Moment of Paws: Microchip critical to odds of being reunited with your lost pet

While there are pet holidays scattered throughout the calendar year, Aug. 15 marked National Check the Chip Day, highlighting an important aspect when talking about tools to use should your pet go missing.

Sadly, millions of household pets do so every year, something that every pet owner fears despite our best efforts and intentions.
According to the American Humane Association, approximately 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the Unites States annually – and about one in every three pets will go missing at some point in their lives.

While the reasons are numerous, there is one measure you can take that drastically increases the likelihood of being reunited with your beloved pet – microchipping.

A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice that is programmed with an identification number unique to your pet. It is non-toxic, non-allergenic, and lasts the life of your pet with no maintenance required.

A study by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that just 22 percent of lost dogs, and fewer than two percent of lost cats that entered animal shelters, were reunited with their families. However, for animals that were microchipped, the return-to-owner rate for dogs was more than 52 percent, and more than 38 percent for microchipped cats.

The numbers speak for themselves: Microchipping increases the chances that you will get your pet back if it becomes lost or stolen. But it should not be the only part of your lost-pet strategy. Collars with up-to-date tags are the main form of identification and the quickest way to identify a found pet.

Tags and microchips are only useful if the contact and registration information is current. Make sure to check the information annually to keep everything up to date.

In that moment of realization that a pet has gone missing, it’s important to stay calm, and take immediate action by following these 5 steps to increase the likelihood of a happy reunion with your pet: 

• Call the Animal Control officer of the town where you live, and of the town that your pet went missing in.
• File a lost report with the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) either in person, over the phone, or online. This lost report is seen by all three ARL locations. The staff will ask you to provide a photo of your pet. 
• Contact your pet’s microchip company, if your pet has one, to notify them that your pet is lost. Be sure to confirm that your contact information is current. 
• File a lost report with every shelter within a 60-mile radius of where your pet went missing. Oftentimes, concerned citizens will pick up a stray pet they see on the side of the road and bring it to a shelter that is close to their destination instead of close to where they found the animal.
• Don’t give up! Many pets go missing for months before being reunited with their owners. Stay positive, stay vigilant, and continue to search for them as long as you can. 

Additionally, you can also reach out to local missing pet groups online – Missing Dogs Massachusetts has a large following on Facebook and the more eyes you have looking for your pet the better. Networking with other animal lovers to help in your search increases your chances of having your beloved pet returned safe and sound.

Dr. Edward Schettino is the president and CEO of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and has a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

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