A local pet rescue group helps residents recover lost pets and capture stray animals off the streets.
A group of about 25 volunteers formed the nonprofit Trapping, Rescue and Pet Recovery Service in November 2019, TRAPRS secretary Caitlin Chapman said. The group specializes in finding stray or lost dogs and cats in Austin and its surrounding areas. They use livestream cameras to track animal sightings and establish cage traps with food in public places.
“We’re known for getting a lot of really hard-to-catch strays, skittish dogs (and) feral dogs,” Chapman said. “People will call us with dogs that may have been out in the country, maybe they’ve spent a few months wandering and no one can get near (them). … We’ll get called in for those kinds of things.”
Although TRAPRS specializes in stray or feral animals, they also help residents who have recently lost an animal. TRAPRS has community members reach out through a variety of methods, including a hotline, email and Facebook group. Team members help coach callers through actions to take immediately after their pet is lost and send templates for posters to put up around neighborhoods.
“We tell them to put their dirty laundry on the front porch and either their dog’s bed or dog’s blanket,” Chapman said. “As funny as that sounds, dogs can smell their way home, so that’s the first and foremost thing.”
If a lost dog is chipped, TRAPRS recommend pet owners contact the company they were chipped with and make sure the information is up-to-date. Chapman said owners should also post to social media and put up flyers around their area.
In addition, TRAPRS takes care of ongoing issues, such as stray and feral animals sitting in the middle of streets, Chapman said. Volunteers take well-behaved strays to Austin Animal Center, a no-kill shelter, and foster the rest, Chapman said.
Undeclared sophomore Brie Celestino, who owns a dog, said she doesn’t think a lot of owners are aware of some of these methods, though she said living in an apartment makes it more difficult for pets to get lost.
“When your dog, or whatever animal you have, runs away, there’s really not much you can do except for just be really scared,” Celestino said. “You don’t know where they go. … They just kind of go where the smell takes them.”
Chapman said dogs do tend to start making circles after a 24 to 48 hour period, which allows TRAPRS to track the animals and pinpoint where they are.
“I feel like college students maybe don’t have the best grasp of resources just because maybe they haven’t had a lot of experience handling a dog on their own,” said Emma Pierce, dog owner and English freshman. “It can be overwhelming when you’re alone and you have total responsibility for this animal and it’s lost. … I think it’s best to raise awareness of resources that they can take advantage of in those situations.”