Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Internet Reunites Lost Pets and Owners

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Internet Reunites Lost Pets and Owners

With our impressive array of technologies, like GPS and “smart” phones, you might think that finding a lost pet is getting easier each year.  Sadly, the odds are still against many missing pets ever making it back home.  Isn’t there some way to insure that your pet will return safely from his wandering?

By:  Dr. Jim Humphries, Veterinary News Network

Everyone loves the amazing stories of dogs and cats who travel long distances to find their way back home or even locate their owners in a new city.  Unfortunately, these happy tales are the rare exception to the rule.  For every pet that makes it back after leaving, there are tens of thousands who never live to see home again!

Humane groups and pet industry experts estimate that more than 5 million pets will be lost this year.  One pet in every three will be lost at some point in his or her lifetime.  According to the American Humane Association (www.americanhumane.org), of those that roam away from home, less than 17% of the dogs and only 2% of the cats ever make it back to their owners.  Sadly, most of the rest will be euthanized in over-crowded animal shelters.  Newspapers and on-line ads still tell the sad story of some youngster’s lost pet every day.  Why do we see a continuation of this problem year after year?

First, despite leash laws and other ordinances, many families are reluctant to chain their dogs or attempt to keep their cats from roaming.  This is especially true in rural areas. 

Compounding the issue is that there are more than 200 million pets in North America and only a very small percentage has some form of permanent identification.  ID tags and collars are easily removed by unscrupulous individuals or even by the pet in some instances.  Microchips help to insure that the pet has some means of identification, but even these implants aren’t foolproof.

In fact, it is a rare pet that actually has a microchip.    According to industry data, only about 5% of all pets in North America actually have a microchip.  And, even the pets with chips aren’t necessarily any safer.    When owners fail to register their pet properly, reunions are delayed or even prevented in many instances.  Again, experts from all major microchip companies state that less than 50% of chipped pets are registered with correct and current information.

Other forms of identification, such as tattooing, are very rare and obscure.    This fact means that a shelter employee or veterinary office may not even note the presence of a tattoo.

Finally, even though they have good intentions, shelters and rescues are often overwhelmed with pets.  A microchip could be missed during a hurried exam or a description of your lost pet might not match what the employee sees in front of him. 

In spite of these overwhelming odds, you can proactively help insure that your pet will make it safely home.  First, like so many things, prevention and preparation go a long way.    Neuter your pet to decrease his roaming urges and consider using both ID tags and a microchip.  Obey local leash laws and don’t allow your pet to wander the neighborhood.

Next, if your pet does become lost, act fast!  Don’t delay in the hopes that he will simply find his way back.  The faster you respond to his disappearance, the better your odds are of finding him safely.  Visit local shelters daily.

A new online service, HelpMeFindMyPet.com has recently made headlines across the country for their success rate in finding pets.  This pet recovery service offers a nationwide alert system for lost pets.

If you are enrolled at their website and your pet is lost, one call sets a flurry of activity into motion.  First, all veterinary offices, groomers, shelters, pet stores, and HelpMeFindMyPet members within a 50 mile radius of your pet’s last known location receive notification via email or fax of your pet’s disappearance.  This communication contains a flyer with a picture or description of your pet and any other identifying features or ID numbers.  Additionally, using the power of the social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter, announcements are made to help increase the number of searchers for your pet.

According to Jessica Staton of HelpMeFindMyPet, more than 87% of pets reported through their system make it home.  Additionally, this service continues to broadcast alerts until the pet is found!  Ms. Staton describes numerous incidents of stolen pets being returned because of intense publicity.
Other organizations, such as Amber Alert for Pets and FindToto.com also have web-based recovery services.

We all want our family members to stay close to home and to heart.  But, like all children, our pets love exploration and adventure too.  Work with your veterinarian to make sure all your pets are properly identified with tags and/or microchips.    Now, you also have the option to use the power of the Internet in case your pet decides to wander off.