A properly registered microchip, the size of a grain of rice, can make the difference between quickly reunited pets and owners, a lengthy separation or even complete loss, says The Heritage Humane Society. In 2023, Greater Williamsburg’s largest animal shelter took in 887 lost or missing pets brought in by Animal Control or by good Samaritans. Of that large number, only 211 of those pets were reunited with their owners. A recent reunification that garnered the attention of the community lays out how to get the most out of a microchip so that the only tears are ones of joy.
According to the Animal Humane Society, one in three pets will go missing in their lifetime or the equivalent of 10 million pets each year. In a study published by the Journal of the AVMA, research revealed that only 22 percent of lost dogs entering shelters were returned to their families, but that percentage rose to more than 52 percent when a dog was microchipped.
Even better results were obtained in the feline population. One in 50 cats in animal shelters was returned to their owners, but when microchipped nearly two out of five cats were reunited with their families, the study stated.
Unfortunately, only about six in 10 microchips in pets are registered, an oversight that could prevent lost pets from returning home to their families.
The microchip mystery is solved
Recently, The Heritage Humane Society found itself in a microchip mystery. Two beautiful buff beauties escaped from their cat sitter on the other side of James River before Thanksgiving. Over the following weeks, the two were mysteriously placed in a box with five others and ended up at a neighboring county’s animal shelter.
Following guidelines, that shelter kept the kitties on a ten-day stray/loss hold in case the owners filed a lost pet report. Both cats were microchipped, however, they were not registered meaning the microchips only contained the name of the owner, but no contact information, so the shelter could not reach out. When the ten-day hold was up and no lost pet report filed, by law the two were available to be adopted as they had not been claimed. The shelter, overwhelmed with pets, put out a call to other area shelters, asking if any had space. The Heritage Humane Society answered the call and accepted the transfer of some of their pets including the two cats to help ease their overcrowding.
One cat was placed in foster care with the foster looking to adopt the cat. The other was adopted. The shelter updated the new pet’s microchip as a part of the adoption process and registered the new owners of the cat. What followed was that the previous owner happened to contact the microchip company, which revealed that her cat had been adopted from The Heritage Humane Society. The previous owner took to social media and soon the local pet-loving community began helping her track down the cat. The new owners understood the situation and while they had quickly grown attached, they returned the cat so the previous owner could claim it along with the one in foster care.
How microchips help with the missing
This story is one of a committed animal care community leading to reunification. It is also an opportunity for the shelter to share some helpful tips on microchipping and what to do if a pet goes missing.
Every cat and dog that is adopted out by The Heritage Humane Society comes with a microchip already embedded in them. Through the adoption process, staff go over this with new owners and teach them how to reach the microchip company if they ever move so their contact information can be updated. If a pet does go missing, if it is microchipped with correct information, any person who finds a missing pet can take it to an animal shelter or veterinarian office who can then scan the pet to locate the owner. Regardless, if a pet goes missing, owners are encouraged to file a lost pet report with their local shelter.
For pets not adopted from a shelter or who are not microchipped, it is a simple procedure that can be done by the pet’s veterinarian. Microchips are only effective if they are registered with the owner’s name and contact information; they are not GPS devices that track the pet.
The Heritage Humane Society recommends:
- Have a current picture of the pet.
- Keep contact information for local animal shelters and Animal Control handy such as this Heritage Humane Society contact list.
- Microchip the pet and be sure to register the microchip number with the manufacturer so the pet can be matched with the owner.
- Fit the pet’s collar tight enough so it won’t easily slide over their head and include an identification tag with owner contact information in addition to the rabies tag.
If a pet does go missing, The Heritage Humane Society recommends:
- Submit an online lost pet report with the local shelter and include a recent picture of the pet.
- Post to social media pages. Many areas have set up Facebook pages for local lost pets. Within the Greater Williamsburg area, there is Lost and Found Pets – Williamsburg/Upper YC/JCC/New Kent/Charles City.
- Print flyers and share them with pet-related companies such as pet supply stores, veterinary offices, groomers, local police, and the fire department. Include the pet’s photo and a description that includes breed, age, weight, color, and special identifying characteristics. Also, list contact information and the date and area where the pet was last seen.
- If the pet is microchipped and registered within a database, alert the company that the pet is missing.
- Alert neighbors and residents in the area.
- Once the pet is found, remember to share with others and social media the good news so the search is concluded.
The shelter is filled with homeless pets who are just as eager to have forever homes as the contact information on their microchips. Nearly 170 dogs, cats and small pets are currently in their care. Adoptable pets are available to meet during The Heritage Humane Society’s visiting and adopting hours from 12 to 4:30 p.m., Tues. through Sun.
The Heritage Humane Society welcomes donations including the sponsoring of pet adoption fees like the ones The Wes Strong Foundation provided.
To learn more, visit HeritageHumane.org, call 757-221-0150, or visit The Heritage Humane Society located at 430 Waller Mill Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23185.
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