Reuniting with your loved one

Helen Woodward Animal Center is committed to the best possible outcome for lost or found animals, but remember that we are not the first step in the pet recovery process. The Center is not legally authorized to accept strays and must turn them over to County of San Diego Department of Animal Services (SDDAS) in Carlsbad.  If you have lost a pet or found a stray animal (including a pet that has sustained an injury), please contact the SDDAS or other authorized shelter closest to your location. Their contact information is listed below. 

County Shelters San Diego Humane Societies:

2481 Palomar Airport Road
Carlsbad, CA 92011

San Diego Campus
5500 Gaines Street 
San Diego, CA 92110

5480 Gaines Street
San Diego, CA 92110

Escondido Campus
3450 E. Valley Parkway
Escondido, CA 92027 

5821 Sweetwater Road
Bonita, CA 91902

Oceanside Campus
2905 San Luis Rey Road (dogs)
Oceanside, CA 92058

572 Airport Road (cats, small animals)
Oceanside, CA 92058


  • If you are able to safely catch the animal, please take it to the nearest authorized shelter. If you are interested in adopting the animal in the event that it is not reclaimed by its owner, you can place a hold on the animal. You can also post Found Flyer's like this one.
  • If you are unable to transport the animal or if the animal is sick or injured, call the phone number listed above and an Animal Control Officer can provide assistance. Remember that the SDDAS generally does not respond to a report of a stray pet unless the animal has been contained. The old days of the dog catcher running through the neighborhood carrying a large net are long gone.

If your animal companion is MISSING:

  • File a Lost Pet Report with SDDAS and any other shelters in your area.  A lost and frightened animal can travel a long distance from its home.
  • Personally visit as many of the area shelters as you can to view the animals in the kennels. Under State law, stray animals are held for a minimum four days, not counting the day of arrival or holidays. Plan on visiting the shelters every three to five days to see all new arrivals.
  • On the days you cannot visit a shelter, call them or review their website.
  • Search in your neighborhood and surrounding areas regularly. Call or whistle, especially in the evenings when it is quiet.
  • Alert your neighbors. If your pet is injured or frightened, it may be hiding. Ask your neighbors to check garages and tool sheds. 
  • Make posters or flyers (we have a sample here for your convenience) and post them throughout your neighborhood, at local veterinary hospitals, post offices, businesses, and anywhere else that will allow you to post. It should include enough information for an honest person to contact you, but not enough detail that a scammer can claim to have your pet. Be careful! Never pay reward money in advance, and be sure to meet anyone claiming to have your pet in a public place. 
  • Post a, “Lost pet” ad on Craigslist and any other web-based Lost & Found sites. If you do not have a computer, you can use a computer at your local library or ask a friend or your Veterinarian if you may use theirs.
  • Place a, “Lost pet” ad in your local newspaper and in other papers in surrounding areas. Many of them will post your ad at no cost.
  • If your pet is microchipped, call the Microchip Registry or log on to their website to confirm that your contact information is up-to-date. Be sure to alert them that your pet is missing. 
  • Don’t give up hope, and don’t assume your pet has been stolen. Keep searching the animal shelters and checking ads. It may take a frightened pet several days to emerge from hiding.

Once you find your pet:

  • Once you find your pet be sure to share the great news! Contact the people and organizations that have been helping you in your search. And remember to take down all flyers you’ve hung in your neighborhood and remove the internet postings. Everybody likes a happy ending!

 Tips for keeping your returned pet healthy — and at home:

  • Spay/neuter your animal as soon as possible. This will make it less likely to roam. 
  • Microchip your animal. This provides permanent identification, even if your pet escapes from your home or yard, slips out of its collar, or is stolen. 
  • Take a picture of your pet at least every other month to ensure you have an up-to-date photo to use if you need to create a flyer and internet posting.
  • Commit to keeping your cat indoors only. Indoor/outdoor cats rarely live their natural lifespan due to the dangers of cars, disease, poison and injury. 
  • Consider dog training classes, especially if your dog is a, “door darter” or escape artist. Helen Woodward Animal Center can provide referrals for dog trainers who will help you to train your dog to actually listen when you say, “Stay!”  At the Center our trainer is Rob Kuty, owner of San Diego Pet Training. Rob can help you with all of our training needs.