According to the U.S. Census the average American will move 12 times in their life. This means that many people do not know where their local shelter is when their pet goes missing. Factor in that dogs and cats (unlike car keys) do not remain where they are lost. They have four legs and walk so may easily end up in a neighboring county or jurisdiction.
Helping Lost Pets has added an incredibly useful feature to their already long line-up of tools to help an owner find their missing pet. Now when an owner fills out a lost dog report, along with their free flyers and shareable social media links, they will also receive a list of all animal shelters and animal control facilities in a 25 mile radius who have signed up with the Helping Lost Pets system. It gives owners an easy way to make sure that they notify the shelters that their pet is missing. In addition, Shelters and Vet Clinics have access to additional information about pets not available to the general public such as private phone numbers and microchip numbers.
Unfortunately, there are still many shelters who are not participating in this free service. Since an estimated 40 to 60% of animals in shelters are lost pets, it only makes sense that a shelter would want to quickly get as many pets as possible back to their original homes. When lost pets go home, space and resources are freed up for the animals that truly do need a new home.
Shelters can sign up for free at this link: www.HelpingLostPets.com/ORG
Are smaller microchips better? Not necessarily. There has been a trend towards very small microchips in the animal sheltering and veterinary world. Smaller microchips can be easier to insert for very small dogs, puppies and kittens. The drawback? “Mini” microchips have a shorter copper antenna. The size of the microchip antenna impacts the read distance for the chip. A smaller antenna means a shorter read distance so the chip is harder to find.
In the picture above you can see the amount of copper in a standard microchip (the middle microchip) and a mini-chip (the top microchip). The copper acts as the antenna. More antenna means a better liklihood that the microchip will be easily detected. The bottom microchip in the photo is a thinner slightly smaller chip that inserts easily but has a similar amount of copper as the regular microchip. The slimmer profile and polymer make it easier to insert and is a fraction of the weight of glass chips yet does not compromise read distance.
An educated consumer is a wise consumer. Make sure that you understand that a mini-chip may be more easily missed when being scanned. It is not a wise choice for larger pets, thick furred cats, or for young pets who may grow and develop into a heavily-muscled or long-haired breed.
The Slim Chip is a good alternative for those people who feel that insertion of the regular sized microchip may be painful for their pet or simply prefer a smaller gauge needle.
Regardless of microchip type, every vet clinic and shelter employee should be using Best Microchip Scanning Practices when they scan an animal for a microchip. We also ask that vet clinics make it a regular part of a pet’s annual exam to do a microchip scan. All new patients should also be scanned, in case they are actually someone else’s lost pet.
Likewise, we ask that animal shelters scan every incoming animal (including owner surrenders) at least twice (even consider multiple scanners as NO scanner is 100% reliable) The last known owner of the animal be contacted to make sure he is aware that the pet is there. Animals should be scanned again before adoption, transfer or euthanasia. These simple procedures could result in the reunions of hundreds of missing microchipped dogs and cats.
Stop in at a pet supply store and have a look at the magazines on the rack. I did. I took some pictures of what I saw (see below).
Magazine after magazine, both on the cover and on the interior pages show pictures of dogs without collars. This also holds true when you browse the web for animal welfare organizations, large and small; and websites for pet businesses like vet clinics. The picture on the lower right hand corner is a website ad for a vet clinic.
Visible identification is one of the easiest ways to make sure more lost dogs get home safely. An estimated 40 to 60 percent of animals in shelters are lost pets. Getting more lost pets home frees up space for needier animals.
Microchips are great, but a microchipped animal may be found and perceived to be “stray” and unowned by the finder. The dog may be kept or rehomed by the finder and may live his/her entire life without being scanned for a microchip. Veterinarians and shelters in most states are not legally obligated to scan an animal for a microchip (although most shelters do).
People emulate what they see. If they are continually bombarded by images of dogs without collars, that becomes the norm and is perceived to be acceptable.
How can we (the animal welfare organizations, pet businesses, veterinarians and media outlets) help change that perception? By making sure that every picture we use in our advertising, Facebook posts and on our websites depicts a dog wearing a collar with visible identification. (like the one below). Thank you! Together we can make a difference.
We have seen some internet advice that suggests owners should create a sense of urgency about their missing dog by including a statement on the flyer that says the dog needs medicine for a serious medical condition (whether it is true or not). In our experience, this is very bad advice because:
1. If your search extends for weeks or months, people will dismiss your flyers and ads, and take down your posters, because they will assume that your dog has died without his medicine. They may not call you with possible sightings because they will think that it can’t possibly be your dog.
2. Anything that creates a sense of urgency and encourages people to chase your dog will prolong your search by causing your dog to leave the flyered area. Chased dogs will become nocturnal, thereby reducing sightings. Also, pressuring your dog can cause him to stay in a heightened sense of anxiety and he may bolt into the path of a car or a train.
We have had MANY successful reunions of dogs who the owner felt would perish without their medicine. Dogs are incredibly resilient and resourceful. Please don’t cry wolf. Your dog is depending on you to bring him safely home.
Lost Dogs of Wisconsin partners with HelpingLostPets.com to get more pets home. If you would like to receive alerts for missing/found pets listed in your neighborhood, you can join for FREE:
Most of our volunteer work is done via email, telephone and text. We seldom get to meet the owners and dogs that we help. So we were thrilled yesterday when Stephanie and her dog, Mimi, stopped by our booth at Fromm Petfest to introduce themselves. Mimi was missing for five months! Pictured above is Stephanie, Mimi, and our LDOW caseworker in Milwaukee County, Linda M.