License and Identification Please…

One way to spoil your dog is to regularly treat her to a new collar. While you’re pampering her with a new accessory, check to ensure that her license is up to date, that her identification tag bears current, readable information, and that both are securely attached to her new collar. The ID tag should state her name, your telephone number and residential city and, if possible, the word “reward.”


According to the Humane Society of the United States, about four million dogs end up in animal shelters each year. Not all of them are strays. Because so many owners are lax about their pet’s identification, only about 30 percent of these dogs are ever reunited with their distressed families.

A Ticket Home

“An ID tag is a lost pet’s ticket home,” says Nancy Peterson, Issues Specialist for the Humane Society of the United States. “I repeatedly hear the lament that owners take off their pet’s fancy collar for a bath and forget to put it back on.” Peterson suggests that pet owners make it a habit to replace the smart collar with an old one that also has proper ID before they put their pet in the tub. “This way, your dog will never be without proper identification.”

While lots of pets go missing during natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the majority get separated from their loved ones under very normal everyday circumstances. Your dog will be the first to discover when there is a hole in the fence or whether a workman has left the gate open. Dogs are also attracted to other dogs in the neighborhood that are in heat and will look for any escape mechanism to pursue that amorous adventure, including digging a hole under the fence. And don’t overlook the fact that an indoor pet can escape or fall out of an unscreened open window!

Proper identification is even more crucial if your pal has a busy social life and accompanies you everywhere you go, including family vacation destinations.

Adding a Microchip

Even a collar with a proper tag is not foolproof; it can fall off or even be deliberatively removed. That’s why it’s an excellent idea to have your pet microchipped as a back up. The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice. It’s painlessly injected into the back of your dog’s neck and lasts a lifetime. Think of it as adding a second security lock to your front door.

Fortunately, these days many animal shelters and veterinary offices routinely scan in-coming pets for identification. There are many success stories where microchipped pets have been picked up in another part of the country and reunited with their overjoyed families even a decade after they went missing.

If you like to take your dog for walks at night, you might also consider putting a LED-flashing device on her collar to help locate her in the dark. Some offer visibility up to half a mile. The latest GPS technology is another way of keeping track of her at all times. There are also several efficient 24-hour lost-and-found help lines that you can subscribe to.

Think “Lost” Not “Stray”

“When you see a dog on the street, think lost and not stray,” says pet detective Kat Albrecht, founder of Missing Pet Partnership, an organization that searches for lost pets nationally. “People assume that a dog roaming without a collar is homeless. And if that dog is scared or cowering, rescuers automatically assume its former owner has abused it. So instead of looking for the owner, they take the dog in or immediately work to place her in a new home,” explains Albrecht.

Know Your Dog’s Temperament

Your dog’s temperament is one of the biggest determinants regarding how she may get lost and what distance she’s likely to travel. If she’s friendly, chances are she will go the first person that calls her, and she’ll never wander too far from home. Because of her sociable nature, her rescuer may want to adopt her rather than take her to a shelter.

Dogs with an aloof disposition are wary of strangers and, out of their home environment, will initially avoid human contact. If your pet has this kind of temperament, she may not be recovered for weeks, even months. Because an animal’s physical appearance deteriorates while living on the streets, strangers may view her as a homeless stray. It’s sometimes difficult to capture a mistrustful dog without a bated humane trap or professional help from a pet detective.

If your dog panics easily, then a loud noise like fireworks is enough to make her bolt and run for miles. Consequently, skittish dogs are always at greater risk of being involved in traffic accidents. Because she gets into a state, she may even run away from you when you try to capture her.

Only in the movies do dogs like Lassie always return home. So if your pet does go missing, it will take more than a couple of posters tacked to telephone poles to bring her back safely. Begin searching sooner rather than later and literally leave no stone unturned, especially if you live near a green belt or in the countryside.

It’s a good idea to ask your local animal shelter if they have a volunteer squad that, for a nominal donation, will assist with the search. Even if the search entails knocking on doors of not-so-friendly neighbors, do it for your pet’s sake! Pet detectives like Albrecht say the biggest mistake many people make is giving up the search too soon –so be prepared to search for weeks, even months. Most importantly, remember this: with proper identification, your lost pet stands a much better chance of a joyful homecoming.


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