Approximately 4 million dogs go missing in the United States each year, and anyone who’s lost a pet will tell you it’s a terrifying feeling. While no one wants to believe this can happen to them, on National Lost Dog Awareness Day (April 23), we’re reminded of the precautionary steps you can take in case your beloved pup does disappear.
One of the most important things you can do is have your dog microchipped, then enroll the ID number and your contact information with a pet-recovery database. Charity Parker, a breeder of Labrador Retrievers who lives in Alabama, microchips all of the dogs she breeds through AKC Reunite, the largest not-for-profit pet ID and recovery service in North America. In early spring 2017, she convinced her roommate to have her Yorkshire Terrier, Sven, chipped “just in case.”
One day, when the dog was outside, he got away. Parker and her roommate immediately feared the worst, and spent weeks and weeks canvassing the area, talking to neighbors, and posting online. Eight months later, a veterinarian, located approximately 800 miles away in Fort Myers, Fla., called Parker with the news that Sven had been found and scanned for a microchip. He was reunited with his owner the very next day.
“I would hear stories of pets being reunited with their families after a crazy amount of time, all because of their microchip, and I would think, ‘That is never going to happen to me,'” says Parker. “What we went through made me a believer that microchips are a lifesaver.”
Little Sven. Photo courtesy of Charity Parker.
According to veterinarian Dr. Lucas White, DVM, of Sunset Veterinary Clinic, in Edmond, Okla., it is the first thing he looks for when a client brings in a pet she’s found. “Most shelters and veterinarians have a scanner that picks up a signal from the chip that brings up a unique ID number for your pet,” says Dr. White.
Tom Sharp, president and CEO of AKC Reunite, explains that the procedure to insert a microchip — which is performed by a veterinarian — can be done on a pet of any age. And while some owners may question the need to microchip their dogs, especially if they already wear collars with tags, Sharp stresses that a collar tag isn’t enough. “Even if your dog’s collar breaks, the tag falls off or becomes illegible, a microchip will permanently identify your pet to help him get back to you if ever lost or stolen.”
AKC Reunite also offers a proactive Lost Pet Alert that sends a blast out to shelters, veterinarians, and pet lovers in your area should your dog go missing. “Enrollment is open for all dogs, with or without a microchip,” says Sharp.
Kathy Pobloskie, co-founder of Lost Dogs of America — which established National Lost Dog Awareness Day — shares that the lost-and-found section on Craigslist is another great tool, especially for people who may not use social media. “It’s one of the first places a person who has found a dog will go to find a lost listing,” she says.
Helping Lost Pets is another outlet that can aid in the search. The free website allows users to post either a missing or found pet, and alerts organization members in that specific area. Helping Lost Pets partners with many volunteer groups across the country that share listings on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. You should also check with local animal control centers or humane societies if you’ve lost a dog or found one.
If your canine companion is not yet microchipped, do it in honor of National Lost Dog Awareness Day. It could make all the difference.