About one in three dogs or cats will get lost in its life. Animals can escape from enclosures or the house, be distracted when off-leash, or an outdoor animal may lose its way or be picked up by a new owner thinking the animal is a stray. These are just a few of the possibilities but whenever a companion animal becomes lost it is a traumatic situation for an owner and the lost animal. Animals cannot communicate their address and telephone number so by placing identification on the animal, caretakers provide the greatest opportunity for their animals to be returned safely.
When found, the animal may be picked up by a private citizen or animal
shelter, or brought to a veterinary hospital. If an animal does not have
traceable identification, it may remain impounded at a local shelter for
days or weeks. Cities and counties have holding periods for impounded animals
hoping the owner will come in and locate the animal. Due to the large numbers
of animals that come through shelters daily, each state has established a
minimum holding period, such as three days. After this time period has expired,
the shelter will place the animal up for adoption, known as the available
date. If the public doesn't show interest in adopting the animal, rescue groups
and foster homes are contacted in hopes of placing the animal. If all avenues
have been exhausted, the animal may be humanely euthanized. Don't risk this
happening to your dog or cat!!!
Table of Contents:
IDENTIFICATION AND WHERE TO GET THEM
Tags attached to a pet's collar
This is the most commonly used method of identification that contains information such as the caretaker's name, address, and telephone number. An advantage of the tag and collar is that the identification is clearly visible and additional information and equipment (registries and scanners, see below) are not needed to identify the animal's caretaker. A disadvantage is that it is not permanent. It becomes the caretaker's responsibility to check the collar periodically for fit (young animals can grow and the collar can become too tight) and safety (the pet cannot get itself tangled in the loop of the collar or tags), and to make sure that the collar and tags stay on the animal. Caretakers also need to update the information on the collar so it remains current.
Tags and collars may be purchased from pet stores, pet supply centers,
feed stores, and many other retailers that sell products for animals. It
is the responsibility of caretakers to select the appropriate type of collar
for their dog or cat, obtain an identification tag with the appropriate
information, and then place both the tag and collar on the animal. You may
wish to add a statement such as"I'm lost" or "Reward" on the tag to notify
anyone reading the tag that the animal is not supposed to be running free
and should be returned.
This is the most advanced and permanent form of identification, which is an electronic animal identification system. The microchip acts as a radio transponder. Its contents are encased in a glass capsule about the size of a grain of rice. Each chip has its own unique code composed of a combination of 10 numbers and letters. The advantage of microchipping is that it is a permanent form of identification. The disadvantages include the special equipment and training required to implant the microchip and that the identification is not readily visible, as well as the cost.
A microchip is usually implanted by a veterinarian or licensed Registered
Veterinary Technician. This can be at a private veterinary hospital or through
the local animal shelter. The implantation requires special skills and equipment,
like tattooing, but does not require anesthesia. The microchip is implanted
by a subcutaneous injection (as is often done with vaccinations, insertion
of a needle underneath the skin) between the shoulder blades. Once the chip
is implanted your animal has a permanent form of identification. Shelters
or veterinary clinics use a hand-held scanner which is passed above the
shoulder blades of a lost animal. The scanner emits a radio signal which
is picked up by the chip if it's present, and the chip transmits the ten-digit
code to the scanner's display screen. This code is then paired with the
code listed in a local and/or national registry for microchips. The registry
provides information such as the caretaker's name, address, and telephone
number. The information can be used to attempt to contact the caretaker of
Tattoos were accepted in the late 1960's as the first permanent form of
identification for cats and dogs. Tattoos can be placed on the groin, abdomen,
or on inner aspect of the thigh. Tattoos can be applied by veterinarians
and other trained individuals that have the skills and equipment to conduct
the procedure. The animal is placed under a short-acting anesthetic and an
identification code is inked onto the skin. They are still in use, but are
not seen frequently because they can be difficult to read over time, difficult
to read on feral (domestic animal gone wild) animals, and tattoo registries
over the years have not been very stable so animals are not able to be traced
back to their caretakers. For dogs, the National Dog Registry is at 1-800-637-3647.
STEPS TO TAKE IF YOU LOSE YOUR ANIMAL
1) As soon as you find that your animal is missing, begin the actual search for your animal in close proximity to the location where it was last seen. If this location is your home, make sure to check hiding places (e.g., bushes, under cars) where a frightened animal may find security. Often times, animals do not roam far from home. If you take your animal for walks, check your usual routes and nearby parks or recreational areas that may attract your animal.
2) Talk to neighbors or people that are near the location where your animal was last seen. It is helpful to be able to show people a photograph of your animal. Always leave your name and telephone number with people you speak with so they can contact you if they come across your animal after they speak with you.
3) Distribute/post, "Lost Dog/Cat" posters throughout the area. These posters should include a description and/or picture of the animal, your name, and telephone number. It is often helpful to offer a reward since it may stimulate people to search for your animal as well as return the animal to you if it is found. Abide by your city's regulations when posting materials. Remember to remove the posters after you have been reunited with your animal.
4) Injured animals may be taken directly to a local veterinarian by the police or a good samaritan who finds them. Contact local veterinarians (most are listed in the phone book) to see if they have been brought any stray animals recently.
5) Don't try to contact shelters by telephone, describe your lost animal, and expect the shelter to know whether or not your animal is in the shelter. Shelters may impound up to 100 animals daily and it is possible that they may tell you that they do not have your animal when in fact it may be there. Your animal may be purebred or have other distinguishing characteristics, but only you as the guardian can positively identify your animal. Go to the animal shelter responsible for animal control in the area where your animal was lost. If you are uncertain which shelter provides service for a particular area, call any of the nearby shelters and identify your location. Shelter personnel will be able to provide you with the location of the appropriate agency.
Once at the shelter, explain to the shelter personnel that you have just
lost your animal and ask about their procedures for locating a lost animal.
GUIDE FOR PROCEDURES & PROTOCOLS OFFERED AT MANY SHELTERS
Shelter personnel will request a description/photograph of your animal. The employee may correlate your description with an animal in the shelter and direct you right to him/her. If this doesn't happen, the next step is for the employee to direct you to the proper animal holding area dependent on the species and sex of your animal. They will also request you to complete a form on the lost animal so that it can be posted at the shelter for employees and for the public.
They will suggest that you physically walk through all animal holding areas in the shelter in order to try to identify your animal. Most shelters house male and female animals separately, either in different buildings, corridors, or other sections of the facility. Whatever gender your animal is, make sure you check both the male and female sections. Your animal may have inadvertently been placed on the wrong side. Don't miss locating your animal because you didn't thoroughly check at the shelter.
It is also possible that your animal was injured while lost. Many shelters have specific medical holding areas that you must also check in addition to asking the staff if they recall seeing your animal enter the shelter.
Shelter personnel will tell you not to give up in locating your lost animal.
Some individuals will care for an animal that appears lost and not take
the animal to a shelter for weeks. You will be encouraged to return to the
shelter daily or as often as possible so that you can physically walk through
all the animal holding areas and hopefully locate your lost animal. If English
is not your primary language, many shelters have employees that can serve
as interpreters. If one cannot be provided, return to the shelter with
someone who will be able to translate for you to ensure proper communication.
Many shelters also provide translations of printed material regarding procedures
for locating lost animals. In any case, if you don\rquote t understand
something explained to you, ask for clarification. It may determine whether
you find your animal.
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