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The importance of identification on your pet

By Bob Pendergrass

Rowan County director of animal services

The recent events surrounding Hurricane Florence, both along the coast and here in Rowan County, brought an important message for pet owners to the forefront.

Please have some form of identification on your pet.

With a large storm like Florence, it is so easy for pets to wind up separated from their owners. Under those kinds of extreme circumstances, pets could wind up far removed as local shelters fill up and distant housing becomes a necessity.

Even in the normal day-to-day, many pets in Rowan County wander off or are separated from their owners. Sometimes another person finds the animal or Animal Enforcement is called out to catch a “dog running loose.” Either way, if there is some form of contact information attached to the pet, it can quickly be reunited with its owner. If not, a variety of things could happen.

Some people assume that if they find a lost pet, they should and can just take it in and keep it, and that may become the final place the animal lives.

If it winds up at the Rowan County Animal Shelter, it has a limited stay because the numbers of animals we deal with creates a constant need for space. By state law, we are required to keep any animal of unknown ownership for three full business days.

We have an intense need to move things along and after that initial waiting period, the animal becomes available for adoption. In some cases, depending on the desirability of the breed and the animal’s individual behavior, it is adopted the day it becomes available. Other animals wind up there for a while.

Once an animal is adopted from the shelter, the new owner is the legal owner.

The point is this: Fhe faster we or anyone can find a displaced pet’s owner, the better.

The best way to identify your pet is with a tag attached to its collar. The pet’s name and a reliable phone number, backed up with a voicemail that works, is simple and most effective.

Of course, some animals will slip their collar or refuse to wear one, and most people will never put a collar on a cat. The answer to this dilemma is a microchip because it cannot be removed. However, the best solution is to both microchip and put a tag on your animal.

Every cat or dog adopted from the Rowan County Animal Shelter goes to its new family home with a microchip implanted under its skin. The microchip is part of the standard best practices for animal shelters.

Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and contain simple electronic components sealed in a glass or polymer coating. They have no internal battery. Microchips are activated by a low-power radio frequency signal emitted by scanners. The microchip antenna transmits the information stored in the microchip back to the scanner.

The information is a number that identifies a specific record on file for an individual animal. This record is maintained on the database of the manufacturer. With a short online search, the record allows the animal to be traced back to the owner’s stored contact information.

The insertion of the microchip is done with a hypodermic needle, and the injection is about the same to the animal as the rabies shot. And the good news is that it only has to be done once. Just make sure to update the registry information if you move.

The reason a microchip is important for your pet is that it goes with your pet everywhere and it can’t be slipped off or easily removed. All that has to happen is your lost pet be brought to a shelter or veterinarian where found animals can be scanned as a matter of practice and, voila, they know who the owner is.

Let me put this in perspective in statistical terms relative to Rowan. In 2017, Rowan County Animal Shelter recorded the intake of 1,996 stray cats/kittens and 1,258  stray dogs/puppies. Now, to be fair, some of these animals were feral animals without an owner, but a majority of them were not. Of these, we were able to return 40 cats and 473 dogs to their owners. That’s less than 16 percent of the total animals.

Every cat we had come in with a microchip was returned to its owner, but very few cats had them.

If we get your pet and it has a microchip that can be traced to you, you can get your animal back home quickly and safely. The same thing happens if someone finds a pet and takes it to a veterinarian.

Microchipping does work. An article by the American Veterinary Medical Association noted that in 2005, a dog was reunited with its owner in Toronto after its microchip number was traced to its original registration in Portugal.

It is important to also make sure that your information linked to the microchip is updated if you move. In a study published in the AVMA journal in 2009, it was noted that the owners of almost three-fourths of lost, microchipped cats and dogs were located using a microchip. It is likely the ones that fell through the cracks were because of bad information on the registry.

It is also always a good idea, even with a microchip, to have your pet wear a tag with your phone number on it. No scanner is needed. But if they slip their collar, which may be the very reason they are running loose, the microchip that will get them home is still there, so someone can give you a call and reunite you with your pet.

Whatever you do, please put some serious thought into putting identification on your pet today.

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