Microchips can ensure your pets' safety

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  • | 12:35 p.m. June 20, 2012
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - Microchipped pets, like Gary, a cat who was lost for three months, can be more easily identified to be reunited with their owners.
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - Microchipped pets, like Gary, a cat who was lost for three months, can be more easily identified to be reunited with their owners.
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Millions of cats and dogs wander from home every year. It is estimated that nationwide fewer than one in 10 find their way back. “Pooter,” a boxer mix, and “Charlie,” a King Charles Cavalier, who were posted on WinterParkLostPets.com, were two of the lucky ones. They both found the way home because they were microchipped.

Pets become lost every day despite the best intentions of responsible pet owners. A gate can blow open during a storm. A leash can snap. An indoor cat can slip outside unnoticed. An excited terrier can dig a tunnel faster than Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape.”

Shelley Heistand, the sponsor of WinterParkLostPets.com, says, “Tags and collars are the first line of defense, but they are by no means foolproof. Tags come off far more often than pet owners realize. One of the best safeguards a pet owner can take to ensure their pet can always be indentified is to have it microchipped.”

A microchip is about the size of an uncooked grain of rice and is inserted under the pet’s skin between the shoulder blades. Any local veterinarian can provide this service. VCA Howell Branch Animal Hospital in Winter Park provides a microchip discount with a coupon on the WinterParkLostPets.com website.

Once inserted the chip is not possible to feel by hand. A wand-like scanner must be waved over the pet to locate and read the chip. When pets are brought to animal shelters they are immediately scanned. If your pet is microchipped, and information is current, a happy reunion is assured.

Should you find a lost pet, take it to your local vet to have it scanned for a microchip. If you find a pet on a holiday or after business hours, take the pet to one of three locations operated by Veterinary Emergency Clinics of Central Florida. If the pet is chipped, the emergency clinic will contact the owners and hold the pet for pickup without charge.

Microchipping assures that no matter how long your pet has gone missing, there’s hope of recovery. People who do not think to have the pet checked for a chip can take in wandering pets and months can pass before the pet is eventually taken to a vet and the chip is discovered. Cats struck with wanderlust are known to “adopt” families for a period of time and then move on. The microchip always moves with the pet.

Should a dispute arise over who owns Fifi or Fido, microchipping also provides an answer that holds up in court. Tushaar Desai, a local attorney who has just launched BaldwinParkLostPets.com, a free public service for Baldwin Park, says, “It is hard to think of your beloved pet as property, but the only way to secure your legal ownership to your pet is to somehow ‘tag’ or ‘mark’ it. The best solution to date is a microchip.”

When you move or change phone numbers, it is important to update the contact information accessed via the microchip. Some pets have not found their way home because the contact information on file was out of date and the owners could not be located.

If the pet is not microchipped there are several actions that pet finders can take. WinterParkLostPets.com, BaldwinParkLostPets.com and WaterfordLakesLostPets.com all can assist if you find a wandering pet or your personal pet is missing in those communities.

Pets, of course, can’t speak for themselves. Microchips give them a clear voice that says, “Here’s my owner’s name. Here’s where I live.”

Judy Charuhas is the co-founder of WinterParkLostPets.com, a free website for posting lost and found pets in the city of Winter Park. The site has reunited 337 pets since its inception. Contact her at [email protected]