The “REWARD!” Debate

There is considerable controversy about the advisability of offering a reward and if you do, how much? After eighteen years of helping people recover lost pets, we cannot recommend categorically that you should or should not offer a reward. The vast majority of the successful reunions we document do not involve a reward. Our only advice is this:

A reward is usually not necessary but may help recover a lost pet – in a few  situations (see “pros” below.)
If you do decide to offer a reward, we think it is unwise to state the amount of the reward.

Dog in car

This handsome pooch was recovered within minutes being posted to the Pet FBI Ohio Facebook page


The “Cons”
If you offer a reward for a lost dog, for example, it may encourage people to be too aggressive and to chase the dog, which is always a bad strategy.

Rewards encourage pet-napping.

If you offer a reward you will be vulnerable to scammers.

If someone finds your pet and refuses to return it without a reward – that is extortion and it is a criminal offense. You could file a police report.

The “Pros”

Sometimes a reward will be an incentive for people who would not otherwise give a hoot to be on the lookout  for the pet.

In the case of a stolen pet, especially a purebred dog, it may be the only way to flush out the thief. In that case be sure to mention “No questions asked…” Most pet thefts have a profit motive – either to sell the pet, or breed it (in the case of a pet that is not altered) or to keep it instead of paying for one.

Also in the case of a stolen pet, the offer of reward for “information leading to…” may motivate someone to “rat” on the thief.

cat lying down

Tigger was recovered because she had a microchip

If someone has found a pet and kept it for awhile and become attached, they may be

motivated to return it. It sometimes happens that people make false assumptions about the family of a lost pet because  it is in poor condition when they find it. If a reward is being offered they may realize that the family truly cares.

Sometimes the Good Sam may have incurred expenses related to the lost pet: vet bills or food, or accessories. In that case it is perfectly appropriate to reimburse them.


In our experience, most decent people will decline a reward unless they really need it. Besides it can be a real hardship for the family that has lost the pet to incur expenses over and above the other expenses related to the search and recovery.

In any case, you should never go alone to meet someone who claims to have your pet. It is best not to meet in an out-of-the way place and do not hand over money unless the pet is in hand. Do not send money to someone who says they need it to ship your pet back to you because they are far away. That is a common scam.

Finally, if you feel the situation warrants offering a reward, it is best not to state the amount. That should be negotiable depending on the circumstances.