If you’re like most people, your Valentine’s Day was celebrated with chocolates, flowers, and conversational hearts. However, you may not have been aware that February 14 marks something else besides Valentine’s Day — it was National Pet Theft Awareness Day.
The animal welfare group Last Chance for Animals (LCA) celebrates Pet Theft Awareness Day by educating the public about the dangers of pet theft and Class “B” dealers. The LCA states that Class “B” dealers are licensed to purchase and sell animals for research. They are only supposed to obtain animals for resale from other “B” dealers, pounds, and shelters and from persons who have bred and raised the animals themselves.
The LCA believes that “B” dealers routinely violate the law by acquiring animals from fraudulent sources, then abusing and neglecting them. According to LCA, these animals are often stolen pets, strays, or animals obtained under false pretenses and deception such as “free to good home” ads. LCA claims, “Each time a Class ‘B’ dealer sells an animal to a research lab, a strong possibility exists that it is a lost or stolen family pet.”
Unfortunately, pets become lost and stolen every day. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) hopes pet owners will take a moment on this Pet Theft Awareness Day to improve their pet’s safety. So, what can you do to help prevent your pet from becoming lost or stolen? The NAPPS recommends that all pets be microchipped, wear proper identification, and are never left unattended in a yard, public area, or car.
This may seem elementary, but an identification tag is really your pet’s ticket home should he ever become lost. 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 many pet supply stores. 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.
Some pet owners decide to tattoo their pet. This involves permanently marking a code on your pet’s skin, usually near the groin area. If a shelter 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. Many pet owners use a tattoo as a precaution 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 be less likely to keep and experiment on that pet.
In addition to an identification tag or tattoo, your pet should also have a license. In Santa Barbara County, the law requires that all dogs over four months of age receive a rabies vaccination and purchase a dog license. Aside from being the law, the other benefit to licensing is that the county will hold animals wearing a license for a longer period of time 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: http://www.sbcphd.org/as/animal_licenses.html
As mentioned above, the NAPPS recommends microchipping. Microchipping 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 process is similar to receiving a shot and no anesthesia is necessary for implantation. Once in place, the microchip can be detected immediately by shelter staff with a handheld device that uses radio waves to read the chip. Most animal shelters check every stray pet that comes through their doors to see if they have a microchip. 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. Although microchips are a lifesaver, don’t rely on it as your pet’s only means of identification.
Would you know what to do if your dog or cat went missing? Here are some tips to make sure you are prepared:
· 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. Provide these agencies with an accurate description and go in person with a recent photograph of your pet. Notify the police if you think your pet may have been stolen.
• Drive through your neighborhood several times a day to search for your pet. 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 and ask neighbors if you can search their backyards (especially if you’ve lost an indoor-only cat).
• Post signs around your neighborhood and include a photo of your pet (see below for tips on creating a lost pet sign). You can usually post notices at grocery stores, community centers, veterinary offices, and pet supply stores. You can also post lost pet notices online at www.pets911.com and www.findtoto.com.
· Place an ad in the “lost and found” section of local newspapers and on www.craigslist.com.
• Register your pet with amber alerts for pets, a nationwide network of pet parents committed to seeing lost pets safely returned home: www.amberalertforpets.com
• If it’s been a while since your pet went missing, it’s possible that your pet may have been found and taken to a local animal shelter and placed up for adoption. Be sure to check www.petfinder.com for adoptable pet listings.
· 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.
Lost Pet Posters
The Missing Pet Partnership has created an effective tool for recovering lost pets with a method they call the “Five + Five + Fifty-five rule”. This rule states that at a given intersection you have five seconds and five words to get your message across to drivers who are traveling fifty-five miles an hour. These are the five rules for making the poster:
1. Make them GIANT so that people driving by cannot miss them.
2. Make them FLUORESCENT so that the color attracts the attention of everyone.
3. Put them at major intersections near where you lost your pet.
4. Keep them BRIEF and to the point.
5. Let them convey a VISUAL IMAGE of what you have lost.
Now that you know how to properly identify your pet and the steps to take to help prevent your pet from being stolen, you can polish off that box of chocolates without any guilt.
Adoptable Pet of the Week
Klondyke is a 2- to 3-year-old neutered male Alaskan malamute who weighs 75 pounds. He is an athletic dog with long graceful legs. Klondyke is good with dogs, sociable and happy with people. He would much rather hang out with his person than answer the call of the wild. Klondyke knows and obeys basic commands and is easy on a leash. His favorite activity is running, preferably with a partner.
DAWG (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group) is a no-kill not for profit dog rescue/adoption organization located at 5480 Overpass Road in Goleta. For more information, call 681-0561. You can view more adoptable dogs at www.sbdawg.com. The public is invited to stop by and look around every day from 9 to 4 p.m. DAWG relies on volunteers to take care of all the dogs, so if you love dogs, think about volunteering! Students are able to fulfill their volunteer community service requirement by volunteering. Volunteer orientations are generally held every other Saturday at 10 a.m. Please contact DAWG for the next meeting.