As Beaufort and Jasper counties grow, we are seeing an increase in lost pets. On Facebook, these postings now take up a serious number of entries and, as both a pet parent and dog trainer, I am distressed.

This is not to say that accidents don’t happen; of course they do. However, over a lifetime of owning house pets, what would you consider the norm of having one lost, i.e. escaped, not stolen? Once or twice?

Stolen pets are a different issue, based mostly upon having a dog or cat unsupervised on your property.

But dogs that escape from their house or yard multiple times I just don’t get! Owners seem to be in denial about their responsibility.

What about children inadvertently letting the dog out through unsecured doors or gates? What if you know that your dog digs under or jumps over fences? Why isn’t this the parents’ responsibility?

So how do we reduce the number of these potentially disastrous situations?

  1. Teach your children not to open any outside door unless their pet is secured elsewhere. This could include a gated area, crate or another room with a door.
  2. If possible, design a barrier that bars access to the gate, preferably one that people can go through but the pet cannot.
  3. In some cases the barrier can be an indoor version of an electronic fence, which is reasonably priced online. The pet wears an electronic collar, which is activated as they near a restricted area. It keeps most pets away from doors.
  4. Even if your pet is mostly reliable outside off-leash in a non-fenced area, remember they are animals and will often be distracted by prey. In general, they should not be outside without a fence, electronic fence, electronic collar, a leash or a long tether line. “Loose” should not be acceptable to any caring pet parent.
  5. Fence in your yard with either electronics or some type of solid material. It doesn’t work for all pets, but electronic is fairly reliable for most dogs and cats and is reasonably priced. If your dog digs under a physical fence, then put an electronic fence inside the physical fence to keep them away from the actual fence barrier.
  6. Train your dog to stay away from doors without permission. Yes, training works. Your dog can learn the “stay” command from your family or any local trainer.
  7. Invest in a GPS tracking device. There are several on the market. Check out the American Kennel Club website among others. Be aware that some have monthly monitoring fees.

This is a sound investment but is not foolproof, since some pets can lose their collars along with the device. If tracked quickly, it could be a lifesaver.

Bottom line: Missing pets are not always found. Whether they’re just missing, stolen or lost, run over by cars or taken by alligators, it is a nightmare for families as well as the pet.

Communities like ours have volunteer search teams along with your caring friends and neighbors.

But for the most part it shouldn’t happen in the first place.

This is a solvable problem. Let’s fix it!

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training.