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It’s National Pet ID Week, and as I write this, I’m staring at the bare collars sported by my own two dogs. Despite the fact that I spend a small fortune each year on preventive veterinary care and premium diets in order to keep them at their healthiest, I have to admit that I have not yet gotten around to picking up inexpensive ID tags for their collars. Surprisingly, I’m not alone in my folly. According to the ASPCA, only 33 percent of pet owners report keeping their dogs or cats properly tagged all the time. While I can at least say that both my dogs are microchipped — another relatively inexpensive ID option — in my heart I know I’m not doing everything I can to keep them safe if they don’t also have a visible tag hanging from their collars. Here’s why: According to the ASPCA, one-third of all U.S. pets will get lost at least once in their lifetime. Without proper identification, up to 90 percent of those lost pets will never find their way home again. You only have to look at telephone poles around town or the bulletin board in the supermarket to know that lots of well-loved pets get lost all the time. This is a heartbreak that can easily — and inexpensively — be prevented.
What do experts suggest is the best way to properly ID your pet? Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA, says, “While there are lots of forms of ID, we recommend a simple ID tag listing the cell phone number of the owner and at least one other backup number — and a microchip just in case the tag or collar gets lost.” Gary MacPhee, director of the Home Again program for Merck, believes a microchip, backed by a visible tag, is the best option. Home Again is one of the country’s largest providers of pet microchips, and its comprehensive program is responsible for successfully reuniting 14,000 lost pets with owners each month.
The bottom line, though, is that if your pet is lost, you want to make sure you have done everything you can to make his return home as quick and easy as possible. You don’t want to have to rely on posters plastered around town or hope a harried shelter worker will have the time and resources to figure out where your pet belongs. Tags, microchips and other innovative ways of identifying pets all help to produce happy endings for lost pets and their owners.
Given the statistics, it’s surprising that every pet isn’t chipped, collared and tagged to the max. But many owners mistakenly believe their pets aren’t at risk, either because they are indoor-only pets or because they play in a fenced-in yard. Experts are quick to point out, though, that where animals are concerned, you need to expect the unexpected. For example, “An indoor cat is an indoor cat — until she gets outside,” MacPhee notes. He says the Home Again database is full of stories of pets who accidentally slipped out of the home. “Contractors working in the house, kids that forget to close a door or a house sitter who isn’t familiar with the pet’s behavior are all reasons why pets have become lost,” he points out. Dr. Weiss also notes that you need to anticipate emergency situations, such as a fire, where a pet could suddenly become frightened, disoriented and lost.
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