Many years ago before I was ever involved in the animal welfare world, I came home from work one day to find my sweet black lab, Bailor, missing from my backyard. I soon discovered that he had escaped through a rotten fence buried behind thick shrubs, into a neighbor’s yard, and out their gate that happened to be left open. I searched the neighborhood high and low, posted signs, called every number I could find to call, and cried a lot. The next morning, after one of the worst nights of my life, I headed to the local animal control shelter even though they said there was no way my dog could be there. I walked up and down the rows of kennels and finally locked eyes on my precious friend.
Back in the shelter lobby, a man stood finishing paperwork. He had found Bailor wondering the streets, dodging cars, some ten miles from my home on the other side of a heavily traveled interstate highway in a very large city. After hugging and thanking this hero profusely and paying a fine that required me to instantly microchip Bailor, I took my special pal home where I held him close all day and night.
The event was extremely traumatic for Bailor and me, but was many times worse because he wore no identification that day – no collar, no tags, and no microchip. I learned my lesson a very painful way, yet one that at least had a happy ending. We see animals come in every day at the Washoe County Regional Animal Services (WCRAS) shelter that do not have the same luck. Even though WCRAS has one of the best return-to-owner rates in the country, approximately 40% of the dogs and 95% of the cats are never reunited with their families.
Collars and tags are great, but they’re not perfect. Collars can come off or be taken off; some pets just can’t wear collars with comfort. Tags can fall off, wear out, and be hard to read. Microchips are the best way to identify your pets, providing you have registered them. The chips are permanent and provide absolute proof of ownership. Having your pet microchipped is the single most important thing you can do to ensure that your pet will be reunited with you should be become lost.
The story of Merlin was recently shared with us by the husband of Dee Dee. Merlin is Dee Dee’s five-year-old cat who was adopted from Nevada Humane Society (NHS) at six weeks of age. NHS has been microchips every dog and cat before adoption for several years, so Merlin went to his new home with microchip in place.
At a year-and-a-half old, Merlin and his feline sibling, Smeagol, slipped out of the house and went missing. Smeagol reappeared after a few days. But after weeks of searching, regular checks at NHS, and buckets of tears, Dee Dee gave up searching for Merlin and came to the conclusion that he met an unfortunate fate with coyotes or cars.
About a month ago, Merlin was picked up and turned into the shelter. Thanks to a tiny microchip, Merlin was reunited with Dee Dee after three long years. He was a bit ragged, but very healthy and quickly found his place back in his loving home like he had never been away.
“If this experience has taught me anything at all, it’s that if you love your cat, dog, ferret or other animal and you can have a chip implanted, it’s well worth the investment,” said Dee Dee’s husband. “You may never need it at all but you just never know.”
A microchip is a tiny capsule (about the size of a grain of rice) containing a permanent ID code that emits a signal on a specific radio frequency, enabling a scanner to read the code. This information is then matched with owner identification data that is kept on file after registration. The chip is inserted between the pet’s shoulder blades and the process is quick, sterile, and no more painful than a routine vaccination. After it’s in, the animal never notices it. To complete your pet’s registration, you must fill out and send in the form you receive with the microchip. Pets are routinely scanned at shelters and if microchips are found, owners are contacted immediately.
The best protection you can give your pet is to have them microchipped as soon as possible. Or adopt your next furry friend from Nevada Humane Society or other local animal shelters where every cat and dog is microchipped, helping to ensure they get back home to your loving arms.