Kathy Pobloskie, Director and Co-Founder of Lost Dogs of Wisconsin is committed to reuniting owners with their lost dogs. She is also a Co-Founder of Lost Dogs of America an umbrella organization that is helping other Lost Dog state groups get off the ground, with currently 35 states participating.
While much of what Kathy and her team do on a daily basis depends on their memory, they also have many resources and tools they use on their website, to help the owners of lost pets be reunited.
Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is probably sponsored by Joubert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relate Transport. Now on with our show today, we’re speaking with Kathy Pavlovsky from Los Dogs of Wisconsin. The organization started back in 2000 and 10 with the idea to provide free resource is and tools to the owners of lost dogs to increase their chances of finding their pets. In 2016 they safely found 2792 dogs, increasing that number in 2017 to 2887 pets. Research has shown that 40 to 60% of animals in shelters and rescues are actually lost pets. So by reducing this number, kennel space is freed up for animals that truly need it. Cathy believes that innovative methods to get lost pets back home save lives. Hey, Kathy, Welcome to the program. Thank you. I’m glad to be here. So tell us a little bit about you and how you got into animal Rescue. Well, I am a retired horse trainer, slash riding instructor had done that my whole pretty much most of my professional career. And when my husband and I relocated to Wisconsin in 2000 and five, I basically retired from that. And then I had some free time, so I became very I had always been interested in animal welfare and animal rescue, but I finally had the time to pursue it. So I started off volunteering at a local shelter and just kind of transpired from there. So you went from horses to dogs? Yes. So now you started at the shelter, right? And so you were volunteer? Probably walking dogs, cleaning cages, doing things like that. How that morphed into now, what you’re doing, Which is part of Lost Dogs Wisconsin and Lost Dogs of America. Well, so I actually worked. Are I volunteered at the front desk of the shelter Children afternoons a week, Six hours. I think it was at it at a time. And, um um, it was kind of funny because I had always been so involved with animals that my husband said, you know, when you do this volunteer work, he said, Instead of just doing things with just with the animals, he says, you don’t know anybody in this town yet. Why don’t you try to do something at the, you know, front desk and try to meet people? It was very correct in that assessment, because I I didn’t know anybody here. And so I started volunteering at the front desk of the shelter, and that was when, well, I started to meet people, and I also started to realize that there’s a lot of people calling in that are missing the pet, and they’re looking for some help in some good advice and often in the shelter situation. The staff or the volunteers at the front desk don’t have a lot of time to, uh, to help those people and because they’re busy with all the other duties. And sometimes there was a lack of knowledge about what to do if a pet went missing. So there was actually for Met three other women, and we actually have, um, had all developed a skill set in helping people find their really shy lost dogs. and that was what we were good at. So what? We first started lost dogs in Wisconsin on we revere. And how hard can this really be? We could successfully helped people on our own catch their shy lost dogs. And we, you know, we sort of thought, Well, how hard can this be? Maybe there will be, you know, one or two a week are you know, a few a few month, which then quickly we realized how naive we were, because now it’s more like one or two an hour. Um and I’m and I remember I’m, you know, exaggerating a little bit with that. But there’s definitely times of the year when it is one or two an hour. Um and so we had to quickly then start to figure out what we were going to do to maintain our commitment to help all these people that were filing reports with us, and that’s where it started. So we really were kind of inventing the wheel, because for what we could see, nothing like this had ever been done on this sort of scale on before. And so we made lots of mistakes along the way and we learned from those mistakes, and we just continue putting one foot in front of the other every day. So tell me so you started by focusing particular and shy dogs. So you got all these calls in the shelter, and then you kind of said, Hey, I need to do more about this. And then And that’s really what took you to form the organization. Yes, yes, that that there was very a little good information out there for for people when they had lost a shy dog. Um, you know, a lot of the things that people want to do, just, you know, reactively when their dog was missing is really all the wrong things to do, you know? So things like, you know, calling out to their dog or chasing their dog or whistling for their dog. I’m is really very It sounds like the right thing to do. But when the dog is shy, it’s really the wrong thing to do. And you really have to change your whole approach to how you’re going to catch that dog. So becomes more about luring the dog back to one location and allowing them to settle in. Relax in that location as opposed to pursuing them. Interesting. So then so you formed. Is that when you form lost dogs of Wisconsin? Yes. Yep. So it was in 2010 and again, we That was when kind of Facebook was first. Really? Just getting going as, ah, you know. Ah, an outlet for, um social ill. The whole the whole idea of putting something out there to the public to educate the public and that, you know, that was how we started. So people would find our page on Facebook and then say he have lost my dog and we would try to help thumb. Um, And then, of course, as we got busier and busier, we realized what we have to have. We can’t just do It’s on Facebook. We have to have some sort of system toe, organize all this information. And, you know, we developed a form programs that people filled out a form and you know, then we created a flyer for them, and it just kind of morphed from there. Wow. All from working in a shelter and then helping somebody with a shy dog. And then it turned into this massive on nine organization, which is a phenomenal How do you guys? I’ve heard of Lost Dogs of America. I mean, are there lost dogs groups in all of the 50 states? 35 states so far. Thanks. So what happened? Waas We We started Wisconsin and then one of the founding members in Wisconsin, Susan Taney, who actually lives just across the border in Illinois. She I thought, Well, I should start lost dogs. Illinois. So she started really closely after we started Wisconsin. And, of course, know that has become a huge organization. And so and her and our friends. And so, you know, in the next couple of years, we started toe ah realized that we were making lots of mistakes and people we could we could help people learn from our mistakes by, you know, preventing them from going down the same path and on some of the things that we had done wrong. And, um and so there were groups starting up in other states, and we said, you know, we’re a free service will create this umbrella organization, and if you would, you know, kind of like to model yourselves after what we’ve learned. Works. Um come on and join us, you know, and we will, You know, we’ll all try to share ideas. And, um um, you know, formulate a plan that’s gonna work for all of this. Plus, we can cross share our information, which is also huge. Because, of course, when a dog goes missing, he doesn’t know that he’s crossed the border. Is Illinois right or whatever state. So now we have 35 states under our umbrella. That and some are not as large as Wisconsin and Illinois. Some are. Some are getting really large. I mean, some are just still just starting out with maybe one or two volunteers and, um, and are growing, you know, um, as as they go along, Yeah, that’s really cool. So So tell us a little bit about how this works. So if there’s a volunteer somebody listening saying, Hey, I would love to help. How do I get involved with us? Well, so the first thing that we would suggest is first of all, depending on what state you’re in, you can go to our Facebook page or our website Lost Dogs of America dot org’s, and you can see if there’s already a participating state in that organization because you really wouldn’t want to start another group in that state. That just becomes very confusing for the public. And really, your goal is to help the public. So the less confusion that they have, the better when their dog is missing. So if there’s already a state organization in the state, then you simply just have to contact that organization. So every every state that participates is linked in our ah, on our Facebook page and on our website on our Facebook pages, in the pin post of the top, and you can just send them a message and say, Hey, I’m interested in what you guys do and I’d love to volunteer and they will set you off down the right path to do that. Yeah, really cool. So what? What kinds of things do you guys need volunteers to help with? So the probably the mean thing, um, again, it depends on the state and how big the state organization has grown. But the main thing in a lot of the states is Facebook administrators. So somebody that is willing to spend ah, a little bit of time on the computer, um, every day and post the flyers that coming in the reports that come in to the Facebook page. So we use a centralized system called Helping Lost Pets. So all 35 of our states are linked in with helping lost pets. That is really cool, because when then, when the owner or the finder of a lost dog files a report with helping lost pets, it is immediately, um, sent out to the appropriate state. Okay, so on Ben. So then it comes to that state, and then somebody from that state, a volunteer in that state posts it to the Facebook page and then depending again on the state that you’re in and what we’re trying to grow every state into is we reach out and personally, uh, reach out to that that person who filed the report so and and that again can all be done from your computer, your phone, um, that you could reach out to that person and start to offer them suggestions on what they should be doing. So we’ve developed a training program that helps. Like I said at the beginning, we were really good at shy lost dogs, but as we’ve gone along, we realize there’s goes Ilyin more scenarios out there. And so we’ve developed a trading system. Um, based on profiling the dog on, you know how it went missing. Was it shire friendly? What were the weather conditions when it went missing and kind of based on what we’ve been doing for the last eight years, we can We have pretty good predictions of of what might have happened to that dog. Um and then that can really help the owner. And we never see Never. So we could be totally sure, but we But we can help the owner focus their efforts on the highest probability of what happened to their dog. And then they, of course, have a better chance of success. Yeah, no. And that’s really cool. I mean, that somebody can come volunteer. And as you said, I mean, they don’t really need to have a ton of skills or experience at this because you guys have already got the course work and you know, if they know how to use Facebook, which pretty much everybody on the planet does, then they can get involved and help you guys out pretty quick. And that’s really all that. You know, we we ask for volunteers to have a Facebook account, and you know, they don’t have to be proficient at Facebook yet. They can learn that as they go. But they have to have, ah, Facebook account because most of our Ah, most of our volunteer groups are operating behind the scenes with a Facebook group. Um, and and then, you know, it’s it’s really preferable that they have a good Internet connection, you know, otherwise, it’s just very frustrating. If somebody’s and ally there a laptop or a desktop computer, it’s not that it can’t be done with a tablet or a phone, but it just becomes very frustrating because, you know, there’s they’re not able to work as quickly as they would probably like to work. And, you know, there’s always problems with, um, it’s just easier to do a lot of the tasks on Ah, desktop or laptop computer. Yeah. So how maney Approximately. How many volunteers do you guys have? Not in Wisconsin. We have about 70. Um, I think Illinois has about probably 50 eso I would say in total, I’m guessing with some of the states that are smaller. We probably have about close to 0 150 or 200. That’s amazing. Yeah. And them again, some of those are, um I call them, Ah, stealth or unofficial volunteers that we haven’t done all the training, but are are definitely helping us in. Um, you know, you know, really ways that that are very, very beneficial. And we have some volunteers in Canada. Doesn’t matter where you live. We have volunteers in Wisconsin that work on the Alabama page. Um, so, um, it really doesn’t matter the way that the system is set up that you can help wherever the need is the greatest up that at that time. So, like I said, in Wisconsin, we have about 70 volunteers. So when somebody you know came in the other day that wanted to start to help, we said, Well, hey, would you mind helping in Alabama right now? Because we’re short a person there and she said, Absolutely. And so, um, she’s working on that page. Yeah, that’s really cool that it’s a virtual opportunity. Now put it in perspective. I thought this is a very amazing number to me. How Maney dogs have you guys been able to reunite in the last year while in Wisconsin. I think the number is around Was around 3000. Sweet. Uh, we we the numbers when we get the statistics in. So we somebody files a report is lost, and then when their dog is back home, they update the status to back home. Now, unfortunately, sometimes the dog is deceased, and that is probably, um Well, less than about 5% is generally the the number. Um, so we say to numbers we say on the number of re united’s, and then we break that out between safe and deceased because, um, we still call. We still close that case if the dog is deceased. Stomach sense. So So we talk about safely reunited. And then, unfortunately, the deceased reunited. Um, so in, I’m just looking here 2017 in Wisconsin, who had 20 887 safe reunions, and I think it was just slightly over 3000 with the deceased. Wow, that’s great. And then how about for lost dogs of America? Well, again, with the running total is running around 25,000 year. Wow. Oh, all being done with volunteers. Yes, all being done with volunteers. That is amazing work. Now I know that lost dog Awareness Days coming up on April 23rd. So tell us a little bit about that. How did what’s that Dale about? Well, so that was a day that we created under well, with lost dogs for America because although, of course, adoption and the focus in the animal welfare world has been on adoption. And that’s great. I mean, I don’t get me wrong. I think that’s absolutely wonderful. But what we also know. And this is confirmed by the SPC. A’s numbers that an estimated 40 to 60% of animals and shelters were actually lost pets. So they’ve ended up in a shelter because they were lost. And the owners just hasn’t figured out you where they are yet. And those dogs or cats are doing their straight hold in that shelter before the owner confined them. And then they’re being put up for adoption. Um, and so all were asking So and so those air those air animals going potentially going into new homes or unfortunately, potentially being put down in the shelter that really don’t don’t need to be there that they have a home to go back to. And it’s, you know, just takes a little bit of work to figure to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and help the older figure out where they are. Um, and so we’re just kind of asking the public to. And the shelter’s director is the fact that not all street dogs are homeless. Um, and let’s this take a day to celebrate. Um, you’re or bring awareness to the fact that there’s lost dogs out there that, um, that don’t need a new home. They just need to go back home. Yeah. No, I think it’s a great opportunity to do that will certainly help you promote it. That would be much appreciated. We’ve been doing it for five years, and every year it grows and grows a little bit, you know? And so now we’re on, like the national calendar Miracle. You know, with pizza Day and things. Yeah, there’s days where everything out there isn’t it. I think today is coffee cake day, huh? OK, so I want to you know, I want to ask you for you to share some of the do’s and don’t I know. I mean, even for myself, I’ve never lost a dog. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. So can you share some of your experience and best practices on what to do? Okay, so first, the first thing that we, um that we recommend we have, ah, handout called Five things to do if you’ve lost your dog and we try to get that out there into the owner’s hands as quickly as possible. But the number one thing that we have found and again we never say never. But many, many dogs will come back on their own if they’re not chased, called, pursued, whistled to, you know, uh, pressured in anyway. So if you leave some your dogs better blanket, um, or creative. Your dog has happened like students create, uh, and some smelly food, like we recommend canned cat food or rotisserie chicken without the bones. Something that smells really good. And some articles of your dirty clothing or your dirty pillowcase on the porch. Many of these dogs will come back on their own. Many, many, many of these dogs. And if we can get that information into the hands of the older, like within the first few minutes they don’t. Don’t go running after your dog. Don’t go chasing or calling. You don’t. Because all you’re doing then is you’re risking chasing your dog into traffic. And that, unfortunately, is our number one cause of death. Um, and, uh, just just see if your dog will come back from it. So that doesn’t mean you’re not going to do anything else, but but just give your dog that opportunity, and sometimes it takes a few days. But in that time, you can also be starting to you know, you distribute your flyers, get the word out that your dog is missing. But many of these dogs will come back on their own. Unfortunately, many people panic and they do all the wrong things and they go chasing after their dog. And the more the dog is chased, um, the more he they go into, like, this heightened sense of a panic in their mind, and they will start to just, you know, that is bolt in fear and they make really poor decisions. They might bolt into traffic. They might Walt into, um into a body water number number two, cause of death is drowning. Or they might bolt out onto thin ice and fall through the ice in the you know, spring or fall. Or even they, quite often it’s common. Development was it’s common, but it’s It’s not uncommon for dogs to be hit by a train because they are particularly fearful. So they’re starting to travel train tracks because that’s the you know, they they perceive that has to be a fairly safe way to avoid people. And then they get hit by train some. So all of the things related to chasing or calling or whistling or approaching the dog are the things that we don’t recommend. Then people say, Well, what should I do? If I do see my dog? And what we say then is you should sit down on the ground, face away from your dog. Um, don’t make eye contact, make yourself a little It’s possible and hopefully you have some tasty little bits of hot dog or something in your pocket because you’ve been looking for your dog and throw those up behind you and let your dog creep back up to you because they come back to smell. They don’t come back to site, and they don’t come back to sound. That’s why calling to them generally this work. Um, and they don’t say, Hey, I see my house over there. You know, they come back because of the good smells. So if you could remember that, you know what I know It’s hard when you’re in a panic, but get down on the ground. Don’t look at your dog, Face away from Mom and throw all this stuff behind you. It’s a good chance that your dog will creep up from behind. And, like you said, that’s really hard to do when you’re in that emotional state and and you just want to get them back. So I think that’s really that’s really good advice to try and educate people head of time, because I don’t know what the percentages air, but there’s a pretty high percentage that dogs will go missing at least one time in their life. Yeah, and the other thing you know, I know people like to be in groups for safety, but anything more than one person to a lost a shy lost dog is a crowd, and so you really don’t want to be out searching for your dog in, you know, to to people, if you’re going to be, you know, being a group space yourself well out, you know, And and really, we have gone away from recommending searching at all just because we’re finding that, um, people want to help, but they’re not always really educated about lost dog behavior. And so they go out and they kind of, like pound through the woods and through the bushes, and they have the opposite effect of what they intend to do, which is catch the dog. But they actually end up pressuring the dog out of the area, and they pressure the dog out of the area that the owner has already Flyer day. And then the owner has to flyer an entire new area that causes a lot of a host of other problems. First, firing is expensive. You printing off hundreds, probably thousands of copies. You having to take time off work to do it and enlist people to help you do it. And the more that that sort of stress is put on the owner, that financial logistical kind of stresses. But of the owner, the more likely they are to give up. So anything that you’re doing to push that dog out of the area that has already been fired is really, really counter beneficial to catching the dog successfully, because the thing that we do know is that owners and that have not given up or much, much more likely to be reunited with their with their dogs. So in keeping them going and keeping them motivated to keep doing that hard work of flyer ing expanding the firing radius and stuff is one of our toughest jobs. Yeah, I can imagine it gets you get tired after a couple of days and then you get despondent and you just want to give up. Yep. So what? What’s next for lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Lost Dogs of America? Well, we just hope to continue to grow. I mean, in some ways, that sounds kind of bad because you don’t want more people to lose their dogs. But But the truth of the matter is, is that as a nation we’re saving more and more dogs than ever before, right? Which is great. So there’s more dogs being saved in in animal shelters. The you know, the number of dogs we put down in shelters is reducing all the time. Um, which is a great thing. But of course, a lot of these dogs, um, have come from either some unfortunate situations there. The rescue dogs. They tend to be shy. Um, and so they’re getting lost in record numbers, and many for many people. They’ve ever owned a shy dog before, so they’re doing a great thing. They’re going to the shelter, and they’re adopting a dog. But they’ve never owned a shy dog before, and they don’t realized the risks of owning a high flight risk dog. And these dogs called missing, they go missing from foster homes. They go missing from transports to go missing from animal shelters. And so, you know, as we we just seem to be getting more and more reports all the time about dogs going missing. So again, just trying to educate is is what we’re about. And in trying to pull, pull all the listings into one place. That’s huge. So yeah, no, I can’t imagine. So this this is all great information, Kathy, and I’m really glad that you came on the program today to share is there anything else that you wanted to mention before we wrap things up? I don’t think so. I think we’ve touched on all the major points. I just like our, You know, our motto was Never give up. I mean, we every day, you know, we see stories of dogs reunited that have been missing for months and months and months, so we could just say one thing. Toe owners. It would be that would be it. Just never give up. Uh, just continue on, Stay in touch with us so that we can keep sending possible leads your way that you are volunteers were watching for in animal shelters. And, um, we we hope to see the day when everybody safely reunited with their dog. Yeah, absolutely. And for sure, we’ll make sure to list your links lost Dogs of America and last ducks of Wisconsin to bring attention to it. That would be wonderful. We really appreciate it. Well, thank you, Kathy. So much for coming on the program. And we look forward to having you on again in the future to hear about the increased number of you reunites that you’ve done. Thank you. 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