Social media isn’t just for keeping up with inspirational “memes,” inflammatory political debates and food porn — it’s also for keeping track of our best friends. Even our four-legged ones. Launched in 2009 by accidental activist Elizabeth Del Priore, Lost-and-Found Pets on Staten Island is a Facebook page for “reuniting lost and found pets on Staten Island. We are not a rescue … just animal lovers trying our best to get them home.” The page has attracted 13,480 followers, some of whom — along with the Lost-and-Found administrators — offer advice freely about what to do if your pet has gone missing or if you have found one wandering around. Del Priore, an Annadale resident, launched L&F Pets after a distressing experience. She is a realtor with Real Estate SINY, and about six years ago, a client who found a dog in Great Kills posted on Facebook that if no one takes it, he was going to bring it to the ACC (Animal Care Center) in Harlem where it might be euthanized in 72 hours if the owner is not found.Del Priore panicked. “How will the owner find it if it is in a shelter in Harlem?” she thought. Then, as happens on S.I., a coincidence intervened. “I walked into a Waldbaums and saw a poster for a lost dog — it was the one my client found,” Del Priore says. She contacted the owners and the dog was rescued before ACC moved to its next options: Adoption, transport to another ACC or euthanization. The experience inspired what she calls a simple idea: A Facebook page where anyone who saw a lost dog poster could take a photo of it, post it, and she would check the ACC site and Craigslist to see if the dog could be found. She would also take the opportunity to educate people about what happens when a dog or cat goes to a shelter so they wouldn’t make that their first option. “The most important [thing to do] is to file a lost or found report online at the ACC website,” said Del Priore. “I like to make sure people know that the stray hold is only 72 hours. After that we pray they get adopted or rescued, but our fear is always that they end up on ‘the euthanasia list.’ That was the main reason I created the page. Most people don’t realize this. After people are made aware we hope they will be a little more proactive.” DO THE RIGHT THINGBy proactive, Del Priore means, they will do everything they can short of bringing it to a lost animal to ACC, although she realizes that is sometimes the only alternative. Alternatives include putting posters around, notifying veterinarians and neighbors, posting on Craigslist and holding the dog — or getting someone else to do so — while the search goes on. Point blank: “Educating people is what gets them saved,” she says. Del Priore is also concerned that ACC does not get demonized. Its online database is helpful in locating animals and their volunteers share info about dogs about to be euthanized, something ACC is clear they do with dogs and cats that don’t get fostered or adopted. Facebook has countless lost-and-found pet pages spanning the globe, but strength of this one is it’s hyper-local angle. Active followers are knowledgeable about the dogs and cats in their neighborhoods and the breeds they love. They are also knowledgeable about S.I. services, veterinarians, feral cats and wildlife regulations. L&F Pets really took off after Hurricane Sandy when many people lost their pets. It became so emotionally overwhelming, though, that Del Priore shut the page down for awhile. She restarted it with her sister, Tina Del Priore, a teacher with the city Department of Education and a volunteer with Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue. The sibling duo invited Lori Gray, a very helpful commenter on the page, to take a more formal role. Gray also has a professional career as a behavior intervention specialist with Eden II School for Autistic Children who volunteers with Fur Friends in Need. “We all run the page in our spare time,” said Del Priore, adding that this story would be a first for them going public about who is behind the page. They don’t keep statistics, but figure their “reuniting stats” are over 50 percent. “Everyone proactively follows the page; everyone takes responsibility. They are all part of it. We can’t do it alone,” she said. FOUND DOG TIPS:
- Bring the dog to a vet to be scanned for a microchip.
- If someone claims the dog, check for proof of ownership (e.g., vet records, pictures). When you post info about the dog, leave a feature out (e.g., color of collar, special markings) and question the person about it.
- If you can’t house the pup, ask family or friends. If a stranger offers, be cautious. Not everyone has good intentions. Use discretion!
- When a dog is brought to the ACC by the South Shore Target, s/he is placed on a 72-hour stray hold (so that the owner has a chance to reclaim). After that time, the pup is considered abandoned and available for fostering, adoption or death.
- Contact administrators at Lost and Found Pets SI with questions or concerns.
LOST DOG TIPS:
- The more people who are aware your dog is missing, the more likely s/he will be recognized, if seen.
- Post flyers in a 3-mile radius from where the dog went missing. Use a clear picture and indicate any original markings. Write “Reward” in large letters to get attention. Use page protectors, so that flyers last in various weather conditions. Note not to chase the dog but to call you immediately with sightings. Include information about Facebook page.
- Visit the NY ACC shelter…soon and often…and bring a copy of your flyer. After 72 hours of not being claimed, a dog is considered “abandoned.”
- Create a Facebook page for your missing pup. Ask your friends to share, publicly, from their personal FB pages. Make posts public, so that they can be viewed by all on FB.
- Remember: Registered microchips give lost pets the best chance of returning home. Microchipping is extremely inexpensive and, unlike a collar with tags, cannot be compromised by the environment.
If you’re looking for someone who’ll go bananas every time they see your dog or cat, knows them so well they notice one hair out of place, speaks their language, knows their favorite treat AND movie and most of all become their second favorite human in the whole world, then you’ve found the right person! Lisa resides in Westerleigh and is a Dogtec Certified Dog Walker, NYC Certified in Animal Care and Handling, FEMA Animals in Disasters Certified, a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and Feral Colony Care Specialist and Red Cross Pet First Aid Certified.