What To Do If Your Pet Goes Missing: Rupert's Story
Whilst some clients may find this blog a little upsetting, after some careful consideration with the staff member involved we felt it was important to make more owners aware of this terrible scam.
Rupert had been missing for a week when his owners received a phone call to say he had been found. Whilst Rupert was ‘safe’, he was in critical condition. Panicked, Rupert's owners deposit £150 into an unknown bank account. However, unbeknownst to them, they had been victims of a horrible scam. Who would be so cruel to do such a thing?
Read our blog to find out what happened to Rupert, what you should do if your pet goes missing, and what to do if you find one.
The very worst feeling in the world is when your cat doesn’t return home when you expect them to. All kinds of horrible things go through your mind and all you want is for them to come home safe and well.
When Rupert (or Poops as he is affectionately known) didn’t return to his address in SW17, London on the 21st of May, his owner was distraught. He had been known to wander, but never for this long.
The owner sent a description and photos to all the local vets in the area, put flyers through letterboxes and posted them on all the local neighbourhood groups and social media lost & found pages.
A week later, the phone rang. The person claimed to be at a veterinary practice with Rupert. The owner was relieved Rupert had been found and didn’t expect what came next.
The caller claimed to be from the RSPCA and told the owner that Rupert had been hit by a car and was in the theatre. The person claimed he was in a critical condition and that he had lost his leg.
After putting the owners on hold, he called back claiming that he had just checked in with the surgeons and Rupert had flatlined (his heart and breathing had stopped) for eight seconds, but they had managed to get Rupert back. Despite this, his chances didn’t look good.
He disconnected the call four times, each time calling the owners back with horrible news. It was this, alongside other reassurances (i.e. he cited the practice Rupert was at and what treatment was being given) which led to the owners sending over a ‘medical treatment deposit’.
Once the transaction was complete, the man did not call back.
That’s when the owners started to think about the call. It just didn't add up, some of the medical terms were not correct. Why was there no music when they were put on hold? Why were they disconnected so often? After realising that the address of the practice was incorrect, they contacted the bank, who confirmed that the payment was made to a private account- not the RSPCA.
It had been a scam. The bank refunded the money and the owners reported the incident to the police. This doesn't seem to be an isolated incident, as there have been confirmed cases of this happening to others.
Rupert belongs to a member of our staff who has good veterinary knowledge and the scammer still managed to convince her to pay this money, which is why we feel it is important to tell pet owners about this.
What Should You Do If Your Pet Goes Missing?
First, make sure your microchip details are up to date, and then contact the microchip company to register your pet as lost or stolen. We often get lost pets whose details are not correct on their microchip, preventing us from reuniting them with their owners.
We would always recommend having your pet microchipped as this is a permanent form of identification that cannot be removed or lost. Important information can also be put on the microchip’s file, such as medications and/or other contact details or holiday addresses.
Put up posters in the local area and post lost flyers through peoples letterboxes.
Use platforms such as Facebook (Lost & Found Groups), Nextdoor and Pets Located to raise awareness, using photos to help identify your pet.
Email your surrounding vets and rescues with photos of your pet with details about when they went missing and the area you are from.
Don’t give up, keep posting photos so that they don’t get forgotten.
How Can You Avoid A Scam For Lost Pets?
If you are putting up ads about your missing pet, avoid putting down all the details that would be on your microchip. This is because if someone is claiming to be from a vets, they should have access to all these details via the microchip. Therefore, if they can't recite them back to you- it's probably a scam.
If someone is claiming to have found your pet, ask them to confirm your surname and address. Perhaps consider not using your pet's name on a poster or social media post, as if your pet is chipped, the person contacting you claiming to be a vet would only have their name if they had scanned the microchip.
Ask for a telephone number and address, check they exist and call them back. You could also ask for an email to be sent to you with an estimated cost (check the email is from the actual organisation they say they are from) or a photo of your pet before handing over any money.
If they can only give you details you have already made public and they are asking for money - then it is highly likely to be a scam.
What Should I Do if I Find A Lost Pet?
If you find a dog that is loose and uninjured you should contact a dog warden. Vets can check for a microchip but cannot take the dog in unless it is injured.
If the dog is injured, either contact a dog warden, the RSPCA or a local rescue.
We often get calls about stray cats that are not strays. Sometimes, they are drifters, who may bounce between different homes.
If a healthy cat turns up in your garden it is very unlikely to be a stray. You should not offer them food or urge them to come inside, as this encourages them to return- which causes unnecessary stress to the owner. These cats are loved, you can tell this because they are confident, possibly a bit chunky and friendly. These cats are not from bad homes, they just really like to eat and are taking advantage of cupboard love!
If you are concerned, put a paper collar on the cat with your details. We advise using paper as the cat is less likely to injure itself if the collar becomes caught. If the collar is removed or the owner gets in touch, the cat probably has an owner.
If you notice a cat that is looking worse for wear, skinny, with discharge from their eyes or nose or wounds, lameness etc, then this may be a cat in need. Contact your local rescue or RSPCA for assistance, or ask your local vet for assistance.
Don’t be afraid to post a photo of the cat on social media (such as Nextdoor) saying that they are visiting your garden. Whilst the cat probably has an owner, it may just have wandered too far in pursuit of some tasty snacks - they are very clever after all!
On a final note…
If your pet is not microchipped we would strongly recommend you to do so. It's cheap, quick, really simple (just like an injection) and is the best chance your pet has of finding its way home. Whilst it isn’t a tracker, it gives access to all your details so you can be contacted. Read more about microchipping on our blog.
Due to GDPR, no vet can disclose to a member of the public the owner's contact details from their pet's microchip if they are brought to the surgery as a stray. So if a pet has a chip, the vet will contact you directly.
Don’t ever give up hope on finding your lost pet, we know of cases of pets being reunited after years of being missing- so just keep looking and one day they may turn up safe and well.
Update- Rupert has been found!
Thanks to the power of social media, Rupert has been found 21 days after he first went missing!
His owner posted pictures of him again this morning on all the lost and found groups- including the Nextdoor app.
To her utter amazement, a person commented on her Nextdoor post saying that she had seen a ginger cat the evening before fighting with another cat. Although the person who spotted Rupert was sceptical (as the location was 1.2 miles away) Rupert's owners decided to go check it out.
When she arrived, Rupert was nowhere to be seen. She shouted his name twice and after a little meow, he came running, wrapping himself around her feet!
He has lost quite a bit of weight (approx 2kgs) and has several bald patches from fighting. besides this, he is otherwise well and he is home!
Rupert is now grounded for the foreseeable future (and being absolutely spoiled by his owner whilst gently cursing him under her breath)!