April 4 kicks off “Tag Day,” a day set aside by animal welfare groups to help promote identifying your pet. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study, about 1 million stray dogs and half a million stray cats are turned in to shelters across the nation each year. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of those dogs and a measly 2 percent of those cats are ever reunited with their owners. Why is this number so low? One of the reasons could be that owners neglect to properly identify their pets. Prevent your pet from becoming a statistic by choosing one, or several, of these forms of identification.
Forms of Identification
ID tag. This may seem elementary, but an identification tag is your pet’s ticket home. The tag should have your pet’s name, your name, your address, and cell phone number. Make sure all the information stays current. You can have tags made while you wait at Petco. Experts recommend putting “reward” on the back of your pet’s tag, if you are willing to give a reward that is. This may help encourage the finder to return your pet to you. The ID tag should be attached to a proper-fitting collar; I often see dogs slip out of collars because they’re too loose. Make sure to have a “quick release” or expandable collar for your cat. These collars allow the cat to slip free if it becomes caught on a fence, chair, etc. Although the collar will come off your cat, it prevents your cat from hanging itself. Remember, just because your cat is in an indoor-only cat, doesn’t mean accidents won’t happen. It may take a few days, but your cat can become accustomed to wearing a collar.
Microchip. This procedure involves the injection of a tiny chip (about the size of a grain of rice) just under your pet’s skin between the shoulder blades. The chip corresponds with a number that is entered into a database with your information. Most shelters use a handheld microchip scanner to check every stray pet for a microchip. If a microchip is found, the shelter contacts the database to find your information; be sure to keep this information up to date as well. Microchips are said to last 20 years, so there is no need to remove or replace it in the duration of a pet’s lifetime. Although microchipping seems to be catching on, according to the Coalition for Reuniting Pets and Families, less than 5 percent of all pets are microchipped.
Tattoo. This involves marking a code on your pet’s skin-usually near the groin area. If a shelter or finder notices a tattoo, they will call a database and use the code to receive the owner’s address and phone number. A tattoo is also a great permanent marker to indicate that an animal is owned. I’ve read that some pet owners tattoo in case their pet happens to be stolen for research. The theory is, if an animal has a tattoo, laboratories will instantly know that the animal is owned and will most likely leave him alone.
License. In Santa Barbara County, the law requires that all dogs over four months of age receive a rabies vaccination and be licensed. Aside from being the law, the other benefit to licensing is that the county will hold animals wearing a license for a longer period while trying to reunite the pet with his owner. You can even order a license through the county’s Web site. For more information, visit sbcphd.org/as/animal_licenses.html
Finding Your Lost Pet
According to the American Humane Association, almost four million pets are euthanized every year because their owners aren’t found in time. If a shelter cannot determine a pet’s owner, the pet may be put down in as few as three days. The following are some tips to make sure you are prepared.
What to do if your dog or cat goes missing.
• Call Animal Control and then go there in person to look for yourself. Make sure you check back often. Have Animal Control phone numbers programmed in your cell phone-Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter: (805) 681-5285; Santa Barbara City Animal Control: (805) 963-1513. Provide these agencies with an accurate description and go to their office in person with a recent photograph of your pet. Notify the police if you think your pet may have been stolen.
• Make sure you drive through your neighborhood several times a day. Ask neighbors, letter carriers, and delivery people if they have seen your pet. Hand out recent photographs of your pet along with your phone number.
• Post signs around your neighborhood right away and include a photo of your pet. State where and when your pet was lost. You can usually post notices at grocery stores, community centers, veterinary offices, and pet supply stores. You can also post a notice online at pets911.com and findtoto.com.
• Place an ad in the “lost and found” section of area newspapers. Most newspapers will do this for free.
Holidays such as the 4th of July, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve have increased activity and loud noises that can frighten your dog or cat. It is a good idea to keep all pets indoors on these occasions.
Now that you know how to properly identify your pet and what to do if your pet goes missing, you can celebrate Tag Day with a clear conscious!
Attention cat lovers! RESQCATS is in desperate need of morning volunteers from 8:30-10:30 a.m. If interested, call Jeffyne at 563-9424 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. RESQCATS is a nonprofit sanctuary dedicated to the rescue, care, and adoption of abandoned cats and kittens in Santa Barbara. For more information, visit resqcats.org.
Adoptable Pet of the Week
Lola, a five-year-old black, short-hair, is the perfect personal assistant, content to carefully watch your activities. She’s also slimmer now and an inspiration to anyone with a weight problem. Using her amazing intellect and skillful paws, she can ferret out food and would be easy to train with a treat! Curious and energetic, Lola gets along with dogs but might be happiest as an only cat.
For more information, call 683-3368 or visit the ASAP Web site at asapcats.org.