When fashion mogul Tory Burch lost her miniature poodle, Chicken, at East 62nd Street and Park Avenue during a walk last week, she did what any pet owner would do: employ all of the resources available to her to ensure the pup’s safe return.
It just so happens that Burch has quite a few more resources in her dog-finding arsenal than the average New Yorker.
In her pursuit, she reached out to her 2.2 million followers on Instagram, pleading for their help to find Chicken — and adding a $10,000 reward to whomever could reunite Burch and Chicken as a little extra motivator. After three days, Burch returned to Instagram to report that Chicken was home, safe and sound (though, it’s unclear if that reward was ever granted).
All’s well that ends well — but for thousands of others who can’t afford to give away a cash prize, being reunited with a pet that’s been lost in New York might not be as simple.
Luckily, Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC) are working to return the 24,000 pets they take in evers year with their owners, resulting in about 150 reunions a month.
“We've had some really amazing reunifications,” said Summer Dolder, who manages the shelter’s operations.
Lost and Found Sites
The ACC — with a care center in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island — takes all kinds of animals, including dogs, cats, reptiles, rabbits and birds, and actively works to find the animals' owners, both by posting a profile of the animal on their site and searching other lost and found sites for posts from owners.
Animals that are found in Queens and the Bronx are funneled into the centers in the other boroughs.
Some of the animals that have been brought to the care centers recently include a female Siberian Husky, a brown, short-haired Tabby cat found near Central Park, and a gray, two-year-old bunny rabbit being held in Brooklyn.
But the window for returning these pets to their owners is rather narrow, just 72 hours. At that point, the care centers start the process to re-home the animals.
That’s why Dolder says owners need to act quickly, by both immediately citing their pet as lost and circulating flyers with color photos around the owner’s neighborhood and near the location where the pet got away from its owner. Owners should also physically come into each care center to see if someone has brought in their pet.
“Lots of times people become overwhelmed,’’ Dolder said. But Dolder also said two good preventative measures for owners to take so that their animal is easier to find and to identify, would be to keep their pets collared with up-to-date contact information on their tags and to have a veterinarian place a microchip in their pets. Dolder and her team have witnessed a few rather miraculous reunifications between pet and owner.
“We had a cat come in as a stray. It was just a black cat, just like a regular old cat. Nothing really distinguishing about it,” Dolder said. “We immediately started doing our lost and found effort.”
During their search, they came across a three-moth-old post about a black cat that had been lost in Yonkers. But the cat at their care center had been found in the Bronx.
“We were like, ‘Oh, can it actually be this tabby that's been missing for like three months?’” she said. “And we call the authors of the post and they came all the way down, and it ended up being their cat. This cat had been missing for three months and somehow made it from Yonkers to the Bronx!”
Sometimes Dolder’s team comes across animals that have been missing for years. “We had a dog brought in with a microchip and we traced the microchip,” Dolder said. “We call the owner and the owner says, ‘I lost that dog five years ago.’”
In these cases, Dolder said, it’s likely that a Good Samaritan had taken in the animal and cared for it, but eventually lost it as well.
“That person probably never knew the pet had a microchip,” Dolder said. “And while we can’t return it to the most recent owner, because we don’t know who that is, we can reunite a pet with their original owner.”
Let that bring peace of mind to New Yorkers who don’t have millions of social media followers or thousands of dollars to offer as a reward - that if their pet is lost, it still might be in a warm home with a full belly and a wagging tail.
For more information about lost and found pets, including the animals in the photos with this article, contact Animal Care Centers of NYC, nyacc.org.
[A] cat had been missing for three months and somehow made it from Yonkers to the Bronx!” Summer Dolder, Animal Care Centers of NYC