Patty Giarrusso at her desk responding to a call from a lost pet owner; out looking for a dog that had been reported missing.

Image: Chris Lake

The posts on the Lost and Found Pet Services 941 Facebook page are frantic, and they pour in by the hour. “My mom’s dog escaped her fence today.” “Cat spotted on Ave. D; she’s scared with an injured leg.” “My two dogs escaped from my house tonight. I accidentally left the front door cracked.”

The nonprofit Lost Pet Services aims to be a central clearinghouse to reunite those lost pets with their owners, says Patty Giarrusso, who started the all-volunteer organization as a Facebook group in 2013 and now has 24,000 members in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Scanning for a microchip for a dog that has been found.

Image: Chris Lake

Giarrusso and her small team created, posted online and circulated to all area shelters 8,152 lost pet flyers in the first half of 2019 alone—not just for dogs and cats, but for lizards, turtles, goats, a chicken. “Yesterday, we had a rat,” she says. “You never know what somebody has for a pet.” Fourteen hundred volunteers divide up the group by zip code and send those flyers to their neighborhood associations and NextDoor groups. And Giarrusso hosts an internet radio show on iHeart Media to spread the word.

A free I.D. tag the nonprofit makes for volunteers fostering lost pets.

Image: Chris Lake

The group has reunited more than 9,000 pets and owners since 2013. Donations pay for free microchips and I.D. tags, and for veterinarian care for injured found pets.

“Every day I hear more and more people say, ‘The vet or the shelter told me I need to get hold of you,’” Giarrusso says. “That’s the goal: to be the one place people can go to, so that no pets fall through the cracks.” 

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