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Take Measures Now To Prevent Lost Pets
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Losing a pet can be traumatic for everyone involved, but owners can take steps to increase the chances their pet won't get away and that if it does, it will be returned.
Dr. Fred Lehman, Extension veterinarian with Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said preventing a pet from getting away is the first line of defense.
"We recommend a fenced yard of adequate dimensions to prevent your pets from escaping," Lehman said. "If no other options are available, use a good collar and a proper length chain to restrain the pet."
Lehman said stray pets are more likely to be picked up or noticed if they are wearing a collar. Without a collar, the pet many times receives no help.
A newer method of pet restraint is an electronic security system. This works by burying electronic wires around the perimeter of the area the dog is to be confined in. The dog wears a special collar that provides a negative stimulus is the animal crosses the line.
This method is not foolproof, as power outages make the system fail. Some dogs also learn that once they cross the line the negative sensation ends, but most owners find the system to be an effective way to confine dogs.
"But even with a means to contain the pet, each animal should wear a form of identification to protect them if they are lost," Lehman said.
The most common identifier is the serial number on the animal's rabies vaccination tag. This tag also carries the veterinarian's phone number, and the veterinarian can trace the lost pet's owner by looking up the serial number.
Some owner's choose to hang a medallion on the collar or attach a plate to the collar that provides the owners name and phone number. Other collars can be ordered with similar information woven into the fabric.
Tattooing and electronic identification offer permanent means of identifying a pet. Tattoos usually are placed either in the ear or groin area and can contain short messages such as a traceable serial number or phone number. Tattooing must be done in a veterinarian's office under sedation.
"Tattooing is recommended particularly for those dogs that are at a high risk of being lost, such as hunting dogs," Lehman said. "Some owners have the procedure done when the animal is in the veterinary office for other surgery. Tattooing provides proof of ownership, and also can help a person trace an owner if the pet is lost.
Dr. Cory Langston, head of community practice at MSU's veterinary college, said electronic identification requires a small chip be injected under the animal's skin between the shoulder blades. The process requires no anesthesia and is used for dogs, cats, horses, birds and more.
"The owners send in the registration to the company providing the chip, and the company keeps a record of the pet and the owners," Langston said. "It's becoming more routine for animal shelters and animal control officers to have the scanner that is needed to detect this electronic identifier."
Currently, only a serial number is placed on the chip, but this number is unique to the chip so the animal can be traced effectively. Fees associated with this method are the minimal cost of injection and the registration fee. One common brand charges $15 to register one pet and $40 for up to eight pets.
But sometimes pets are lost despite an owner's best efforts. When that happens, try to identify the area where the pet was lost. Provide the pet's name, description and owner's phone number to people in that area, as well as to animal control officers. Posting signs, offering rewards and placing notices in the newspaper all can help a pet and owner be reunited.
Contact: Dr. Fred Lehman, (662) 325-0655