Animal lovers often ask, “How can I help lost pets in my area?” One of the simplest ways to help is by empowering your local animal experts to get lost pets home quickly. If you find a stray or lost pet, take it to your veterinarian or local rescue and ask them to scan the pet for a microchip. This could be the fastest way to get lost pets reunited with their families. If the pet is never scanned then the microchip goes undetected and the pet remains a “stray”.
Microchips only work when shelters, humane organizations and vets actually scan for them. Most vets scan every pet that comes through the doors, but those that do not may be missing opportunities to get lost pets home. Good Samaritans who find pets sometimes do not realize they are lost; as such, they may not think to have the pet scanned for a chip. However, if they try to help by “adopting” the stray that shows up on their doorstep, the next step will often be to have the pet vaccinated and spayed or neutered. That vet visit could lead to the pet getting scanned and result in a happy reunion. (If the pet doesn’t have a microchip, it’s also a chance for the vet to start a conversation about why microchipping is important – a great way add value to clients!).
Ham’s Story - In June, Tri-County Animal Rescue adopted a beagle named Ham to a family in Gastonia. Ham was skittish on the trip to his new home. Within hours of his adoption, Ham slipped backwards out of his harness and ran away. We were all hopeful that Ham would be returned quickly since he was micro-chipped. Pictures were posted all around the neighborhood. Volunteers and the new owners responded to sightings of Ham… we looked everywhere but still could not find him.
Two months after escaping, Ham’s picture was posted on Gaston County Animal Control’s website. Finally Ham would be reunited with his family. I notified Ham’s owners to let them know he was at Gaston County Animal Control. Excitedly, they headed to the Gaston shelter. Excitement soon turned to dismay. Animal Control had scanned Ham, found his chip but recorded the wrong chip number. The wrong chip had never been registered. When Ham’s owner presented the adoption paperwork, pictures and chip information at Animal Control, she was told Ham had been “released to a rescue just thirty minutes ago and was being placed on a transport to Illinois”. Microchip numbers were compared and it was discovered that the numbers matched except for the last digit.
Ham’s owner demanded the return of her dog. Animal Control resisted for a while but finally called the “rescue” and asked them to return Ham to the shelter. Several hours later, the rescue pulled into the shelter. The owner asked that Ham be re-scanned and there was the chip number that matched her paperwork. Did the owner get an apology. No! Animal Control started adding up her fines…late county tag fee, leash law violation fee, reclaim fee, etc. After much discussion about the circumstances of Ham’s adoption and escape, the Supervisor waived the fees. Finally Ham was on his way home!
This is an example of how things can get messed up really quickly.
Things you can do to help your lost dog or cat get back home:
- Have your pet micro-chipped.
- Make sure the chip is registered and your information is always current: name, address and phone numbers.
- Always check local animal control shelter websites and listings…mistakes happen.
- Post pictures and information on Lost/Found sites.