When trying to match lost and found pets, be aware of potential problems when comparing photos. Lighting conditions, exposure, subject position, camera angles, the age of photos (of lost pets), the pet’s condition, the position of eyes or ears, etc. All can affect our perception and cause us to miss a match. An obvious difference in these two photos is the location of the eye patch. Why the difference? When you snap a photo with the front-facing (selfie) camera on a cell phone and send it with Facebook Messenger using the camera icon on the command menu, Messenger sends the image as it appears in the preview on your phone – as a mirror image. Photos taken with the selfie camera are flipped when they are stored as files (on both Android phones and iPhones), so there is no problem with sharing images previously saved as files (left is left in the photo image).
When viewing photos, look for clues that suggest the photo was taken with a selfie camera and sent with Messenger (or perhaps some other app) as a mirror image – text that is reversed, objects that are reversed (e.g. a steering wheel on the right side of a car), or a rearview mirror angled toward the passenger side of a car. Also look for other telling features (though this can be tricky). In these two photos, notice the tiny dark spot beneath the eye surrounded by white. It appears in both photos – an indication that this is the same dog. But notice the splotch of brown at the base of the eye patch in the photo on the left. It is barely visible in the photo on the right, obscured by the upward tilt of the dog’s head.
Of course it always helps to have more photos that can reveal additional markings and features of the pet. Note that when filing a lost or found report with www.HelpingLostPets.com (HeLP) you can upload as many as five photos. And if you are a pet owner, keep plenty of photos of your pets – easy to do in this age of digital photography and cell phone cameras. If your pet ever goes missing, those photos may help to get him or her back home!
(Thanks Richard Gilreath of Texas for this tip!)
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, following the procedure at Pharr Road Animal Hospital. 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.