Santa Fe Scoop


Recovery Tips - Posters 5+5+55

© 2007 Missing Pet Partnership. All rights reserved.

Missing Pet Partnership has discovered a creative and highly effective tool for recovering lost pets with a method that we call the "FIVE + FIVE + FIFTY-FIVE RULE." Here's how it works. At any typical intersection, you only have five seconds and five words to get your message across to drivers who are passing through the area where your pet is missing. We have had success in recovering lost pets several weeks after they disappeared by helping people create posters using the following rules:

  1. Make them GIANT so that people driving by cannot miss them.
  2. Make them FLUORESCENT so that the color attracts the attention of everyone.
  3. Put them at major intersections near where you lost your pet (and in areas of sightings).
  4. Keep them BRIEF and to the point.
  5. Let them convey a VISUAL IMAGE of what you have lost.

Most pet owners post lost pet FLYERS that are 8 1/2" X 11" white pieces of paper and the only message conveyed is REWARD LOST DOG or REWARD LOST CAT. These are too small and very few people passing by even notice these. Even if drivers did manage to see the words "LOST DOG" very few will pull over to read the description of the lost pet. If instead you create a highly visible poster that conveys the message "REWARD LOST DOG--YELLOW LAB" or "REWARD LOST CAT--SIAMESE" or "REWARD LOST DOG--TAN TERRIER RED COLLAR" that every person driving by could quickly read, you will increase your probability of developing leads that will help you find your pet!

This is how your final lost pet poster should look. This is how your final lost pet poster should look.

Follow these steps for making effective Lost Pet Posters and Flyers

In addition to posting FLYERS (8 1/2" X 11" sheets of paper), you will also want to make highly visible giant, fluorescent POSTERS that have your lost pet FLYERS attached to them. Fluorescent posters are highly visible, effective, and harder for people to tear down. They have proven to be highly successful in the recovery of lost pets, especially lost dogs. Your goal with these poster boards is to make them very big, very noticeable, and very brief.

Items Needed: At least 10 giant (28" X 22") fluorescent orange poster boards; 2 large black permanent markers (do not buy water soluble markers); 10 sheet protectors; duct tape; and 10 flyers with color photo of your lost pet.

Creating the Posters: Use giant (28" X 22") fluorescent orange poster board available at most office supply stores. The size and fluorescent color will attract the eye of everyone who drives by. This is your goal! You will hang this vertically (not horizontally). At the very top, in 5-inch black letters, print the word REWARD. At the very bottom, in 5-inch black letters, print the words LOST DOG (or CAT or PARROT). In the center of the poster, use clear packing tape to secure a plastic sheet protector. This is where you will slip in your FLYER and then seal the top portion with more tape to protect it from weather.

This is how you should create flyers that you will hand out to neighbors and post in public. This is how you should create flyers to hand out to neighbors and post in public. (These flyers won't be used on the fluorescent poster boards.)
You should make a flyer like this for each fluorescent poster board that you create.You should make a flyer like this for each fluorescent poster board that you create.


Creating Flyers For Your Posters: Next, you'll need to create ten special flyers to display in the center of your fluorescent posters. You'll want to use a very brief description of your pet at both the top and bottom of these ten flyers. Use the largest font that you can - such as size 80 or 90 in Arial or Verdana font. Your fluorescent poster will already announce "REWARD LOST DOG" or "REWARD LOST CAT" (see photos above) so you DO NOT need to write the words "lost dog" or "lost cat" again on these flyers (at least not in giant letters). Instead, in smaller font (size 18 to 20) write just a few sentences describing your pet, where it was lost, and phone numbers where you can be reached. In the center of the flyer paste a color photograph of your pet. When you are finished, the biggest words on the white flyers should be the color and breed of your pet (e.g.. RED DOBERMAN or GREY & SILVER SILKY TERRIER or "GREY TABBY BLUE COLLAR"). If your poster combined with the flyer can convey in five words or less the message "REWARD LOST DOG--GREY & SILVER SILKY TERRIER" or "REWARD LOST CAT--GREY TABBY BLUE COLLAR" then every passerby will be able to VISUALIZE your lost pet and they'll be a potential witness who may be able to lead you to your missing pet. We call this the "Five words, five seconds rule." That's because you will only have five seconds and five words to get your message across to drivers who are passing through the area.

Highly fluorescent orange posters Highly fluorescent orange posters stand out at intersections where several signs compete for everyone's attention. Of the three lost pet flyers at this intersection, the one that will be noticed is the one pasted to the fluorescent orange REWARD LOST DOG poster.

The biggest disadvantages posting 8 1/2" X 11" white flyers are that (a) most people passing by don't even notice them, and (b) the only thing that drivers passing by can usually read is "REWARD" and maybe "LOST DOG" - that's it. Using the five words on the fluorescent posters will give hundreds of drivers passing by your poster a visual picture of what the lost pet looks like. Then, anyone driving by who happens to see a loose yellow Labrador will remember your fluorescent poster and will know where they can find your phone number (which will be in a smaller font).

Remember, many lost pets travel. They are often noticed by people who live and drive the same roadways every day. You have a good chance that if your pet was picked up by someone who pulled over to rescue him or her, that same person might drive by your poster and discover how to contact you. Get your fluorescent poster boards up as quickly as possible while witnesses still remember the day and time that they saw your pet.

Creating Flyers As Handouts And To Post In addition to posters, you will want to create lost pet FLYERS - 8 1/2" X 11" sheets of paper to hand out to neighbors and place in key locations like veterinary offices, pet shops, groomers, post offices, and outside supermarkets in your area. You will need to make plenty of lost pet flyers (at least 75 to 100 initially). You'll want to leave a few with your local shelter and find out how to mail or fax them to all of the local breed and nonbreed rescue groups in your area. If you're not sure how to contact the rescue groups in your area, ask the staff at your local animal shelter as they typically keep in touch with these nonprofit organizations.

Taped poster Run at least 4 horizontal strips of duct tape (on the back of the poster), taking care to wrap the duct tape around the back of the pole and secure it to both back sides of the poster board. Taking these extra measures when posting will give your poster a much better chance of remaining in its spot for an adequate length of time.

When creating your handout flyers, always use the best picture of your pet, preferably a color photo showing the entire pet - the larger the photo, the better. Place the photo in the center of the flyer. Be sure your flyer includes details such as your pet's breed, coloring, hair length, any distinctive markings, whether it was wearing a collar, and the location and date the pet was last seen. If your pet is timid, add that information to your flyer. Include a phone number where you can be reached in big, bold numbers and encourage calls anytime day or night. Be sure to change the recording on your home phone machine to refer people to another phone number such as a pager or cell phone. The last thing you want is someone to call you at 12:00 noon to say they see your dog and you don't get the message until 6:00 p.m.! If you don't own a pager or a cell phone, borrow one!

When creating flyers and placing ads in the local Classifieds section, it is important to withhold at least one identifying mark or characteristic of your lost pet, in case you need it later to verify that a person has actually found your pet and is not trying to scam you - it's unfortunate, but it does happen. For safety considerations, DO NOT include your name, your address, or a specific reward amount on your flyer! The type of people that you hope will call are animal lovers who don't care about the money - not folks looking to make a quick buck. Whenever you go to claim your pet, be sure to take someone with you - and do not pay any reward until you actually have your pet back. If someone asks you to wire money because h or she found your pet but is now in a different city, DO NOT BELIEVE IT, as this is a common scam.

Post Your Posters Where They Will Be Seen

Post your giant fluorescent posters on telephone or street light poles at busy street corners - especially at the major intersections nearest where your pet escaped or was last seen.

Do Not Use Thin Markers

You will want to place your fluorescent posters at all the major intersections within a 2-to-5-mile radius of the escape point and at any locations where you've had possible sightings. Make sure they are as far above your head as possible for maximum visibility for drivers passing by. Use duct tape (on the back of the poster) to secure the poster to a post or pole.

Do Not Post Flyers That People Can't Read: Flyers that are scribbled with handwriting on lined paper are not readable from a distance. They also curl up and are not visible with the slightest moisture. To increase the odds that you will recover your lost pet, create giant fluorescent posters with the message REWARD LOST DOG (or CAT or PARROT) and use your white flyers to convey a two-word description of your pet (breed, size, and/or coat color). The only message that is clearly visible on this flyer (below) to drivers passing by is two words: "LOST" and "PLEASE."

Don't forget to examine your posters and flyers frequently and replace the ones that are missing or damaged.

Do Not Use Thin Markers

Do Not Use Thin Markers: On the right is an example of someone who took our advice to use giant (22" X 28"), fluorescent poster boards. However, they did not follow all of our instructions in how to create their signs. They used a thin marker so the words REWARD LOST YORKIE (and their phone number) were never readable by people passing by. And while they used duct tape (good) to hang their poster, they hung the poster in a horizontal position (bad) which created more opportunity for curling due to bad weather. In addition, they did not use duct tape on the back of the poster to properly secure it to the pole.

The Yorkie in this case was ultimately recovered. The person who found the dog actually drove on this main road daily but never noticed this poster because she could not read it! The rescuer ultimately noticed the classified ad where the owner offered and paid a $1,000 reward for the return of the dog. It is quite probable that properly placed posters would have resulted in a quicker (and less expensive) recovery.

Poster with flyer in sheet protector Poster with flyer in sheet protector Poster without sheet protector Poster flyer without sheet protector

Follow The Five Word, Five Seconds Rule: In the photo to the right, the orange poster was made correctly but the flyer was not. Instead of using the words "LOST DOG" and the owner's phone number on the white flyer (directly above and below the photo of the dog), the owner should have typed the words "SPRINGER" above the dog photo and "SPANIEL" below the dog photo (or RED/WHITE on top and SPANIEL on the bottom). Again, it is critical that you convey your message in five words and that the two (or three) words on your white flyer are the briefest, most memorable way that you can describe your pet - e.g., SPRINGER at top, SPANIEL on bottom; LAB MIX at top, NO TAIL on bottom; TAN TERRIER at top, BLUE COLLAR on bottom.

Use Sheet Protectors: For the flyers that you end up posting in public, use plastic sheet protectors (available at office supply stores) to keep them fresh and uncurled. Wind and moisture, even dew in the mornings, will cause flyers to curl and be invisible, thus defeating your efforts.

Handing Out Your Flyers: You'll want to make up several smaller flyers that you will hand out to neighbors and people you encounter in your neighborhood. Post these flyers at local veterinary offices, pet stores, pet groomers, Laundromats, barber & beauty shops, grocery stores, churches, convenience stores, pizza parlors, and community bulletin boards in your area. Hand them out to your newspaper delivery person because they are out during the early morning hours and to your mail carrier because they are driving in your community all day long.

CAUTION: do NOT place your flyers inside mailboxes as this is a federal violation! Contact your local police department (call them and send them a flyer) but understand that most larger police agencies will be too busy to deal with the issue of lost pets.

Campaign Signs: Here's one last suggestion. If you're able to find them, duct tape your fluorescent posters to A-frame campaign signs and stick them in the ground near busy intersections. Because you won't need to rely on finding a telephone or light pole, you can simply push the metal frame into soft dirt or grass.

Be sure to duct tape the top of the campaign sign near the top of the fluorescent sign otherwise the wind can blow the top ("REWARD") portion back making the sign hard to read. In the photo below, did you notice the second sign? It is on the opposite side of this six-lane road capturing attention of traffic heading in the opposite direction. Again, the fluorescent color and size of these signs along with the five-word description (REWARD LOST DOG WHITE POODLE) has resulted in the recovery of many lost pets!

How Else To Search for Lost Cats

Handing out lost cat flyers and posting giant fluorescent posters will not help you find your cat if he/she is trapped in a neighbor's shed or if he/she is injured and hiding under a neighbor's deck! Lost cat posters are simply a supplement to the primary method that you should be using to find your lost cat - conducting an aggressive, physical search of your cat's territory (for an outdoor-access cat) or launching an aggressive humane trapping campaign (for indoor-only cats that escape outdoors and other displaced cats).

Campaign Signs Campaign Signs

Be sure to routinely check with your local animal shelter and also with any local rescue groups in your area. While some cats will end up in shelters the same day they vanished, others might not end up there for weeks or even months! Sometimes found cats end up being placed in feline rescue groups who place them in temporary foster homes until they can be adopted out to a new family. Your local shelter should have a listing of the organized feline groups in your area. In addition, many large pet stores hold weekend pet adoption events where "homeless" cats are adopted out to new families. It is possible that your cat could end up at one of these events. Find out when and where these adoptions take place and hand deliver a flyer of your lost cat to the staff. Also, contact any TNR (trap-neuter-return) groups or feral cat colony caretakers in your area (ask your shelter if they have a list) and send them a flyer of your cat. It is possible that your cat might show up at one of their "feeding stations" and they can be a great resource because they feed and care for stray cats on a routine basis.

How Else To Search for Lost Dogs

Be sure to routinely check with your local animal shelter and also with any local rescue groups in your area. Sometimes lost dogs end up being placed in dog rescue groups who end up placing them in temporary foster homes until they can be adopted out to a new family. Your local shelter should have a listing of the organized groups in your area. In addition, many large pet stores hold weekend pet adoption events where "homeless, stray" dogs are adopted out to new families. It is possible that your dog could end up at one of these events. Find out when and where these adoptions take place and hand deliver a flyer of your lost dog to the staff. Finally, many rescue groups that end up taking care of "homeless, stray" dogs will post these dogs on Be sure to check this website often in case your dog is ultimately listed there as an adoptable dog who is looking for a new home.

Pet Detectives: Visit our Find A Pet Detective page for a listing of certified pet detectives with dogs trained to locate lost dogs, cats, and other species.

One Last Thing: Do Not Give Up Hope!

Physically, your pet is out there somewhere and you stand a good chance of bringing him/her back home if you remain focused, positive, and persistent in your efforts. Although family, friends, or coworkers might be unsupportive, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Reach out and use the resources that are available to you through this website. The moment that you stop searching for your lost pet is the moment that your chances of a happy reunion plummet. Your biggest enemies will be discouragement and a lack of hope!


An Estonian version of this page is also available thanks to Boris Kozlow

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Comment by Shari Shantasi on January 16, 2012 at 9:52pm

MPP is my favorite site and was also happy to see the MPP links in Julie's tip list about searching for lost pets awhile back on Scoop. Other suggestions as to using fluorescent posters: some communities within a town may be sensitive to posters as big as mentioned in Kat's MPP page. Using a smaller size will accomplish the point by getting peoples' attention and still not be so objectionable to the locals. I've also noticed that the larger size can be difficult to handle and are more likely to get torn up by winds and such. I encourage everyone to check out the rest of MPP's site for lots more helpful info on finding missing pets, including behavioral issues. Very interesting information.

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