In the last month I have had four different people tell me that they have found lost dogs roaming the streets and were looking to find them homes. I know there are lost dogs and cats out there everyday, but to personally have so many accounts in such a short amount of time just seemed crazy to me. So, I figured I would write about some simple things you can do to make sure your pet gets home — if the unthinkable should happen.
The ASPCA reports that roughly 5 to 7 million companion animals enter the shelter system annually. Of these, shelters report about one-half are stray animals versus owner surrenders. And, according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), less than 2 percent of cats and only 15 to 20 percent of dogs are returned to their owners. Most of these were identified with tags, tattoos or microchips.
With those staggering figures in your head, here are five things every pet owner should do to ensure that their pets don’t become part of the statistics:
- Neuter your pet. Animals that have been fixed are less likely to feel the need to “roam.”
- Don’t leave your dog unattended. A hard truth to learn is that dogs get stolen. All the time. Even if you are running in the store for just 2 minutes, it’s enough time for that dog to be gone when you return.
- Buy a Martingale collar. The number of times I have seen dogs back out of a typical belt collar is astounding. Nervous dogs are especially prone to backing out of a collar that’s too loose and running away. A martingale tightens as a dog backs up and prevents this from happening.
- ID Tags. This is the easiest way for your pet to communicate where home is to someone who finds him on the street.
- Microchip. If the tags fall off, this little transponder is embedded in the skin and can be scanned at a vet’s office or animal shelter with all of your information to bring the pet back to you.
In case you don’t know, a microchip is about the size of a grain of rice, and uses radio waves to transmit information about your pet. Each microchip contains a registration number and the phone number of the registry for the particular brand of chip. A handheld scanner reads the radio frequency of the chip and displays this information. The animal shelter or vet clinic that finds your pet can contact the registry to get your name and phone number.
Register Your Pet’s Microchip
One thing that is really important to do is REGISTER YOUR MICROCHIP.
A friend told me he took the stray dog to the vet to get scanned for a microchip. He was really excited to see the dog did in fact have one, only to learn that the owner never registered his information with the company so there was no way to find the dog’s home.
I told a few other people this story and they said they weren’t sure if they registered their information; they just assumed the vet took care of it when they implanted the chip! Please remember to complete the paperwork that comes with the chip and send it to the registry, or do it online if that option is available. Some companies charge a one-time registration fee while others charge an annual fee. You’ll also receive a tag for your pet’s collar with the chip number and registry phone number.
I spoke with Friendship Animal Hospital and they said they use a company called Res-Q. City Paws uses Home Again. The Washington Humane Society microchips through 24 Pet Watch. Do yourself a favor and check to see if your information is updated now.
In the event that you have found a pet, or have lost a pet, there are several resources available to help with a reunion. The first thing you should do is contact all the local shelters to see if your animal was picked up, or has already been reported as found. Dogs and cats can travel far in a short amount of time, so check all the shelters in the metro area. To file a report with the Washington Humane Society you can fax a photo of the animal to 202-529-6309. If you’ve lost your animal, visit the shelter and look for yourself.
Use Social Media, Lists
Check Craigslist and join Facebook — both are great resources for tracking lost and found pets. “Lost & Found Dogs-DC Metro Area” has a constant feed of animals. I’ve seen a lot of success stories from this page, which is always encouraging. So is Twitter!
Findtoto.com is another resource that has a database of lost and found profiles, and they even have a service that calls your neighbors within minutes so they can be on the lookout for your animal as well.
Losing an animal is an awful experience. Sometimes, animals just get away, or are let out accidentally. It happens. I always make sure to tell people who find animals to do absolutely everything they can to find the owner first before trying to find it a new home. It’s our job as the animal caretakers to prepare for the unexpected, and make it easy for our pets to get back home.