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There's nothing worse than losing one of the furry, feathery or scaly members of your family

Prevention is better than cure so do all you can to avoid pets going AWOL. Start with having your pet microchipped and, if applicable, buy a safe collar with a tag giving your phone number.

If you have a garden and you let your hound have the run of it, make sure there are no gaps in fences or hedges or gates left open. Even the most obedient of dogs will do a runner if s/he has a cat or a squirrel to chase. Might be best to build a secure run in the garden. Make sure there's a kennel for shade or shelter depending on the weather. It's not a good idea to chain or tie a dog to a post. It's cruel and there's a real risk of injury or even death.

For scaly, feathery and small furry companions make sure their home is big enough, secure and not made from materials which a hairy Houdini could chomp a hole in. If you are allowing a pet bird or small rodent out for some exercise make sure there are no windows or doors open and there's no gaps in the skirting boards.

If your dog does do a runner or if your cat is unusually late home for dinner there are several things you should do. Check the local area and ask neighbours if they have seen your missing pet. Ask neighbours to check sheds and garages in case your cat has got itself locked in.

In Scotland local authorities have a legal duty to deal with stray dogs during office hours. They are responsible for the dog for seven days and, if it is not claimed within those seven days, it can be put up for rehoming. Contact your nearest environmental health office and ask if they have picked–up your dog and where they take stray dogs (several Councils pay the SSPCA to hold strays for them for the seven days they are the Council's responsibility). It's worth checking the stray dog kennels in person just in case your description of the dog has not been passed to the kennel staff.

Outside office hours stray dogs in Scotland should be taken to the nearest staffed police station where the dog will be held until it can be passed to the Council. Phone 101 to check if the police have your dog.

It's not the same in England and Wales. Police forces there no longer have a legal responsibility to deal with stray dogs and Councils are still only responsible during office hours. Best you can do is phone any out of hours number listed on the Council website and ask them for local advice.

There are certain things you should get out of the way before mounting a big search for your pet. If a dog is hit by a car the driver should report this to the police. Dial 101 to see if the police know of an incident near you. Currently there is no obligation to report an accident involving a cat.

It's also worth phoning local vets to see if they have had an injured dog or cat brought to them. Also contact the SSPCA/RSPCA, Dogs Trust and Cats Protection and tell them about your missing pet.

If a dog or cat is killed on the road the local authority cleansing department may deal with the remains. Phone the cleansing department and ask them if they might have picked up your pet. If you live near a railway line contact your local Network Rail office and ask if they have had any reports of a dog or cat killed on the line in your area. If you live near any livestock farms ask the farmer if they have had to shoot a dog for worrying their animals. You should also ask gamekeepers to check any snares or other traps they may have set in the area.

If you have regular dog walking routes check those. If you can, run off some leaflets with a pic of your dog or cat and give them out in the local area. Remember to put your phone number on it and be prepared for the odd crank call. It's best NOT to offer a reward as this can encourage pet nappers to take animals in the hope of financial gain. You may get a chancer asking for money for the return of your pet. If that does happen, arrange to meet them and take a plain clothed police officer with you.

Give details of your lost pet to the local postie and, if you have them, newspaper and milk delivery people. Pop a leaflet or poster into local taxi offices, vets and pet shops. Alert any local dog walking services and ask them to look out for your pet.

Use social media to spread the word and look up the various lost and found pets websites. No harm in asking your local newspaper if they would run a wee story on your missing animal.

Chances are that by the time you have done all of the above your pet will have come home of their own accord.