Did I ever mention that I’m an odd mix of experience and expertise? (Ok, I’m odd in many ways but let’s look beyond that.) The recent events have me thinking yet again. The nagging to write on this topic has been around for awhile but it has risen in lockstep with the flood water so today it gets done. This isn’t my normal style of writing but it isn’t intended to be. It will have a lot of information and a call to get up and do something. For those that find it applicable, get up and do it! DO NOT WHINE LATER IF YOU DO NOT ACT NOW. You will be given the information you need along with a few things that run counter to your assumptions. There is nothing untoward here, just important information. Hopefully I can get the information across in a reasonable word count. Read, re-read, take notes, take action and ask questions as needed.
Kat (yes, you ma’am), please pay attention here as you will be the one best able to impact thousands of lives with this data.
Everybody see what’s happening in Texas? Look fun? No one schedules this for their next birthday party do they? Disasters and accidents share the trait of being unanticipated.
Got pets? Know someone who does? Maybe you are a vet…. I’m going to talk about something that is much better known now than twenty years ago but is still widely misunderstood and misused. That something is microchips.
A microchip is a small RFID device about the size of a grain of rice that can be implanted under the skin of a pet between the front shoulders. Most states require this be done by a vet with some exclusions. With an experienced hand, it is a painless procedure taking under a minute. The chip can then be read with a handheld scanner. The scanner will give a code (typically an ISO 15 character on new chips) from the chip. The chip does not contain personal information. It can not be read from across the room, the street or space. It IS NOT a tracking device.
That code can then be used by qualified personnel to determine the point of contact (typically the owner) for that animal. Simple enough right? Let’s go into problems, misconceptions and mistakes.
Don’t tell me your pet doesn’t need one, it wears a collar. Yeah right, collars go on, collars come off. The chip is under the skin. Ever heard someone say their dog lost it’s skin?
Don’t tell me your baby “never gets lost”, “never is off leash” or anything of that nature. Almost ALL lost animals are indoor pets. They don’t know where home is! They slip out and are disoriented quickly by a variety of stimuli. (If you only went in and out the front of your home, would you recognize the rear door?) No one ever says they lost their pet “on purpose”, they always say it was an “accident”. Accident means accidental event, ponder that. Do you think the folks in Texas planned a flood? Anyone ever plan to have a tornado rip a wall off and let the dog out? Oh, that dog, the good owner took off the collar and leash, hanging them by the door, after last night’s walk. The dog didn’t need the collar indoors did it? Of course indoors is kind of outdoors without that wall that blew out isn’t it? Are you beginning to get my point?
IF your pet isn’t chipped:
Get it scheduled.
Ask that they scan the animal for a chip prior to inserting the new chip. It’s amazing how many pets “without a chip” have one. If they find one, ask them to check for another. It’s not uncommon to find a pet with one already and it is surprising (with animals of unknown origin) to find more than one. If there is a chip, or chips, they certainly don’t want to chip again. The existing chip(s) need to be researched, linked and updated. If the staff is unsure of how to do so, contact your local Animal Control. Be aware that this is a legal process in most states and vet staff is typically woefully uneducated in this arena. Too many vet offices are had a drug rep push a subpar chip that offered a great rate of return (profit) per implant. They have never been educated beyond word of mouth and what they heard at the free lunch a few years ago. Vet’s are, ironically, one of the biggest sources of incomplete or incorrect information regarding chips. As they provide profit and lack risks there is no perceived need for further study on their part. Never commit a felony by accident. Always ask.
Make sure you secure that chip information where it won’t be lost.
Read section to follow regarding chipped pets.
IF your pets are all chipped:
You are special! Good job, you get a gold star. Well, actually you won’t be getting that until I’m done educating and you are done complying. Come see me when you’re done. Read on.
Your pet was probably chipped at a vet or rescue. Regardless, good job in that you have a pet and you know it’s chipped. What you don’t know and what needs to be done is the problem.
At the first good opportunity, have the animal scanned. Most important is to confirm that there is only ONE chip. (Hate for the baby to get lost and an uneducated Animal Control officer only scan once AND, naturally, find the unregistered chip you didn’t know was there!) Confirm that the chip found matches the number you have. Mistakes happen and chips get mixed up so the dog gets the cat’s chip.
Now, check the registration. This is very important. Oddly (given my penchant for honesty), I want to make sure you lie! Register the chip in accordance with the MANUFACTURER’S directions. There are a multitude of makers, think Ford, Chevy, Dodge. Do as they say to register. Do not be fooled by the fool at the front desk of the vet’s office. There are hundreds of “Free online registries” and most are worthless. They farm your data, sell it and send you junk mail. THEY DO NOT REGISTER THE CHIP AND YOUR INFORMATION WITH THE INTERNATIONAL DATABASE. Fluffy gets lost, Animal Control finds and scans the dog, they make the call and, nothing. Your pet does not exist. Hopefully they are experienced enough to backtrack the chip and still find you, you hope.
When registering per the manufacturer’s instruction, you will get to a point where most want you to put in two names and two phone numbers for each name. Remember that part about lying? Here is where you lie. Put in TWO names but the phone numbers for FOUR people. Give your pet four chances. How many points of contact around Houston are currently out of touch? Think durability when picking. Include someone out of the area.
Don’t waste time telling me that the vet or rescue registered it for you. Ask yourself if they would have known four points of contact? Did they know you would move? It is YOUR job to confirm and update the data. Most chips have a picture attached. Remember that cute puppy you adopted? Does your dog still look like that eleven week old fluff ball they uploaded a picture of? Upload a new picture. A good picture, one that shows markings and size.
Still here ma’am? Take careful note of the following please.
Good trick I started years ago and encouraged anyone and everyone to follow. Your pet is now chipped, the registration is solid and you have all the data in hand so we’re good right? Wrong, one very important step left. Got your phone? Of course you do, don’t leave home without it! Go into contacts and create one for EACH pet. Let’s say your dog is named “Fluffy” and has a HomeAgain chip. In contacts, enter Fluffy. The phone number for Fluffy is 888-HOMEAGAIN. (Each company has a different number. Enter the correct name & company phone number for each pet.) Somewhere in that contact information, put the animals chip number. Now, when you are on vacation and someone calls saying that the “dog got away”, you can hang up, dial “Fluffy” and register the pet missing.
Ponder this. If all of the pets in that region were chipped, shelters would be half empty. Incoming strays would have been returned to owners BEFORE the event. They could absorb a lot of the displaced animals. Were the displaced animals all chipped, calls could be made and animals tracked/moved towards reunions. How many pets would avoid euthanasia? Seems like a silly passion until you realize that this is a life or death question for the animal. New Orleans saw some saves, Sandy saw more and I hope this event makes those pale in comparison. My biggest hope is that this has made y’all stop, think and act. Please don’t wait and then make a frantic series of calls later, after the accident. Accidents happen but I would rather see your first act be to pull out your ever present phone, dial your pets name and hit Send.
Know this was long and my mind and arm are tired but hope it helps. Questions or comments? Don’t forget to stop by for your Gold Star when done.