I'm a freelance journalist currently residing in the Netherlands.
What to do when your pet goes missing in the Netherlands01 March 2013, by Brandon H.
The story of Jacco
My girlfriend and I live near a student house in central Leiden. Last April, one of our neighbours decided to adopt a cat. He named the black and white tomcat Jacco (photo below) and the furball quickly earned himself a reputation around the neighbourhood.
With his amazing proclivity for sneaking outside whenever the front door opened, Jacco began frequenting many of the bars and businesses around the Hooglandse Kerk.
Last summer, the cat could often be found snoozing on the counter at the Leiden Velvet record store when he wasn’t slinking around the crowded shelves at De Bierwinkel, a speciality beer and whiskey shop.
Jacco quickly became a pint-sized celebrity after a local business owner nicknamed him Buurtpoes Bledder (which roughly translates as "Neighborhood Soccer Ball Cat" in Dutch) and started a Facebook fan page to track his appearances around town.
In October, a journalist for the De Telegraph wrote about the cat’s misadventures, which have thus far included snatching fish from a herring stand at the weekly market and being rescued from the roof of an architectural agency by the Leiden Fire Department.
And then on January 2nd Jacco went missing.
Word quickly spread via his Facebook page as the students patrolled the streets looking for him. Various local business owners theorised that Jacco might have jumped in a delivery truck or gotten trapped in a garage.
The cat, who refuses to wear collars and has managed to lose each and every one placed around his neck, had been last spotted on a bench outside the Cafe Jantje van Leiden, a pub near the student house.
Ten days later, Jacco was back. He had been taken in by a couple living a few streets over who weren’t aware of his status as a local celeb. They returned the cat to the students after a neighbour recognised him.
When your pet goes missing
But, if you own a dog or a cat in the Netherlands, there’s a good chance it doesn’t have its own Facebook page. Here are some tips to help prepare you and your pet for the possibility that they might one day go missing.
› Identification microchips
Identification microchips are becoming increasingly commonplace and, unlike collars, they’re almost impossible for a pet to lose.
The chips, which are no larger than a grain of rice, are implanted underneath the skin by a veterinarian and contain information like the pet’s name, address and emergency contact information. They’re readable with scanners that most Dutch animal shelters have at their disposal.
Photo by Flickr user smlp.co.uk
The chips can greatly increase the chances of a lost pet being returned to their owners. Needless to say, if you change addresses, you should also be sure to update the information on your pet’s chip.
› Ask around
If your pet gets lost, one of the first things you should do is ask your neighbours and any local businesses to keep an eye out. Ask them to look in their backyards, basement and attics.
› Social media
Social media can also be your friend in situations like these. Put the word out on your Facebook page and Twitter account, if you have either. There’s always "Lost Pet" signs too, of course, but if you mention an award, don’t go into specifics. Doing so can make you a target for con artists.
If no one has seen your pet, the next step is to contact nearby animal shelters and your local dierenambulance ("animal ambulance" in Dutch). The latter are organisations that retrieve lost pets and transport injured ones to animal hospitals. You can find a national registry of dierenambulances at the website for the FDN, a federal database.
› Stichting Amivedi Nederland
Stichting Amivedi Nederland is the country’s official website for the registration of lost domestic animals. It’s a good place to turn for information about shelters but many of their phone attendants speak limited English.
Their website serves as a community board for lost pets. Users can post information about animals they’ve found on the site or create a listing for their own missing pets. The site isn’t limited to just cats and dogs either. Parrots, rabbits and more exotic animals have been listed there too.
› GPS tracking system
If your pet is a skilled escape artist, you may also want to consider purchasing a GPS tracking system. These devices typically attach to a collar and will track their movements if they go missing.
They’re also fun if you own an outdoor cat and you’re curious to find out where they spend their free time. Be warned though, you may not want to know the answer :)