A couple of months ago, I received a panicked phone call from my husband. Ricky (Yes –THE Ricky) was missing. The only one who was happy about that was Howie the Maltese, who just got a reprieve from grooming as I was now heading home to help look for Ricky.
Could you imagine Ricky in a cold, impersonal kennel with no way of coming home? It is a sad fact that only 15% of dogs and 2% of cats will go back home once they reach a shelter. With over one million lost or stolen pets every year, what can you do to assure their safe return? A well-identified pet has a better chance of returning home.
Pets can become lost or stolen when their surroundings remain unsecured; an unlatched gate, an open window or a door left ajar. They can disappear when left unattended; in a car while you shop or left in a yard by themselves. We think Ricky took off after a deer while left unsupervised in the yard. The electronic fence or collars are not operating properly, allowing your pet to leave your property. Thunderstorms or fireworks can cause your pet to panic and run away. Winter snowstorms can challenge your pets’ sense of direction causing him to lose his way. In an emergency or natural disaster, your pets can get lost in the confusion.
There are 3 ways to identify your pets: tags, tattoos and microchips.
Tags have the advantage of an instantaneous return if the tag information is current. I recommend using 2 phone numbers on the tag. A landline and a cell number greatly improve the chances of immediate contact. Especially if you are out and about looking for your pet as opposed to being at home. Tags can become worn and the information illegible. A good quality tag is worth the investment.
Tags can fall off a collar. Collar tags are an alternative to hanging tags. They cannot fall off or become caught on something. Another option is collars with phone numbers embroidered on them. Though, in the event of theft, tags and collars can be removed. Also, they are only effective if they are wearing it. Ricky was NOT wearing his collar.
A tattoo is a series of numbers and/or letters in ink. It is a permanent identification. Common areas tattooed include the ears, groin and belly. A tattoo is useless unless the number is registered with a national database. Once registered, you need to keep the information current. There are 2 registries. The first is the American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery. Their website is www.akccar.org. The second is the National Dog Registry. Their website is www.nationaldogregistry.com. What I like about the NDR is that you can empower them to authorize emergency medical care in case contact with you is not immediate. Bernie Rogers of “S-Keemos Kennels” has this to say about NDR, “NDR was the crucial link to the safe return of my Staffie, Ruck. She was tattooed and registered with them, as were all my dogs. There was an occasion when I left the dogs in the care of a pet sitter and Ruck “managed” her way out of my yard. The sitter was afraid to call me, and still searching for her, when Ruck was hit by a city bus. A Good Samaritan transported her to an Animal Emergency Hospital. The hospital proceeded to contact NDR, and received permission to initiate treatment. NDR, not only contacted me immediately, but both of my back-up contacts as well. Ruck and I were reunited with-in hours, before I had even grasped the full situation. She recuperated 100%. ”
The problem with tattoos can be visibility. If the groin or belly is furry, then the tattoo may go unnoticed. The area needs to be shaved. Laboratories cannot accept branded animals. Tattoos are a brand. Unscrupulous people interested in selling your pet to an animal testing laboratory will remove the tattoo, along with the ear.
Micro Chipping is the implantation of a biocompatible glass encased RFID microchip. The RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification Device. The chip is embedded in the upper neck region. A microchip scanner reads and decodes the radio transmission. The code is specific to the pet and to the microchip company. The microchip cannot be removed without surgery.
The problem with micro chipping is no standard exists in the United States. There are 3 frequencies: 125 kHz, 128 kHz and 134.2 kHz. A universal micro scanner is needed to identify all microchip frequencies. Recently, the micro chipping companies have been getting on board with a universal standard. Too many animal shelters and Animal Control Officers do NOT have one. The Coalition of Reuniting Pets and Families reports less than 25% of micro chipped pets are reunited with their families in the United States. In Europe, where they have adopted 134.2 kHz as a standard: the rate of reunited pets is at 47%. The cost of a new universal micro scanner is around $400 and would make a useful Christmas present for your local shelter. The other problem is people who do not register the microchip or keep up the yearly renewal with the company. Craig Simone of the Danbury Animal Control Office says, “I hate to tell you how many times we find a micro chipped dog and could not return it to its owner because they did not register the chip.” Ricky is micro chipped. His information is current with the company and they have a current photo of him in case flyers need to go out.
There is no one foolproof method for identifying your pet. A well-identified pet has a better chance of returning home.
Ricky was found shortly afterwards by a kindly neighbor who recognized him and brought him home.