Pre­vent has­sle of los­ing your cat or dog by mak­ing sure they’re mi­crochipped

Bray People - - LIFESTYLE - PETE WED­DER­BURN An­i­mal Doc­tor

THE is­sue of lost and stray­ing pets is a peren­nial prob­lem for our so­ci­ety. If you check any small town Facebook com­mu­nity page, you’ll see at least one post a week about an­i­mals. Some posts will be about lost pets: a cat that didn’t come home, or a dog that slipped out the front door when no one was look­ing. Other posts will be about an­i­mals that have been found: a cat that has turned up in some­one’s gar­den, look­ing for food, or a dog that has been found wan­der­ing lo­cal roads, on its own. It’s a sig­nif­i­cant is­sue: the an­i­mals who are lost are con­fused and hun­gry, and the peo­ple who are try­ing to help them can end up wast­ing many hours of their time.

Mean­while the own­ers of miss­ing pets are of­ten dis­traught: their dog or cat is one of their fam­ily, and they just want them to be home and safe again. An­i­mals can’t talk and don’t un­der­stand that peo­ple are wor­ried about them, so they con­tinue to ran­domly wan­der around un­til they are lo­cated, iden­ti­fied and re­turned to their own­ers.

As a vet, I am prob­a­bly more aware of this is­sue than most, partly be­cause our clinic is of­ten con­tacted by peo­ple who have found stray dogs and don’t know what to do with them.

What should hap­pen if an un­owned pet is found wan­der­ing?

The sit­u­a­tion with dogs is straight­for­ward: in Ire­land, all dogs must be mi­crochipped. When dogs are chipped, the prob­lem of strays is eas­ily sorted. Any an­i­mal that’s found wan­der­ing just needs to be taken to the lo­cal vet or res­cue cen­tre: a quick scan with a mi­crochip reader al­lows the own­ers name and con­tact de­tails to be re­trieved. They can then be alerted to the fact that their pet has been found, and that’s the end of the saga.

It’s more com­pli­cated if the dog is not mi­crochipped, and sadly, we still see reg­u­lar ex­am­ples of this. In such cases, there’s min­i­mal hope of eas­ily re­u­nit­ing the an­i­mal with its owner. The dog war­den needs to be called, and the dog is then taken to the lo­cal author­ity dog pound. Af­ter be­ing dou­ble-checked for the pres­ence of a mi­crochip, the an­i­mal’s de­tails are noted, and it is placed into a ken­nel for the statu­tory five­day pe­riod.

If an owner phones the dog pound dur­ing the five days, they will be al­lowed to col­lect their pet, as long as they pay a col­lec­tion fee and they also have their dog mi­crochipped. If there’s no sign of the owner af­ter five days, the dog be­comes the prop­erty of the state. In the past, most dogs were then eu­thanased, but in re­cent years, most pounds have de­vel­oped re­la­tion­ships with lo­cal dog res­cue groups.

Any dogs that have a rea­son­able chance of be­ing re­homed are passed on to the res­cue group (who are usu­ally asked to pay a small fee, as well). The res­cue group then get the dog mi­crochipped, vac­ci­nated and spay/neutered, and a new home is sought for the an­i­mal. The small num­ber of dogs that are judged not to be eas­ily re­homable (e.g. large, en­er­getic, po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous an­i­mals) are still some­times eu­thanased at the pound: there is a great deal of re­gional vari­a­tion in how of­ten this hap­pens.

The gov­ern­ment’s lo­cal author­ity web­site pub­lishes an­nual sta­tis­tics that give de­tails of the num­bers of stray dogs that are col­lected, re­homed and eu­thanased for each lo­cal author­ity pound.

Some an­i­mal lovers are loathe to al­low the dog war­den to take a stray an­i­mal to the pound. This is partly be­cause of the his­tory of dogs of­ten be­ing eu­thanased af­ter five days.

This is less com­mon nowa­days but it’s still a pos­si­bil­ity. It’s also be­cause a dog pound is not the best place for any dog to spend time: de­spite the best ef­forts of the staff, dog pounds tend to have a higher in­ci­dence of in­fec­tious dis­eases such as Par­vovirus and Ken­nel Cough.

Any healthy, un­pro­tected an­i­mal that visits a dog pound un­der­goes a sig­nif­i­cant risk that they will end up pick­ing up one of these con­di­tions.

For this rea­son, res­cue groups some­times pre­fer to hold onto stray dogs them­selves, sim­ply phon­ing the dog pound to let them know that the an­i­mal has been found, and that they are car­ing for it.

This en­sures that if some­one has lost their dog, and they con­tact the pound, they will still be in­formed of the dog’s where­abouts. In such cases, the dog res­cue group of­ten re­homes the dog if it’s not claimed, but it will not become the le­gal prop­erty of a new per­son un­til a full year has passed, so there is still a risk that the orig­i­nal owner may turn up to claim them.

At our vet clinic, we are of­ten asked to hold onto stray dogs un­til their owner (hope­fully) turns up, but we can’t do this: we are obliged to stick strictly to the law, which means pass­ing such an­i­mals on to the cus­tody of the dog war­den.

Cats are more com­pli­cated: there are no cat war­dens, and no cat pounds: if a cat is mi­crochipped, it can eas­ily be re­turned to its owner, but oth­er­wise, it’s a case of try­ing via so­cial me­dia to find the orig­i­nal owner, and noth­ing more can be done. Many cats never find their own­ers.

Af­ter read­ing this ar­ti­cle, you’ll re­alise that the an­swer to the prob­lem of lost and found pets is very sim­ple: they should all be mi­crochipped. When that’s been done, the an­i­mal ef­fec­tively car­ries a per­sonal ID card wher­ever it goes, so it can never be lost. Mi­crochip­ping is com­pul­sory in dogs, but some peo­ple still evade the law, caus­ing un­nec­es­sary prob­lems for their pets and for other peo­ple.

If you care about your dog or cat, make sure they’re mi­crochipped.

Unchipped stray and wan­der­ing dogs of­ten end up in dog pounds.

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