assume the worst. Don't fret too much about the reward - some will think your reward amount is too low (dog not worth much to you) or too high (maybe they should find and keep your expensive dog). You can also insert the phrase "NO QUESTIONS ASKED" on the flier whether you offer a reward or don't.

LOST DOG The words "LOST DOG" should be centered at the top of a flier in large, bold, capitalized letters. Lost, Missing, or Stolen? Unless you know for sure, use the word "lost"- it's shorter and gets the point across.

PICTURE A close-up, full-bodied, clear color photo of your dog in a standing position is preferable, and using any picture is better than none. Don't enlarge or downsize a photo so that it's fuzzy and hard to see. Balance the final size of a picture with the space required by "need to know" information that must be included on the flier. Sometimes it's wise to reflect the dog's size more accurately by using a picture of it with a person. If using two pictures, place them side-by-side. List any details not clearly shown but easy to see on the dog - for instance: "WHITE TIP ON TAIL." Explain major changes in the dog's current appearance from the flier picture, such as: "SHORT HAIR - SHAVED FOR SUMMER." If your dog is still missing but its hair has had time to grown back, edit out "shaved for summer." Using a picture of your dog wearing a red collar might need editing - for example: "WEARING GREEN COLLAR WHEN LOST." Create a composite page using several pictures of your dog shown from different angles and poses. Carry it with you and show it to everyone. If you don't have any pictures, the public will need help forming an "image." The flier can include more details than normal or you can use the photo of a dog that looks very similar and then put: "This is NOT "BARNEY" but LOOKS like him." You can make a composite using pictures of dogs that look like Barney. When showing it to people, point out all differences and similarities between the other dogs and Barney so there's no confusion as to what your dog really looks like.

DON'T CHASE Lost dogs are constantly being chased. Put "DO NOT CHASE" on fliers. You don't want your dog to run into the street and be hit by a car, or feel threatened and move further away from the search area.


  • " Dog's Name A dog's name gives a personal touch, but someone might take advantage of the information. Don't put "responds to" Many lost dogs don't respond to strangers and often run away from the attention.
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  • Breed List the breed or the top two if it's a mix. Put what best describes your dog to a stranger, such as: "SMALL BROWN BENJI." Don't use the term "rare breed" - someone might keep your "special" dog.
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  • Age Not critical except if it's elderly or a young puppy - both might make a dog more noticeable.
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  • Weight Not critical, but can be listed. Do put a term like "tiny" or "X-large.
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  • Coat Color/s List major colors, describe if using terms like "merle," and include distinctive markings.
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  • Coat Type List the dog's coat type if it's a distinguishing feature and it makes a big difference.
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  • Sex Not critical, but can be listed. Male, Female, Neutered Male or Spayed Female
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  • Collar, leash, or harness Describe basic color/s. * Collars can get dirty and worn, loose and lost. Never assume the dog is still wearing a collar or that people will see it - they may not even see a leash.
  • "
  • Tags, Tattoo, and Microchip List out-of-state tags - current, expired or outdated (license, rabies, ID) as: "MA LICENSE tag" "OLD NJ ID tag" "OLD NY RABIES tag." ASAP - call anyone (city/town clerk, vet, or shelter) who issued tags to tell them your dog is lost and give them your current 24/7 phone number and address. Many "found" dogs have tags with unreadable or outdated information, which hinders or prohibits tracing their guardians. Including information that a dog is tattooed or microchipped may deter possible theft or possession, BUT provide identification numbers only to those who need to know. * A detail should be withheld from public knowledge and used as an "identifier" in case someone calls to say he or she has your pet in their possession.

NOTE! Animal control officers, shelters, vet clinics, humane societies, and rescue groups must know EVERYTHING about your dog, including: age, breed, microchip/tattoo ID's, tags, scars, handicaps, etc.

DATE/LOCATION Omit the date and location where a dog was lost on fliers to be posted in public. People assume it's easy to find a lost dog, tend to ignore fliers that have "old" dates, and are quick to judge a dog's chances of survival by how long it's been missing. Specifying locations restricts using a current flier in new sighting areas. Norton residents will not be on the lookout for a dog that's lost a mile away in the city of Attleboro.

PHONE NUMBERS Make it easy to contact you by listing at least two numbers, including area codes. The first number should be that of your cell phone - if you leave it on and can take calls on a 24/7 basis. Carry the cell phone with you at all times and keep its battery fully charged. If you have a spare battery, keep it charged and close by. Don't list the number for a shelter or vet clinic as a contact, except in special circumstances. Someone trying to call you should not get the message machine for an office that's closed. Put "CALL IMMEDIATELY" or "CALL ASAP" next to phone numbers. You can also insert "24 HRS A DAY" or "CALL ANY HOUR." Most people want to talk to a live person and some will hang up if they get an answering machine or voice mail recording. Encourage callers to stay on the line by changing the pre-recorded messages on ALL phones listed as contact numbers. Suggestion: "Hello…if you're calling about our lost dog 'Barney,' thank you! We need the day/time/street and nearest cross street, or exact location you saw him. We would appreciate it if you also leave your number in case we have a question." Thank you for caring." Check your messages frequently; calls come in when you least expect them.

Fliers and Signs - Page 2

Debbie (Hall) Scarpellini copy 2/2009