A calico cat named Willow was returned to her family in Boulder, Colorado after disappearing five years ago and reappearing 1,800 miles away in Manhattan. In 2006, Willow was accidentally lost to the Squires family during a home renovation. The family who lived in a coyote filled area believed her to have been lost to them. How she made the long journey remains unknown. In September 2011, a man found Willow on East 20th Street in Manhattan and turned her in to local animal shelter. Workers at the shelter were able to scan the microchip imbedded in her and use the information on it and the registration information associated with it to locate and contact her family. After more than 5 years and almost 2,000 miles, Willow was able to return to her home and family.
This touching story however is not a reality for many families that have lost pets. The statistics on lost pets are startling. Every year between 5 and 7 million pets go into animal shelters across the country. Of those about 3-4 million are euthanized. The animal return rates are even more discouraging. Less than 2 percent of cats and 15-20 percent of dogs are returned to the owners. The majority of these returns were made possible by tags, tattoos or microchips. Microchiping a pet substantially increases the likelihood of it being returned to its home and family. Dogs with microchips have a much higher return rate at 52 percent while microchipped cats have a 38 percent rate.
The procedure itself is simple and non-invasive but should always be performed by a trained veterinarian. A small microchip enclosed in a glass cylinder no larger than the size of a grain of rice is inserted into the animal via hypodermic needle into the subcutaneous space between the animals shoulder blades, without the need for surgery or anesthesia. The animal rarely feels any pain or discomfort and the whole experience takes no more than a few seconds.
Having a pet microchipped is not the end of the matter though. A few simple steps are required after the pet is microchipped to ensure its safety and usefulness.
- After having a pet microchiped, ensure that the registration information on the chip is kept current. If you move and change address, ensure that the information registered to the microchip is changed to match the new address. Keeping current tag and microchip information increases the likelihood of return.
- During routine ch
eck-ups, have the veterinarian check the microchip to ensure it has not moved. Though rare, microchip sometimes migrate to other sections of the animal.
- When adopting a new pet, ask whether or not the animal is microchiped. If they aren’t, ask the seller to begin doing so.
- Don’t forget to also maintain current tags and collars on pets. Microchips aid returning the pet if they are lost but not all people know to return found animals to shelters. Keeping current tag and microchip information increased the likelihood of return.
Have your pet microchip and ensure that like Willow he or she can make it back to you safely.