Animal Safety

Emergency Info Sheet and Microchipping Keep Your Animals Safe

Pet Emergency Info Sheet: What happens to your pets when you live alone, have a heart attack or stroke, and get rushed to the hospital? If you’re conscious enough to pass along the pertinent information, perhaps the attending paramedics or firefighters might graciously care for your dogs or cats. But if you’re unconscious, your pets could be left to fend for themselves as you regain your health in the hospital—and if they aren’t properly fed, medicated, or sheltered, your beloved pets might be dead when you come home.

That’s the apparently all-too-common scenario that put Hazel Mortensen in a tizzy recently. After hearing from a friend about a Los Angeles-area man who had a stroke and returned home to find his dogs dead, the 74-year-old Solvang resident—who’s done volunteer work with animals for 40 years—began a campaign to ensure that pets keep getting cared for even when their owners experience emergencies. “I just felt sick,” she said when hearing of the man whose dogs died. “I felt that someone needed to do something. You can’t save the world, but I’m sure that if enough of us had these on our refrigerators, we will save some lives.”

So Mortensen is now advocating for pet owners to fill out a new pet emergency sheet, print it on bright lime-green paper, and post it to your refrigerator. The sheet has spaces for information about the number and types of pets, their names, and their dietary and medical needs. It also requires the owner to name a friend or family member who can be called on to care for the animals.

To get the word out, Mortensen has spoken to every city she can think of as well as humane societies and senior centers. She is now also reaching out to the paramedics and fire departments so they know to look for the lime-green info sheet. Already, the City of Solvang has posted it on their Web site, and you can also now download it directly from independent.com here. —Matt Kettmann

Microchipping: According to the National Council on Pet Population Study, about 1 million stray dogs and a half-million stray cats are turned into shelters across the nation each year. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of those dogs and a measly 2 percent of the cats are ever reunited with their owners. Why is this number so low? One of the reasons could be that owners neglect to identify their pets properly. Although there are several ways to identify your furry friends—e.g., collars, tattoos—microchipping is the only permanent identification that is truly your pet’s ticket home.

The procedure involves the injection of a tiny chip (about the size of a grain of rice) with a needle and special syringe just under your pet’s skin between the shoulder blades. The chip is housed in a type of glass made to be compatible with living tissue. The process is similar to receiving a shot and no anesthesia is necessary for implantation. Once in place, the microchip can be detected immediately with a handheld device that reads it with radio waves and then displays a unique alphanumeric code that is entered into a database with your information.

Most animal shelters check every stray pet that comes through their doors for a microchip. If one is found, the shelter contacts the database to find your information. Microchips are said to last 20 years, so there is no need to replace it during your pet’s lifetime.

Santa Barbara County Animal Services (5473 Overpass Rd., 681-5285, sbcphd.org) offers microchipping for dogs and cats for $40. No appointment is necessary. —Lisa Acho Remorenko

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