November 30, 2001, TORONTO - A series of recent tragedies involving dogs who have been sold for research, stolen and poisoned emphasizes the need for people to be vigilant when it comes to protecting their pets warns Al Hickey, Western Regional Director of the Humane Society of Canada (HSC). In September a Golden Retriever was sold for research, and subsequently killed, after straying from his home in Dundalk, Ontario.

In October, a Poodle-mix dog was stolen from outside a drug store in Toronto. In this case both the animal’s human guardians and the Humane Society of Canada have offered rewards for the animal’s safe return.


More recently some cruel, disturbed person has been placing hamburger patties laced with poison in and around the yard of someone in Winnipeg, Manitoba whose Lab/Pointer mix dog became ill after eating some of the poisoned meat. Fortunately, the dog recovered.

"These disturbing incidents stress the need to become more protective of our animal companions," says Hickey.

"It’s easy to become complacent and occasionally let down our guard when it comes to the safety of our pets" continues Hickey. "But we must remember how dangerous the world can be and take the appropriate precautions to protect our animal companions."

HSC Executive Director Michael O’Sullivan, whose family includes several dogs and cats, believes that pets can be effectively protected if people remain diligent, follow some simple rules and incorporate some basic safety procedures into their daily routines. "It may sound obvious, but if we always know where our pets are and we continually look out for their welfare then, chances are, they will remain safe" says O’Sullivan. "This means not leaving pets unattended or allowing them to roam."

To help ensure the safety of the four legged members of your family the Humane Society of Canada has put together a "to do" list to help ensure your pets safety as well as a "plan of attack" which can be used to efficiently search for a lost or stolen pet.

"To Do" List to Prevent Pets from Straying or Being Stolen
  • Don’t leave pets unattended where they could be stolen, injured or become lost.

  • Have a safe place to exercise your pet. For dogs this can be a safe, fenced-in yard or they can be taken for walks on a leash - preferably both.

  • For added protection keep locks on gates and conduct regular inspections of your yards to ensure that there are no harmful items that can be accessed by pets.

  • Equip pets with effective identification. Effective ID includes personalized ID tags and microchip ID - preferably both.

  • Keep pets away from doors to ensure that they are not accidentally let out. Be extra cautious when visitors or service people (i.e. repair people) access your house and/or yard. Ensure that doors and gates are closed after these people leave.

  • To help find lost, strayed or stolen pets quickly, always have an up-to-date file on your pet including an accurate description which should contain such information as: breed, sex, age, size, weight, colouring, tattoos, scars or distinguishing features etc. A recent colour photograph that can be shown to people or put on "Lost Pet" signs is very important. Keep a current list of phone numbers of animal shelters, pounds, humane societies, veterinary hospitals etc. in this file.

Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are in trying to prevent your animal companion from becoming lost or stolen, at some point you may have to look for a lost or stolen pet. It is vital to conduct this search in a quick and effective manner. The following will assist you in conducting an efficient and thorough search for the lost or stolen animal.

Looking for a Lost Pet

  • Remain calm and implement your effective "plan of attack" in a responsible manner.

  • Check the house and yard. Call your animal companion by his/her name.

  • If you do not locate your pet quickly, expand your search. Contact all of the humane societies, pounds, animal shelters, veterinary hospitals, universities, research labs and similar facilities in the immediate and surrounding areas. Try to personally visit these facilities as often as possible. (On many occasions pets and their humans have failed to be reunited, even though the animal was in the holding facility that their human guardian contacted because employees of the facility did not recognize the animal from the verbal or written description given. If the animal’s guardians had personally checked out the animals being held they would have recognized their animal companion.) Learn what the minimum holding time is for each facility and check back frequently to ensure that your pet is not killed sold for research or adopted. Leave a colour photograph of your pet, where you can be reached 24 hours a day and request that you be contacted when animals even loosely fitting your pet’s description are brought in.
  • Enquire as to what other facilities, departments, government agencies and individuals you should be contacting.

  • If you do not find your pet within a short period of time expand your search and contact humane societies, shelters and animal control facilities and similar agencies that are located farther away. Some pets can travel considerable distances quickly ending up in any one of several holding facilities. Others may be picked up by a well meaning person and deposited at a shelter or holding facility in a neighbouring municipality or county.

  • If you believe that your animal companion may have been stolen you should contact the police and other local authorities.

  • Contact radio stations, newspapers and television stations - especially those that offer "lost pet" announcements.

  • Post lost ads in newspapers and check the found ads.

  • Using the information and up-to-date photo of your pet in your file, quickly design and make copies of a "lost pet" sign. An effective sign contains a good photograph of the animal (either an actual photograph or a clear photo photocopied, colour if possible, on the sign), an accurate written description of the animal including information about any collar or tags as well as where the pet went missing and how you can be contacted (include your name, address, phone numbers). Using brightly coloured paper (yellow is good) for the sign will attract attention as will the word "Lost" in big letters at the top of the sign. If a reward is being offered then "Reward" written in big letters will attract even more attention - especially with children who are often the most effective at finding lost pets.
  • Post the signs in high traffic areas such as street posts, schools, post offices, convenience stores, grocery stores, laundromats, libraries, veterinary clinics, pounds, animal shelters, schools etc. (Where applicable get permission to post these signs and, when the search is over, remove all of the signs.) If you have extra copies of your pet’s photograph you can leave it at these locations as a clear, up-to-date photograph is much better than even a very clear photocopy of the photo.

  • Give copies of the sign to people you meet on your search or who are frequently in the area such as school children, postal workers, newspaper carriers, school bus drivers, couriers, town employees etc.

  • Be aware that not everyone who contacts you about your pet has your or your pet's well-being in mind. Be wary of people who contact you that do not identify themselves nor offer information without first receiving payment. In most cases, these people do not actually have your pet, nor know where it is, but are trying to use this situation to con money out of unsuspecting people who's only wish is to have their pet returned to them.

    In a recent incident, a man contacted a family who had lost their dog claiming that he had had to take it to the vet due to injuries sustained in a car accident, and that he would return their dog if the family reimbursed him $900 US for the veterinary bill and a flight home. Luckily this man has been caught by the police and charged with 11 counts of fraud.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at via twitter at and on Facebook at:

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

The only organization of its kind, seven days a week, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works across the street, across Canada and around the world helping people, animals and the environment.

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) depends entirely on donations to support our programs to help animals and the environment. All donations are gratefully acknowledged with a receipt for income tax purposes. If you would like to support our educational campaigns that protect animals and the environment please make a donation here. Because when it comes to fighting cruelty and violence, we don’t give up. Ever.