By: Leah Parodi
Since 2014, Cathy Eaton, creator of Lost Pets of Omaha Area, has worked tirelessly to help reunite pets that have gotten away from their owners. With the help of social media, this year alone, Lost Pets of Omaha Area has been able to reunite over 6,000 fur-babies with those who love and care for them.
Cathy Eaton has always been an animal lover and on Thanksgiving Day of 2013, she became part of a reunion that launched the idea for the Facebook page and website, both entitled; Lost Pets of Omaha Area. “I received a call for help from a friend whose boxer got out,” said Eaton. “A whole bunch of us went out to look for his dog.” Eaton said that all those searching were using cell phones during the four hours it took to locate the dog but the constant calling and texting took up too much valuable search time. After the boxer was caught Eaton thought there has got to be a better way for people to interact immediately, which would be so much better for the animal. She thought of social media and created a Facebook page followed later by an official website. Eaton also enlisted the help of good friend and fellow animal lover, Rochelle Timperley, and the pair quickly became a dynamic pet finding duo.
Lost Pets of Omaha Area Facebook page is designed for followers and visitors to share descriptions and photos of pets that they have lost, found or see wandering. People are encouraged to post photos and information about pets lost or those animals seen running loose. This valuable information can be updated instantly which can help animals get home safe and soon. But Eaton and Timperley have created so much more than a Facebook page as they run the only known interactive page in the area, meaning they will do almost anything it takes to reunite lost pets with their owners.
Eaton and Timperley offer a wide range of services and assistance to help locate lost pets. “We bought multiple sized traps that we loan out,” Eaton said. “I am retired so when I can I will go and help search for pets. Rochelle works during the day so she helps when she can on the weekends.” Eaton and Timperley will create posters, offer the use of a trail-cam and modem and have recently acquired a drone that they will be able to use in pet searches.
Lost Pets of Omaha Area is a non-profit, all-volunteer based organization and rely on the help of the community and fundraisers to help them do what they do. “Rochelle and I initially bought traps, we each have several hundred dollars invested in, so we put on fundraisers during the year to help with those kinds of costs.” Eaton was quick to add that Lost Pets of Omaha Area is supported generously by the community. “One of our traps was stolen, but people are so nice, we posted about it on Facebook and people started donating traps and other items.”
Lost Pets of Omaha Area, both Facebook page and website, offer tips and suggestions on how to post about your lost pet, find your pet and what to do and not to do to make sure your pet comes home safely. “My knowledge, what I share comes from what has worked for me over the years as my animals have gotten out.” And Eaton also relies on professional advice as well.
“I got a call from a trucker who lost his dog, Kuzik, in Omaha. He was on a tight dead-line and couldn’t look for her.” The trucker contacted Eaton and a private K-9 investigator, Karin TarQwyn, the most recognized missing dog expert in North America. Eaton helped TarQwyn in her search for Kuzik and learned a lot of valuable information. “I learned a lot from her, she gave me great tips like 80% of dogs follow creeks, water sources. And they like to get away from noises and people.”
With the winning combination of Facebook posts, Eaton and Timperley’s search efforts and the spot-on tips for locating lost pets, the reunion success rate for Lost Pets of Omaha is very high. “We are around 80% of our pets being found. We have had 6132 reunions and that does not include all the pets that we don’t hear about.”
Lost Pets of Omaha Area is for all pets, not just dogs and cats and works closely with the Nebraska Humane Society and other sites such as Nextdoor. And they rely on the generosity of the community through donations and support from their annual fundraiser. “We have one big fundraiser every year, the weekend before Mother’s Day with our annual plant sale. We could not be as successful without the involvement of all the people who follow our page. We have an awesome community of pet lovers and we so appreciate all of them.”
Eaton and Timperley are also eager to help other communities and collected items donated from their page followers for pets that were affected by hurricane Harvey. “We collected 17 crates of all sizes, 3 bags of leashes and 2 bags of collars.” At the end of the day, Eaton is also very happy adding to the already 33,000 + followers Lost Pets of Omaha Area has on Facebook. “We need to get the word out for people to join the site, because really it is the incoming tips that get pets back home.”
For information or to donate, please visit lostpetsofomahaarea.org or go to the Lost Pets of Omaha Area Facebook page.