Finding Fido takes forethought

Tags, identification microchips can help make lost pets found

Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2005

Escape, theft, loss in an emergency — any number of unexpected situations can result in separation from a cherished pet.

Despite how important pet identification is, it's a frequently overlooked aspect of pet care. Too often pet owners believe their pet doesn't need tags because it doesn't roam free, walk off the leash or go outside unattended.

Some owners think it couldn't happen to them, but shelters are full with dogs and cats that are proof loss does occur to even the most prepared of pet owners.

A tree could fall on the fence, a delivery person could accidentally leave a gate open or a loud noise could cause the family pet to bolt in a moment of panic.

These accidents can't always be prevented, but they can be prepared for.

Tags are a pet's most reliable ticket home so it is important to make sure the information on the tags is accurate and relevant.

It may seem cute to have a tag that states "My name is Nippy and I love cookies," but in an emergency this information won't help reunite a pet and its owner.

Information on tags should include the pet owner's home address, phone number and last name at the very least so anyone who finds the wandering animal knows it has a home and how to find that home.

This information should stay current, so when moving, make certain the pet has present and future residence information on its tags. If on vacation, make certain tags have a local, as well as a permanent address.

Don't get complacent with a pet's tags. Check them from time to time to make certain the pertinent information is legible and hasn't be worn down or worn off.

Identification tags can be purchased at a number of locations. Department and pet stores often have tag engraving machines where tags can be made instantly by just typing information into a touch screen and paying a small fee. Tags also can be ordered from veterinary clinics, pet stores and on the Internet.

In addition to tags specifically worn for identification, rabies tags and other veterinary clinic tags can be helpful in reuniting a lost pet to its owner since they can be traced, as well.

Tags should always be on a buckle-type or other reliable collar, as opposed to Velcro or other collars that are easy for a pet to slip off or wiggle out of.

It also never hurts to use a permanent marker to write contact information on the pet's collar, just in case the tags are damaged or lost.

In addition to their identification purposes, tags can aid lost pets if they end up at animal control facilities where every minute may count when all enclosures are filled with animals and room must be made for new arrivals.

Animal control facilities are only obligated to hold pets for 72 hours but both the Kenai Animal Control Shelter and the Soldotna Animal Control Center will hold pets with any form of identification for up to 120 hours.

In addition to tags, pet identification microchips, sometimes called personal identification transponders, also make it possible to reunite lost pets with their owners.

This piece of technology, no bigger than a grain of rice, is implanted beneath the surface of the skin between the pet's shoulder blades.

The implant procedure requires no special treatment or anesthetic and can be performed in seconds by most veterinarians.

The microchip is a passive electronic device that has no batteries or internal energy source. The microchip remains inactive until it is read with a scanner. The low radio frequency emitted by the scanner provides the microchip with the power necessary to transmit its unique alphanumeric code and identify the animal.

However, the pet also must be registered by calling in its unique identification number to the national database maintained by the microchip manufacturer. Without this information, the implanted chip is of little use.

Like tags, it's imperative that owners keep their contact information up to date. Every time they move they should call the database to inform them of their address and contact information changes.

Since not all facilities have access to a scanner, microchips should not replace tags, but rather be used as a supplement to them.

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