Summit Lost Pet Rescue forms as nonprofit dedicated to finding lost dogs and cats
BRECKENRIDGE — A new Summit County nonprofit for finding lost pets has been formed by longtime unofficial pet-finders Brandon Ciullo and Melissa Davis. Ciullo, founder of the Facebook page, Summit County Loves their Pets!!!, and Davis, who began her pet relocating career as a volunteer with the Summit County Animal Control & Shelter, joined forces — along with others — to create the nonprofit.
The two had been unofficially searching for lost pets for years until they decided to form Summit Lost Pet Rescue, along with treasurer Douglas Zidel, secretary and legal counsel John Carver, and marketing director Andria Pyn. The nonprofit was announced to the community as an official 501(c)(3) organization on Friday, June 12, although plans were in place to get the nonprofit up and running for the last several months.
Ciullo said that his mindset changed around finding pets in October of 2019 when Ciullo and Davis teamed up to find a dog around Vail Pass. The two participated in a 14-day rescue of a chihuahua mix that was lost after a car accident while the dog owners were driving through Colorado. Ciullo and Davis met up with Katie Albright, who shared a more efficient way to find lost pets by using the psychology of the dog, cameras and traps to find missing pets. Previously, Ciullo said he and Davis would simply share social media posts, make fliers and search areas to find missing pets.
“Now we have a whole system protocol of things that we do in order to increase our chances of finding a lost pet a lot faster than just some guy walking through the woods,” Ciullo said.
The protocol for finding lost pets is that after a call comes in from animal control, Summit Lost Pet Rescue makes fliers they put in visible places in the surrounding area. Larger signs are also utilized. Then, the team tracks the animal to find out which direction the animal is moving in.
“After three or four sightings I can really get a pretty good idea of what kind of mentality we’re dealing with, which will help us decide when and where to put a trap,” Ciullo said. “One of the first things we do is put up trail cameras with feeding stations. Melissa and I have worked on many, many missions where we never actually see the animal.”
Once the team tracks and maps the animal, they implement a trap, leaving it unarmed for a few days to let the animal get used to it before eventually setting the trap to catch the animal. Davis referred to the process as “a marathon, not a sprint.”
After the duo fundraised to acquire the proper equipment, they kicked around the idea of starting the nonprofit. Ciullo said he and Davis are more “boots on the ground,” while the other members of the team have taken care of all of the legal, administrative and financial work that comes with setting up and running a nonprofit. He said about five to six months after the team was gathered, the nonprofit became official. Davis said the group has about 90 volunteers signed up with around 25 active volunteers. Pyn noted that the organization is 100% volunteer- and donation-based.
Ciullo recounted one of his favorite missions, which was one of his and Davis’ first major missions as a team, where the two located a dog who went missing and got to see the reunion of the dog with his owner, who flew back to Colorado from North Carolina. The team has posted numerous success stories on their website, LostPetRescue.org.
Davis said a simple thing pet owners can do when their pet goes missing is to put their dirty clothes outside the home as the smells can help draw the animal back. She said pet owners should notify animal control and Summit Lost Pet Rescue the second the animal is missing because the first 24 hours is vital.
“If we get notified within that first 24 hours we can find (the pet) pretty quickly,” Davis said. “Some dogs and cats take three days, some take 10 minutes, some take three months, you just never know. It really just depends on how they get lost, when the search started and their temperament.”
Davis said that while they don’t find every pet that goes missing, the team makes their best efforts to locate as many animals as possible. Ciullo said he does what he does simply because he knows how to find lost animals and feels an obligation to share this knowledge.
“We just have a passion for animals to begin with and we have a stronger passion for finding lost animals and reuniting them with the owners,” Davis said.
As for what the team wants the nonprofit to become, Davis said the goal is to just keep training more and more volunteers to let some of them start running missions to continue growing and finding lost pets in Summit County and beyond.
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