A family pet is lost every two seconds. More than 10 million pets become lost each year. One out of every three pets is lost during its lifetime, and only one in 10 lost pets is found. These statistics are from the National Humane Society and the National Council of Pet Population Study and Policy.
The lack of identification is the number one killer of animals in animal shelters. More pets die each year due to lack of identification than from all infectious diseases combined. Imagine it. This column will address the issues of proper pet identification and the available options. Next week, the column will cover what to do if you lose or find a pet.
Pet identification tags are great. They provide contact information to get pets and owners reunited. Pet tags can be ordered from pet stores or over the Internet. Be sure to get a new tag when you change your address or phone number. If you travel, secure the phone number of a contact person to this tag. A pet getting lost during a vacation is particularly distressing for both the owner and the pet.All dogs should have an identification tag attached to their collar with at least your phone number on it. How much information you put on the tag is your own preference. Sometimes just a phone number is enough.
Licenses and rabies tags also are a way of identifying your pet. These two methods, however, must go through the county or veterinarian to find your information.
The major problem with tags is that they get lost. Many dogs that are found do not even have a collar. Certainly most cats do not wear collars and therefore have no obvious forms of identification.
Another form of identification is a tattoo. Many breeders tattoo puppies at birth and there are companies that tattoo pets for purposes of identification. However, tattoos can be altered. Changing a c to an o or a 0 to an 8 can totally invalidate a tattoo as a form of identification.
The microchip is a form of identification that is permanent, the pet always has it with him, and it can be used on all animals, including horses, reptiles and even fish.
A microchip is a sterile transponder that contains a unique ID code capable of being read by a scanner. The size of a grain of rice, the microchip is injected under the skin using a hypodermic needle. The process is relatively painless and no anesthesia is needed. Once implanted, the microchip is a form of identification that goes where your pet goes. A microchip that is properly inserted will remain in place for the life of the pet. For dogs and cats, the chip is inserted between the shoulder blades. Once inserted, it cannot be seen or felt.
There are two main microchip companies in the United States: The AVID FriendChip and the HomeAgain Microchip Identification System. These two companies have come up with a universal scanner which will recognize both chips. All animal shelters should have these scanners as they are provided free to shelters requesting them. Each veterinary clinic should have a scanner.
A microchip has no value without a tracking system to back it up. Both of these companies have a toll free hotline manned by recovery specialists who work 24/7 answering calls and updating the database. The microchip is the link between your pet and the computerized database. If your pet is scanned, the 800 number is called, your information is found and you are contacted. You can reclaim your pet. Eight hundred to 1,000 calls a day are received through the database centers of both Avid and HomeAgain. Imagine the fate of your pet without a chip.
Humane societies, animal shelters and veterinarians are supposed to scan each pet that is turned in to check for the microchip. Ideally, all shelters will scan a pet when it is brought into the shelter and again before it is adopted or euthanized.
There are five veterinary clinics in Payson. Each of them participate in either the AVID or HomeAgain microchip programs. The Payson Humane Society will soon be microchipping each pet that is adopted.
In this area where forest fires or other disasters are a worry, a microchip is vitally important. Any rescue organization would hopefully scan for a microchip, and since these dogs have a known owner, they often are given preferential treatment. The company database allows for an alternate contact, very important if you are away from home for any reason, including an evacuation.
Besides dogs and cats, it is important to microchip horses. Horses are stolen or can escape from their pens. The chip is inserted into the left side of the neck on horses.
A microchip can save the life of your pet and you will certainly have peace of mind knowing that you have done everything you can to properly and permanently identify your pet. Contact your veterinarian for more information or check the websites of these companies: www.Avidmicrochip.com, (800) 336-2843 or www.HomeAgainID.com.
In last week's column, when talking about the need to spay and neuter rabbits, it was stated that "Cancer, which is prevalent in does, can be eliminated with spaying." The word doe was mistakenly printed as dog. We apologize for any confusion.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.