Fliers and Signs
Fliers and big signs alert the public that a dog is lost, missing, or stolen. They encourage sighting calls from people who think they saw your dog and those who may see it in the future. Make notices for a lost pet immediately. See “SIGHTING CALLS” document.
Readability can make a difference. Fliers and big signs don’t work as well if the picture is blurry, or people can’t remember details because you squeezed too much information on fliers or signs. Like road signage, large print is best. Use a plain font of varying sizes to make use of all space. Make it easy to match that “stray” to your description with a simple design format. Focus only on the most important details and skip non-essential words or punctuation marks.
Check with local authorities to see if there are ordinances that prohibit posts on utility poles.
You need permission from landowners before posting on private property. Don’t nail on trees. Highlight a map to show where you set signs and distributed fliers, especially if unfamiliar with the area. Using thumbtacks is labor intensive and fliers fall off easily. Work faster by using a hammer-tacker tool with ¼” T-50 staples or upholstery tacker, both sold at hardware stores. Post metal utility poles with wide clear tape, and adjust flier to lie flat, not curved on the pole.
Stay ahead of a lost dog by posting signs. Tack signs ASAP at key spots in a 3-mile radius from where the dog was last seen. No sightings? Post further out. Signs grab attention faster than fliers and help get sightings so you can target more specific areas to talk to residents.
Create signs with heavy 11 x 14 neon poster paper (like card stock) and a wide black marker. Carefully choose what few words would best describe your dog to a stranger. Just like traffic signs, the information should be PLAIN, BOLD, and CAPITALIZED for max impact.
List details and two (2) contact numbers. If “toll-free” or “call-collect” – describe them as such.
3 EXAMPLES OF BASIC SIGNS WITH AVERAGE OF 5 OR 6 LINES
LOST BEAGLE DON’T CHASE SEEN HER ? C 508 208-XXXX 508 555-XXXX
LOST TERRIER SMALL BROWN PERKY EARS DON’T CHASE 508 208-XXXX
LOST DOG BIG WHITE BLUE COLLAR SEEN HIM ? 508 208-XXXX 508 222-XXXX
Signs (vs fliers) are highly visible, easy to read, and quickly alert the public a dog is lost. You just can’t pass a sign and miss the message. Signs make it easy for people to jot down information or take a pic with phones. Bigger isn’t better – excessively large signs flop over very easily and waste valuable time and posting locations. Choose poles easily seen by both vehicles and pedestrians. Positioning is important. Tack chest-height, to face oncoming traffic. Riding in a small car or big truck, you should be able to read most of a sign before driving past.
Don’t post on curves, bridges, or treacherous spots. Don’t post on poles with fire alarm boxes or “sensitive” signage in historic districts. Post at intersections, just before them, and on long roads as needed. If there’s room, tack a pic or pic-flier above or below signs at key locations. Save time and let a friend drive while you jump out to tack. Make signage work hard for you.
A good flier makes it easy for people to focus on details and remember key information.
Create fliers on letter-size paper (8 ½ x 11). Card stock, heavier and $$ can also be used.
Use a clear color pic and create a short but exact description. Every dog is special, so layouts vary. See “SAMPLE FLIER” for a basic design & visit lost pet websites for great examples. Omit unnecessary words and punctuation. Do put distinctive details, ie: “POINTY EARS” or “WAS WEARING RED BANDANA.” Sun exposure fades colors. Use black ink for lettering to help deter fading. Fliers inserted in heavy duty sheet protectors last longer (clear not satin). Tack open side down to keep rain out. Try to tack at edges, as staples can let in moisture.
Create fliers in a second language if the area has a high percentage of bilingual residents. Calls and social media get the word out quickly, but many people still like a paper flier. Hard copies are a “handout” for animal control officers, humane officers, veterinarians, shelter workers, and residents. They are mailed, emailed, text attachments, tacked on breakroom bulletin boards, and posted at businesses such as bowling alleys, supermarkets, and liquor stores. Poles with lost pet fliers are seen all the time, but it’s hard to read small print unless you’re walking past. It’s better to post signs and then tack a pic or pic-flier over or under the signs.
Note – U.S. Postal Service mailboxes are for processed/stamped mail only. It’s not legal to put fliers inside. You may tape a flier on the post or put inside a newspaper bin.
The following information should be put on a flier, generally in the order given below:
$ REWARD A reward, with/without an amount, is generally the first or last line on notices. Rewards don’t guarantee a pet’s safety or speedy return. A large reward implies a dog is precious and may encourage those with information (or the dog) to come forward. It may also encourage chasing. Most people want a happy ending and the majority will refuse a reward.
Use phrases to discourage chasing, such as: “REWARD FOR INFORMATION ONLY” or “REWARD FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO ‘BINGO’S’ SAFE RETURN.” Rewards can be tricky. What’s a “good” reward for a great dog? Use “SUBSTANTIAL REWARD” and adjust the amount accordingly at the proper time. Whether you offer a reward or not you can also use the phrase “NO QUESTIONS ASKED” which can help immensely in many cases.
LOST DOG “LOST DOG” should be centered at the top in large, bold, capitalized letters.
Lost, Missing, or Stolen? Unless you know the dog was stolen, put “LOST”- it’s shorter than “missing” and gets your point across faster. Always focus on short words & best details.
PICTURE A close-up, full-body, color photo in standing position is best. Any picture is better than none. Don’t enlarge/downsize to the point of fuzzy details. Balance the size with space remaining after all “need to know” info that must be included on the flier. It’s often wise to show a dog’s true size using a pic of the dog with a person & crop or blur features. If using two or more pics, place side-by-side. List details not clearly shown, like “WHITE TIP ON TAIL.” Explain major changes in current appearance from pic: “SUMMER HAIRCUT – SHORT HAIR.”
If the dog is still missing but hair has had time to grown back, edit out “shaved for summer” on the next batch of fliers. Edit to: “WEARING GREEN COLLAR WHEN LOST” if pic shows your dog wearing a red collar. Create a composite page using several pics of the dog from different angles and carry it with you to show everyone. If you don’t have any pictures, help the public form an “image.” Stress details, like pointy ears, white tip tail, etc. You can also use a photo of a dog that looks very similar and put “This is NOT “BARNEY” but LOOKS a lot like him.” You can make a composite with many pics and point out the differences and similarities between those dogs and your Barney. You need to provide the public with a basic image of Barney.
DON’T CHASE Lost dogs are constantly chased. Put “DON’T CHASE” on fliers. You don’t want your dog to run into the street or feel threatened and move further away from the area.
Dog’s Name: A dog’s name gives the search a very important personal touch. While someone might use that to their advantage, odds are better to include a name on all signage and media.
Don’t put “responds to” Many dogs don’t respond and will often run away from this attention.
Breed: List breed or top two if a mix. What would best describe your dog to a stranger?
“SMALL TAN BENJI” Don’t use “rare breed” & possibly tempt someone to keep a “special” dog.
Age: Not critical. Being elderly or just a puppy might make the dog more noticeable.
Weight: Not critical but should be listed. Can also use terms: “knee-high”, “tiny” or “X-LGE.”
Coat Color/s: List major colors, describe terms like “merle,” & distinctive markings.
Coat Type: List the coat type if a distinguishing feature and it makes a difference.
Sex: Not critical to quick sightings but list. Male, Female, Neutered Male or Spayed Female
Collar, leash, or harness: Describe basic color/s. *NOTE: Collars can get dirty and worn, loose and lost. Never assume a dog is still wearing a collar, harness, or dragging its leash.
Tags, Tattoo, & Microchip: Put “was wearing tags” but omit details unless out of state tags. A finder needs to realize the dog was lost nearby and didn’t travel THAT far. For example: put “MA LICENSE tag” “OLD NJ ID tag” “OLD NY RABIES tag.” Give full tags info to shelters, vets, etc. and then ASAP – call city/town clerk, vet, or shelter who issued tags to alert them your dog is lost. Give them your 24/7 contact number/s. Many “found” dogs have outdated or unreadable tags that hinder or prohibit tracing. Putting that a dog is tattooed or microchipped on fliers may help deter theft. Always give those ID numbers to all (vets, humane officers, shelters, rescues) who need to know. Remember: A critical detail should always be withheld from fliers and signs (ie the public) to used as an “identifier” if a stranger calls to say they have your pet.
NOTE ! Animal control and humane officers, shelters, vets, humane societies, and rescue groups, etc. must be advised of everything about a dog, including: age, breed, microchip/tattoo ID’s, tags, scars, handicaps, etc. YOU know your dog, they don’t.
DATE/LOCATION Omit specific date and/or location where a dog was lost. People assume it’s easy to find a dog and often ignore fliers with “old” dates. They also judge a dog’s chances of survival by how long it’s been missing. Specifying locations restricts using current fliers in new areas. Norton residents won’t be on the lookout for a dog posted as lost in Attleboro.
PHONE NUMBERS List 2 numbers where you can be reached 24/7. Include area codes and don’t use parentheses ( ). Keep cell phones fully charged. Don’t list a shelter or vet clinic as a contact except in special circumstances. Callers should not get an answering machine at a closed office. Put: “CALL ASAP,” “CALL 24/7,” or “CALL ANY HOUR.” People with info or questions want to talk to a live person and may hang up if they get a voicemail recording. Encourage callers to leave sighting information by changing pre-recorded messages. 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. Check messages frequently and keep the voice mailbox empty. Calls come in when least expected.
Make a list of police departments, animal control and humane officers, dog wardens, animal shelters, vets, humane societies, rescue groups and all others who you notify about your lost dog. Include names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of contact, and any other pertinent information. A list is a necessity that makes check-ins, renewals, and the “Thank You” process much easier when your search is over.
Immediately give a picture-flier with full description to local Animal Control and Humane Officers and respective shelters. Loose dogs can cause traffic accidents. ASAP fliers to all area Police and Fire stations, STATE POLICE BARRACKS, and train stations/Amtrack.
Distribute fliers to people routinely involved with animals, including, but not limited to:
Vet hospitals/clinics, humane societies, rescue groups, kennels, breeders, groomers, dog daycare/boarding places, pet stores, pet sitters/walkers, dog trainers, horse stables, and Feed & Grain stores. Local first, then border communities, and then further out as needed.
Attracted by odors you don’t smell, dogs visit dumpsters and rubbish holding areas.
Visit fast food places, restaurants, picnic areas, campgrounds, country clubs, amusement parks, convenience stores, and doughnut shops. Stop by every establishment with a kitchen facility or that serves food. Ask to talk with the chef or kitchen staff member who discards the trash and leftovers. Post at rubbish transfer/recycling stations and dumps/landfills, so both employees and residential users see your flier when entering or exiting. Tape fliers to your trash and recycle bins and give one to collectors to put inside the truck. When distributing fliers to businesses or organizations, ask to speak with the owner or manager. When not prohibited by corporate policy (or owner) a flier should be posted where the majority of customers will see it, ideally placed at eye level. Ask if a second flier can be placed where all employees will see it, like near a time clock or in a cafeteria. Keep a supply of fliers, pens, small notepad, tacks, and scotch tape in your car, along with a leash and bagged treats.
Distribute fliers to:
Local, state, and federal government agencies with workers who maintain roads and state highways, ie: Department of Transportation (DOT) and Division of Public Works (DPW).
Local, state, and national parks, wildlife refuges, sanctuaries, and zoos.
Maintenance, Buildings & Grounds supervisors of schools, government centers, and institutions.
School districts, school bus drivers, athletic fields, and all recreation facilities.
Post Office bulletin boards (rarely allowed), back room sorting operations, and mail carriers.
Utility companies (phone, cable, electric, water, gas) & field workers (install/repair equipment).
Construction crews, landscapers, and others who work outdoors for a living.
Stores: Liquor, supermarket, discount, home improvement, outdoor gear and supplies, bait & tackle shops, boating/marine, bicycle sales/repair & so on.
Places: Laundromats, gas stations, salvage yards, senior centers, churches, airports, libraries, car dealers, golf courses, etc.
Cemeteries – see groundskeeper (mows & plows) Quiet places where dogs wander & rest.
Local delivery trucks and major courier companies like AMAZON, FED EX, UPS, & DHL, and trucking facilities (truckstops) where big rig drivers rest, eat, gas up, and overnight.
Hand fliers out at social events: rabies clinics, town meetings, dog/cat shows, church fairs, athletic games (baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer).
Put fliers under wiper blades of cars in parking lots: supermarkets, malls, flea markets, train and bus stations, and training facilities for youth sports.
IMPORTANT & EASY TO DO:
Drive around with signs and fliers taped to outside of your vehicle to raise awareness.
Tape a neon sign to lower left side of rear window so drivers behind you can read it easily.
Tape a picture flier on a side window. Park strategically in search or sighting areas, positioning vehicle so the sign is visible. Don’t park illegally and aggravate everyone. A sign helps residents identify you and know why you’re in their neighborhood. People tend to be more sympathetic, vigilant, and helpful if they see someone is searching for the dog. If parked, prop a sign up on the dash, or weather permitting, put it outside under a wiper blade with handout fliers.
It’s easy to find people who think they saw the lost dog but did NOT call to report it.
My “Sample Residential Flier” is a flier that’s created specifically for use in residential areas. Searchers often ignore the time-consuming task of talking to residents, but locals are your best source for new leads and valuable information about the area. Many people think lost dogs are easy to find and don’t realize every sighting is important. If you haven’t had any calls, begin tracking the dog’s direction of travel by going to the last known sighting spot and start knocking on doors. Work safe! Respect both the property and privacy of others, including “Beware” and “No Trespassing” signs. If no one’s home, leave a flier at the door most used by the resident or choose a spot where it will be seen when they return. Many people enter their home via a garage and don’t see the entry door. Try to pick a spot for the flier wisely and secure with scotch tape or place under a flowerpot/rock so it doesn’t blow away. If you think the property is important (ie farm) insert the flier in a sheet protector to keep it safe until the owner finds it. Working with a partner will get the job done faster and you can reach out to more properties.
Remember – tell everyone that fliers and signs will remain posted until the search is over.
Replace worn/faded notices. Harsh weather often blows them away. Some people take them for a personal copy. Signage may get torn down because they “tarnish” the look of a business entrance or neighborhood. If only one keeps disappearing, place it further down the road.
Posts on the Internet reach out to individuals who care about animals.
When emailing fliers, ask recipients to verify receipt and to print a hard copy to post in the office.
Post on lost pet sites & note passwords – you need access to renew, refresh, or delete postings. Please be courteous by deleting posts when your dog is found – keeping the spotlight on those still missing. Give a good description of your dog, the date and town where it disappeared. Put general sighting locations. Some ads (ie CraigsList) can be extremely vague and don’t help those wanting to help or to match lost to found. Many states now have lost pet websites. They help you create a flier and then maintain it on their sites. These are viewed by countless animal lovers & more importantly, those who also live in the general area where the dog was lost. Missing Dogs Massachusetts is just one of these awesome sites.
A picture CAN be worth a thousand words. Place an ad in newspapers using a nice, clear picture of your dog. Place ads in “penny saver” publications – free newspapers picked up and read by thousands of people. Newspaper carriers might be willing to help by giving a flier to each of their customers. Not everyone is on social media, and you need maximum exposure.
SHARE ON FB AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS, BUT….
Take a pic of your color flier and SHARE ! Do be advised that “oversharing” isn’t always wise. Sharing exact sighting locations has often proved to be a detriment to the dog’s family and experienced searchers. Well-intentioned residents, as well as out-of-towners, flood sighting areas, hoping to spot the dog and save the day. Excessive vehicular and foot traffic and the constant disruptive noise has caused lost dogs to stay hidden, move on, or bolt onto busy roads. Share that your dog was seen alive (YAY !) but don’t specify locations to the general public.
It’s VERY important to provide a picture-flier with a detailed description to those who may eventually have your dog in their care, but not realize it. Shelters, vets, humane societies, and rescue groups, deal with large numbers of animals on a routine basis. Continue to forward fliers to those involved with animal care or rescue. Start from the spot where the dog disappeared and work outbound in a 50 – 100 + mile radius, crossing state lines as needed.
Many dogs DO survive, regardless of breed, size, or age, and are found as “strays.”
“Duncan” was lost, wandered for months, and finally caught by a nice lady who outsmarts him. He lost his collar with tags quite some time ago, never had a tattoo or microchip implant. Phone calls are made, emails exchanged, and websites visited on his behalf, but no reports are found. He’s gentle, loving, and knows basic commands, but Duncan is a stray without “identification.”
Keep fliers working so they are in the right place at the right time, even if you’re not.
Make mini-fliers! Edit content and downsize to fit several on one sheet of paper or index card. A dog’s pic must remain detailed and the text readable. Minis or index cards are easy to use if you run out of full-size and convenient to put in a pocket, wallet, or purse. Make them at home or use a professional printer.
ASAP, PLEASE remove every flier/sign and update all Internet and social media posts to let everyone know the search is over & clear the space for the next lost pet. Thank you!
Debbie Hall Copy 2/2005
Debbie Scarpellini Revision Jan 2022