Friday, March 3, 2017

Increase your lost pet's chances of getting home safely with up-to-date microchip information and other easy tips

A few weeks ago, I had commented in a post that there was something that I'll do differently with the next animal members of my tribe— I'll invest in pet health insurance—but that's not the only thing. 

I'd have any pets in my future microchipped from the start.

Having had hospiced both members of my companion animal tribe within the last year and half, I'm mindfully taking my time before welcoming another. I have to say that when my pets joined the family, the first of which was nearly 20 years ago, things were different. These days, we have more tools and knowledge to advocate for pets, and to keep them happy and safe. And an easy part of that is microchipping

The fact is, pets can't speak for themselves if they're separated from their guardian, but a microchip can—and volumes so. The chip, as they are referred to, contains the registered owner's contact information. Though not tracking devices (like global positioning devices, or GPS), microchips do use radio-frequency identification (RFID) and once implanted, they last the pet's lifetime. The microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, is easy to implant (click here to see a demonstration) and for the pet, feels much like getting a vaccination. It's also affordable, less than $50. 

It seems important to note that: 

  • roughly 22 percent of dogs who enter animal shelters and are not microchipped end up back home with their families. That, compared to 52 percent who are microchipped.

  • just under 40 percent of microchipped cats that enter an animal shelter are reunited with their owners, while a staggering less-than-2 percent of cats that are without a chip make it home.

As someone who is out and about quite a bit with my work, I encounter a lot of dogs who are lost. I'm always pretty thrilled when I see that the pet is wearing a collar with an identification tag bearing the guardian's name, address and phone number, because it's easy to facilitate a reunion. But if they aren't wearing one, I hope that they're microchipped. When they're not—or if the contact information isn't valid, something I'll talk more about in a minute—that complicates things, as you can imagine. 

One of the things I always remind pet owners when I meet them for the first time and especially if they are new to the area, is to ensure that their contact info is up-to-date now that they've settled into their new digs. I'll get in touch with existing clients through the year—usually a couple of weeks before their booked service begins—and ask them to check that the information on the pet's chip is current. Doing so is easy and only takes a couple of minutes. By logging on to the registry of the company that a pet's chip is enrolled with and entering in the individual microchip number, one can verify that everything is up to date. If it isn't, that can be fixed that on the site, or by calling the company directly. Alternately, the chip number can be entered on the American Animal Hospital Association's Universal Microchip Lookup site (click here).

Having current contact info is also important for a pet's identification tags. If the ID tags need updating or are worn, it's time to create some new ones. One might even consider a snazzy new collar that has a telephone number directly on it. Don't forget the power of images: with smartphone cameras, it's easy to capture photos of pets and because they are digital, they can be updated often. I take a lot of photos of my charges from different angles, and in varying situations, paying close attention to any unique markings.

For dogs under my care (especially if their humans are traveling abroad or are on a cruise), I attach a tag embossed with my name and contact information to their collar. If a dog gets separated from me outdoors, it will be easy for a human to contact me immediately once they are found, and I can verify that they belong with me. 

If you live in Michigan and have lost a pet, use the power of the internet and social media. Create a post on For the Love of Louie--Michigan Lost Pet Lookers' Facebook page and contact your local shelter or humane society (Humane Society of Huron Valley has a lost/found page) to submit a report.

There are plenty of easy measures to ensure that pets makes it home safe and sound if they are lost, but as always, it starts with their guardians.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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