Picture a friendly dog belonging to a family living in a friendly neighborhood being let out several times a day into the fenced yard for play and exercise. Now envision a van or covered pick up truck cruising the streets with no one paying too much attention to it nor the recent flurry of posters asking for help finding missing pets that have been tacked up on telephone poles and in local stores.
It's a lovely day and pooch is out in the fenced yard. The truck creeps to a halt in front of the house. A man gets out and walks purposely to the gate. The latch pops up easily since there isn't a lock. The playful pooch bounds up to say hello and then willingly follows the stranger who offers him a tasty beef tidbit. In a matter of seconds, pooch has vanished.
This scenario is a grim reality. Don't be fooled by thinking that pet napping occurs on rare occasions or that pets are stolen by people who want to keep them. Each year, some 5 million pets disappear and of those nearly 70% never return home.
The Cold Hard Facts:
- Pet stealing occurs in every part of the country from rural settings to large cities, in the best and worst neighborhoods.
- All pets are at risk. Many end up as bait for training fighting dogs.
- Laws on pet abduction are for the most part weak. The offenses are usually treated as misdemeanors. With no strong legal deterrent, there is little or no reason for pet thieves to change their ways.
Some Very Basic Tips to Protect Your Pet
- Always keep an eye on your pet. Your companion can be stolen right out of your own yard. Install locks on all gates to your yard or dog run.
- Never tie your dog outside a store while you run inside. Keep an eye on your vehicle too, dogs can and are stolen out of parked vehicles.
- Always identify your companions. Collar tags, microchips, tattoos are all good ways to identify your companions. The more methods you have to identify your companion the better protection you have provided for them.
Identification is a must for any pet. Even your pet that is "always inside" could slip out when the cable repairman comes to fix your television. If your pet has identification you can avoid a lot of heartbreak if your companion should accidentally escape. The more ways you can identify your pet, the better. When you first take a pet into your home, at the very least have some form of visible identification on them so if they do escape there is a chance that whomever finds your companion will know where to return them.
Identification tags provide your pet with the best opportunity to be returned to you. Tags should be attached to your pet's collar and should have your name and telephone number with your area code. The jury is out on whether or not to put your dog's name on the tag. If someone wants to keep your pet, knowing the name makes it much simpler. Your pet will also get a tag from the veterinarian with a rabies vaccination number on it. This tag won't contain your personal information, but is traceable to the veterinarians office and they can reach you if your pet is found. Another option for identification is a local pet license. These tags are numbered and can be traced back to you through the local municipality. Any or all these tags can be attached to your pet's collar to help get them back to you. If jingling tags drive you crazy, there is a neoprene product that wraps around the tags to keep them quiet.
This newer method of identification has become very popular, and many veterinarians and shelters recommend microchips as a secondary form of identification. The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is implanted under your pet's skin. Microchipping is a safe, relatively painless and affordable procedure that provides permanent identification for your pet. Most shelters and veterinarians have scanners that will "read " the microchip, which can then be traced back to the manufacturer or a national registry which matches the number with a specific pet and owner.
Before microchips, tattooing was the standard for permanent identification. Most dogs are tattooed on the inside thigh of their hind leg. It is not a painful procedure, and only takes a few minutes to attain a permanent identification for you pet. Cats can also be tattooed, but many resist the process of being held for the tattoo. Most tattoos are registered with the National Dog Registry.
Lost and Found and Stolen Pets
Until it happened to my own dogs, I always thought the number of stolen dogs and cats was inflated to instill fear into pet owners. Hard as it was to believe, thousands of pets are stolen every year. I have included some very basic tips to avoid pet loss by theft and basic tips on finding a lost pet if the unthinkable happens to your companions.
- Don't leave your pet alone outside. If you feel like your pet must be outside, be sure they can not been seen from the street.
- Do bring your pet inside if you are leaving home. This applies to cats too who are safer, healthier and more apt to live longer if they live inside.
- Do make certain your pet has proper identification tags. Use a buckle collar and attach the tags using a round key chain type attachment. ("S" hooks can hook other pets and injure them.)
- Do keep updated photographs and descriptions of your pet in a safe location.
- Do keep your pet inside if your are expecting a repair service or other person not familiar to your pet.
- Do padlock any and all gates into your pet's domain. If you must keep your dog outside, be sure to have a well-fenced area, water and shelter available. Outdoor dogs should never spend their lives chained or roped. (If you want a lawn ornament, buy one.)
- Do spay or neuter your pet, it reduces the urge to roam and reduces the pet overpopulation problem.
- Don't leave your pet unattended or tied outside a store while you are inside.
If you remember all these and you still lose your pet, get moving on finding your companion immediately. Start searching your neighborhood both by foot and by vehicle. Call your pet's name loudly and frequently.
Call all the local animal shelters, impounds, veterinarians and the local police department.
Post flyers around your neighborhood that feature a photo of your pet.
Go door-to-door asking your neighbors (and their children) if they have seen your pet.
Rely on the "eyes and ears" of your neighborhood -- mail carriers, delivery people, newspaper carriers and other folks that travel through the area.
Physically go and check all the shelters and impounds, many have a short holding period so be sure to check frequently. Most importantly, don't give up.
If you find a lost pet, call your local shelter or animal control group immediately.
Image: http://www.southpointvet.com/images/microchip.jpg Tattoo and Microchips