It is estimated that 6-8 million animals enter shelters each year, and sadly about half of those animals will be euthanized; some within just hours of entering a shelter, simply because they have no identifying information and are considered stray. Many are beloved lost pets, whose owners could not be located. Providing your pet with a few simple and inexpensive items can maximize the chances that it will be recovered safely, should it wander away from home.
All pets, whether they live primarily indoors or outdoors, should wear a collar and tag. Tags provide the necessary information needed for someone to contact you, should they find your pet. A pet with a tag has the best chance of being recovered quickly. All pertinent information should be included on a tag; the pet’s name along with the owner’s name, address, and/or phone number. If your pet has any medical issues, you may want to include an additional tag with that information as well. If you are annoyed by the noisy jingle of tags on your pet, there are flat-collar tags, and tag silencers available at most pet supply stores that should keep the tags quiet. Animals normally adapt to wearing a collar and tag very quickly, especially if they are placed on your pet at a young age.
More lost dogs are typically recovered because more dogs wear a collar and tag. However, cat owners, especially those who own house-cats, don’t find it necessary to place a tag on their cat. Unfortunately, lost cats are less likely to be recovered for this reason. It is just as important to have identifying information on your house-cat, as it is on a dog that is outside daily. It is much easier for a cat to slip through the cracks. They can easily dart out a door left ajar, or squeeze through an open window, etc… sometimes unnoticed until hours later. While you may be able to coax your dog back home, cats are curious and are less likely to run home when you call.
Microchipping has been around for almost a decade; however, in the wake of hurricane Katrina, it has become a growing trend. Should a collar or tag fall off, or be removed, the microchip will provide owner and/or vet information. Microchipping is relatively inexpensive, and causes no more pain to your pet than a vaccine. The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice, and it is inserted between the shoulder blades using a syringe. The chip emits a code that can be detected through the use of a scanner. Most shelters and vet offices across the country now scan stray animals in an effort to reunite them with their owners. The drawback right now is that some scanners are not compatible with certain chips. Work is currently being done to provide a universal scanner that will recognize all microchips. However, until then, contact your local shelter, as well as your veterinarian office before having your pet microchipped to make sure that the microchip is compatible with the scanners used in your area.
Don’t assume that your vigilance will prevent your pet from becoming lost. Even the most watchful and careful pet owners have found themselves searching for their beloved family member. While microchipping is valuable insurance, should a tag come off, your pet would have to find its way to a shelter or veterinarian office before a microchip would be detected. This could take time, months or even years in some cases, leaving your pet more vulnerable the longer its away from home. However, a visible form of identification could bring your pet home the same day. Providing your pet with a collar and tag, in addition to a microchip is the best combination for increasing the chances that your pet makes it safely home.