One of the biggest reasons animals die in shelters is because their owners can’t find them.

By: Staff  Date: 01/12/2012 Category: | Rescue | Shelter Issues |

Dogs escape, lose their collars or tags, and often travel far from home on their own or with help, so owners often have no clue where to look. Dogs may wind up in shelters far from home or they may be taken in by Good Samaritans who have no clue about getting the dog back home. But the American Kennel Club has a CAR that can help. It's the latest model complete with 24-hour service, a website, and a hotline, and it's a lifesaver. This CAR is the Companion Animal Recovery program, AKC's partnership with Schering-Plough Animal Health that installs microchips under the skin and enrolls the chip number in a data base, making it possible to identify any animal and many inanimate possessions with an injection and an enrollment fee. Dubbed "Home Again," the microchips are the size of a grain of rice and have an imbedded number unique to each chip. The chips are injected under the skin above the shoulders of the animals by a veterinarian and held in place by a special nontoxic bonding agent. The owner receives a card with the microchip number and a collar tag for each dog. The cost of implant is up to the veterinarian; the cost of enrollment is $12.50 without a discount coupon. CAR will also replace lost collar tags.

Microchips have been available for several years, but until the development of a universal scanner that reads all available chips, many shelters were reluctant to scan incoming pets, offer microchip clinics to the public, or install chips in adopted animals. In addition, stories about the chips moving under the skin after injection were bandied about. Then came two breakthroughs: Schering-Plough and microchip company Destron Fearing introduced a new chip held in place by a bio-glue and in 1996 came up with a universal scanner.

In 1995, AKC became the registrar for the Schering Plough Home Again microchip system. And along with registering animals chipped through the Home Again program, CAR also accepted enrollment of any animal identified with a chip or tattoos. By September 11, 1995, 10,000 animals were enrolled, and the number topped 325,000 by the end of 1998.

Getting scanners in the hands of those who deal with runaway dogs was crucial, so CAR gave them away.

"I am proud to announce that Companion Animal Recovery has spent well over half a million dollars to help provide full-service shelters in America with a universal scanner at no cost to them," said CAR president and chief executive officer Dr. Carmen Battaglia in the foundation's 1998 annual report. CAR has distributed more than 15,000 scanners to veterinarians, shelters, humane societies, and rescue groups, and gives special rates for enrollment of animals chipped at shelters. The foundation also promotes Home Again with discount coupons for enrollment, and special programs for shelters, assistance dogs, and the military.

With these tools, more and more shelters scanned dogs picked up as strays, and the calls poured into the CAR office. The first call for a lost dog came in on June 1, 1995; since then CAR has taken more than 140,000 calls and successfully reunited more than 14,500 pets with their owners - a 100 percent success rate for pets enrolled in the database.

With 268,131 individuals enrolled, dogs are the most common animals in the CAR data base. Cats are next with 56,245. Some of the more unusual animals in the data base are mice (2), kangaroo (1), elk (2), cow (1), and seal (1). There's also a saddle.

The most common lost dog returned home is the Labrador Retriever (2760), followed by Siberian Husky (989), Golden Retriever, (920), German Shepherd Dog (874), and Rottweiler (575). California has had the most recoveries (1969), followed by Arizona (1410), Florida (1186), Texas (1118), and Minnesota (972). Information about the CAR program is on the AKC website (www.akc.org). The recovery hotline is (800) 252-7894. And the found animal e-mail address is found@akc.org.

In the CAR 1998 annual report, Battaglia said that the current pace of development will continue.

"Our goal is to rid the fear from every neighborhood that a lost pet may not return home. I am pleased with our program and its progress. Dramatic results are now beginning to be realized."

What you can do:

  1. Microchip your pets to increase chances you can get them back if they stray.
  2. Take found pets to a veterinarian to be scanned for a chip.
  3. Make sure the local shelter is scanning incoming animals.
  4. Contact CAR to set up a chip clinic at a dog or cat show, community event, or shelter.

About The Author

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All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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