Highland police officers are using social media posts to reunite lost animals with their owners and since the beginning of the year they have reunited more than 20 animals with their owners.
Since 2014, the department has posted more than 100 notices seeking the owners of pets found in or around Highland. Officers post photos of the animals onto the Highland Police Department Facebook page with a brief description and information on where the animal was found.
Interim Police Chief Terry Remelius said making the social media posts is an easy way to try to reunite missing pets with their owners. He said there isn’t another local resource in the area who can offer that to Highland.
“Without the police department, there would be no other resource for that. We could call the Edwardsville animal control office but they’re typically already overburdened,” Remelius said. “We try to address it here, locally and early, so we can get these animals back to their owners before they’re taken from the area.”
He said the Facebook posts are especially helpful because of the sheer amount of users who see and share the posts. He said, often, the owners aren’t the ones identifying the animals.
“Sometimes we don’t get the owners but get people calling or writing it saying they know whose dog it is,” Remelius said. “Then, lo and behold, the owners call shortly after and come and pick the animal up.”
The practice has become increasingly popular at police departments throughout the country and in the area. Edwardsville’s police department just last week reunited a ferret with its owner through a Facebook post.
In June, the Highland’s officers teamed up with the Illinois State Police, after a pair of horses were discovered near North Landolt Road, eight miles outside of town. The owners were eventually located with the help of the Facebook post.
Remelius said the department started making the posts in 2014 after officers showed an interest in doing so. Since then, the police station has been equipped with temporary holding pens where the animals are held and given food and water. He said the food is often donated by the community or brought in by officers.
If an owner doesn’t claim a pet by around 3 p.m., Remelius said officers will take pets to Madison County Animal Control, where they will be able to stay for a longer period of time.
County Animal Control manager Katherine Conder said police departments have been wise to use social media as a signal boost for lost pets. She said not only does it decrease the number of animals at the county shelter, but also gives lost pets a better chance to be reunited with their owners.
“We don’t always know if the animals we get in our facility are lost or not,” Conder said. “So it’s always good when the cities try to reach out and see if animals have a microchip or if they belong to somebody before they bring them to us.”