gone doggie, gone

Here are some familiar scenarios: The air duct cleaning guys are over working on your house. They leave a door open. You come home to find that Bentley, your cat has escaped and is missing. Your son lets Barkley, the family dog, out to use the bathroom and neglects to put him on the tie-out. Then he gets absorbed in his TV show and forgets to let him back in. By the time he remembers, Barkley has been gone for hours. Or my own dog, George, new to the area and new to deer, rips a hole in the fence and goes on a deer chasing binge through the neighborhood. It happens. They’re gone. What do you do?freedoggie

The first step is to call 911 and tell them you need Mt. Lebanon animal control, and they will take a report. Mt Lebanon is part of the South Hills Cooperative Animal Control. If a lost dog or cat gets picked up, they send out an alert to all the animal hospitals and rescue agencies in the area, post a picture of the animal on the Mt. Lebanon website (mtlebanon.org – look under “living here” and “pet find project”), and keep the animal until it is either returned to its owner or turned over to Animal Friends for adoption.

Next, call your pet’s microchip company and make sure all your contact information is up to date. What is a microchip? This is a little extra insurance to make sure your pet gets returned to you and doesn’t end up in a shelter.

A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is coded with a number that is registered to you through a company. HomeAgain and AVID are the top two major providers. All veterinarians, animal control officers, and shelters have scanners that can pick up and read these chips. All found strays are scanned, and if a chip is present, we can call the company and find out who the pet is registered to. Note: Some companies, like HomeAgain, include registration with the cost of the chip. Other companies have a separate enrollment.

If you adopt a pet from a shelter, it may be microchipped, but you’ll have to register your information with the company. Microchips are not LoJacks. You can’t use them to track down your missing pet (though such devices do exist!) They are simply a piece of non-removable identification for your pet. Cost for a microchip usually runs between $40-75.

Lastly, call all the animal hospitals in your area and the three major shelters in Pittsburgh (Animal Rescue League, Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, and Animal Friends). Continue to call them and send them flyers until your pet is found. Put a posting on craigslist. Put a posting on your Facebook page. Basically, get the word out that your pet is missing.

A final note about collars: For cats, make sure they only wear breakaway collars, in case they get caught on a fence. On the tag, put your cell number, not your home number, since you will likely not be at home but out looking for your missing pet. Rabies tags will trace to your vet hospital, but that only helps if the office is open. And if your pet needs important medication, like insulin or phenobarbital, put that on the collar! Let’s hope your pet never goes missing, but now you’re prepared in case they do!

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