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East Hills launches search-and-rescue program for lost pets

From left, Village of East Hills Trustee Clara

From left, Village of East Hills Trustee Clara Pomerantz handles Dakota, owned by village attorney Bill Burton, Deputy Mayor Manny Zuckerman with his dog Max, Trustee Brian Meyerson and Trustee Stacey Siegel, announce the village is launching a search and rescue program for lost pets. Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

When Croissant, a 5-year-old Shiba Inu, escaped from Matthew Skidell’s backyard in September, the East Hills resident and his family searched all night, scanning roads and screaming the dog’s name as they drove through surrounding communities.

A day and a half later, Croissant was found about 4 miles away, in Syosset. Skidell, 48, had enlisted the help of friends and spent hours calling local shelters and police before an Instagram post helped him locate the dog.

Now, the Village of East Hills wants to help residents find lost pets with a recently launched search-and-rescue program called Pet Alert. The program’s primary purpose is to aid residents through a stressful time and help tackle the many responsibilities of finding a lost pet — contacting other villagers, neighboring municipalities, animal shelters, police and more.

“I think every pet owner in the village would be happy to have a program like this, because when something like this happens, you really don’t know what to do,” said village trustee Manny Zuckerman. “This outlines exactly a procedure to expedite the dissemination of info.”

If a cat, dog or other pet goes missing, residents can call the village security’s 24-hour line or submit a detailed form on the East Hills website outlining the pet’s information and both how and when it was lost. Village trustees will then mobilize and begin the alert, which sets in motion a series of steps, including an email blast to residents, phone calls and the distribution of posters.

This systematic approach will support owners and help save valuable time in searching for a lost pet, said trustee Stacy Siegel. While residents are out searching for their pet, the village will make all necessary calls to expedite the process.

“We will take the responsibility off the family, because they’re obviously very stressed and upset,” Siegel added.

Village Attorney Bill Burton said the village is a “pet-loving community” and there is a “real need” for the program, which he said will help increase the odds of a pet’s safe return.

“You call in one place and you have peace of mind, everything’s been done,” Burton said.

Skidell ended up finding Croissant hiding in a Syosset backyard, luring him out from a pile of leaves with a bag of bacon strips. While he was lucky to be able to mobilize friends and family to help search and get the word out, Skidell said the Pet Alert program would have saved him hours of panic.

“It’s like an Amber Alert for pets,” Skidell said. “It would’ve meant being able to rally the troops faster, it could have meant a lot less time, a lot less aggravation. . . . The faster you get the word out to more people, the faster somebody can get out and save him.”

Finding lost pets

Once a resident files a Pet Alert, it sets in motion a series of steps:

  • Pet Alert sends an email blast to residents.
  • Pet Alert notifies neighboring villages, civic associations, animal shelters, local veterinarians and animal hospitals, and the post office.
  • Pet Alert posts details on social media pages.
  • Pet Alert prints and distributes posters at the dog park and East Hills Park Gate, at local businesses and in the area where the pet was last seen. Fliers will also be distributed to homes in the area, with bullhorns provided for those searching.
  • Pet Alert will provide residents with information to contact police and trackers looking for the pet.
  • Pet Alert notifies owners when the pet is found and assists in reuniting them.
  • Pet Alert then provides updates to the public.

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