The community where I live has its own micro-blog, a 21st century version of town crier, I suppose, in which up-to-the-minute reports of traffic, crime, community events, new business openings, sales, and general chitter-chatter among the residents hold court. One of the largest (and frequented) sections on this blog is the Pets section, a place where people can post pictures and announcements about lost and found pets. Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the “Lost” pets greatly outweigh the “Found” pets in number. The good news for my community, however, is through this forum, a greater proportion of lost pets and and their anxiety-ridden owners are reunited than if there was no public forum like this for people to communicate immediately and quickly.
I am surprised at how many of the “Found” pets are noted as having no collar or microchip. Obviously, zero identifying markers makes their reunion with their owners much more difficult. If not for this (or a similar) community forum, the owners would have no other option but to go the old fashioned route: putting up “Lost Dog” flyers, and frequenting local animal shelters, armed only with hope that their lost animal family member will turn up, and that they get to the shelter first before their furbaby is adopted out to another family, or worse, euthanized!
The loss of a pet is one of the biggest fears of any pet owner, and yet is one of the most preventable calamities. Simply putting a simple, inexpensive name tag on your pet’s collar allows anyone that finds your pet to 1) recognize that it’s not a stray and is in fact a loved family member, and 2) get him back to you immediately. Most people are more likely to approach and take in an animal with a collar than one without (particularly if it’s a medium or large-breed dog).
Even though microchipping has become a very popular option for safeguarding your pet due to its permanence, microchips are invisible, and without a collar, the person finding your pet may not know it’s a family pet, and are more likely to simply alert animal control that there is a loose dog in the area. A microchip is a tiny device that your veterinarian quickly and safely injects just under your pet’s skin, that remains there for life, unnoticed by your pet. The microchips contain a unique ID number that is linked either to the veterinary office that inserted the chip, or directly to you, depending on what service you pay for. It costs more to have the microchip linked directly to your phone number. Even with a microchip, you’re not completely safeguarded from losing your pet. Though these microchips are read by many veterinary clinics and animal shelters using electronic hand-held scanners, not all animal facilities have scanners, and the individual who is most likely to find your pet probably won’t have a scanner either. In addition, this service can also become essentially useless if you don’t update the microchip service and veterinary office it’s associated with, anytime you: 1) change addresses 2) move 3) switch vets and/or 4) change phone numbers.
All animal control centers and veterinary services should check for microchips, so paying for microchipping is still a great safeguard for your pet in case your pet gets out without his collar and subsequently turns up at one of these places, but if your pet is wearing a collar with name tag, you will probably be reunited with your lost pet much quicker. If a microchip is the only identifier for your pet, the time that can elapse between when your pet is found, taken into a shelter or veterinary office, scanned, located, and then reunited with you, often through the roundabout method of the microchip service contacting the linked veterinary office, who then has to locate the appropriate medical records and call the phone number associated with that record, can be nail-bitingly lengthy. With a nametag, the reunion can be more immediate since the person finding your pet can simply call you directly.
The best plan to safeguard your pet is to ensure that he wears his collar anytime he is outdoors or on a walk, and that his collar contains two tags: 1) his updated rabies vaccination license number and 2) his ID tag with his name, one or more updated contact phone numbers, and any other relevant information (e.g., “Reward!” / your address / “I take daily meds!” / “I love earthbath!” 🙂 etc.). Ensure that the nametag is legible and contains current information, and replace it over time as needed.