2007-02-14 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

Marmaduke, Shepherd mix Marmaduke, Shepherd mix Mighty microchip: a transponder, tiny as a grain of rice with a longer lifespan than any dog or cat. Implanted between the shoulders, a microchip, though not a GPS, offers another level of ID protection for your pet. That is, if the chip is registered to your name and current address/phone number. So many owners, mostly the puppy mill pet store customers, never do this simple step.

As an intake procedure, municipal shelters, animal hospitals, and humane groups should scan all new pets- dogs and cats. Most microchips are either an AVID nine digit number or a Home Again ten character sequence that begins with a "4". Home Again even provides a clue- a yellow tag with the chip number for the pet to wear on a collar. The appearance of a chip # on a scanner followed by a call to either company's toll free # (AVID: (800)336- 2843 or Home Again (866)738-4324) should be the ticket back home for lost Rover or Fluffy. Even when a chip trace is an unregistered dead end, an astute shelter employee or rescue worker can often back track via several phone calls to the pet's supplier. By asking the right questions, the caller can gather other inferred or concrete information. Here are some examples:

Honey, Korean Jindo Honey, Korean Jindo 1) If not registered, the dog was probably purchased in a pet store. In contrast, anyone that would go to the trouble of having a vet implant a chip will also pay the company's one time $20 registration fee. My tiny Cavalier was chipped during spaying; my Afghan as soon as I adopted her. Meanwhile, pet stores probably give the microchip info. along with the sales receipt but many customers fail to read the brochure or assume that the store has switched the chip for them.

"How much is that doggie in the window?" Your typical pet store customer is an impulse buyer, not an educated consumer. They tend not to do their dog homework: do not research their breed, are unaware or choose to ignore the abuses of puppy mills, and also fall for the expensive faux "designer breed" sales pitch. How someone could pay $1500 for a pet store Bulldog puppy (genetic flaws and all) or a week's salary for a mixed breed doodle dandy and not spend $20 more to register the chip is beyond me.

A few years ago many unregistered chips would go back to 2 Mid West suppliers Hunte Corporation or I Love My Puppy Honey Dew. A cooperative agent might say which local store sold the dog. Then the store usually gave shelters more information. Now unregistered chips are listed by lot numbers. It is a bit harder (or impossible) to locate the store. Also many NYC pet stores import puppies from Eastern Europe implanted with chips at a frequency, not compatible with all American scanners. Recently a Havanese puppy came into a shelter with one of these fuzzy chips. The rescue that took her knows the pup is most likely an import. She also has a serious liver shunt defect.

2) The dog's birthdate- Yes, you can celebrate with a pooch party but this useful information also takes the guess work out of estimating a dog's age. A real birthday enables vets to make informed treatment decisions. The life of a stray is hard so dogs can appear older than they really are- something I call the "Johnny Cash" factor. (He had a face that had lived.)

3) Breed or combo verification- The plethora of designer dogs with a zillion variations on the theme is making it harder to ID dog breeds at shelters. Puggles have already hit the pounds. Combine that with the unkempt look of the shelter waif and you no longer know if you are staring at a Yorkie or a New Yorkie.

Last week Last Hope thought they took a Mini-Poodle (with a bad hairdo) out of a shelter. Someone insisted the dog was a Puli (a Hungarian breed). Though I knew he wasn't, the chip revealed a Cockerpoo rather than a Poodle. I also learned the dog's parents' names on his phony pedigree from an Amish mill.

4) Indicator that the pet has been in the shelter system before-Some shelters like the NYC's CACC, Glen Clove, and Southold are microchipping pets. You must have to re-register a CACC pet. Recently a LI town shelter took in 2 cats allegedly tossed from a car- one had a CACC chip. Presently there is a bill in the NYS Assembly (A0167) that would require the microchipping of all owned dogs and cats with the exception of ferals and fosters.

5) Definitive proof of ownership- Last year a Lab came into a shelter. His "owners" rushed down to redeem him. Turns out the Lab had a chip that traced to someone in the Hamptons who had lost the dog 6 months before. It seems that the new "owners" only had him a few weeks. They had gotten him from a friend who never said he found the dog.

Giant Schnauzer Rescue just had a major recovery based on a chip. A foster dog (originally from Hempstead Shelter) was lost on a Virginia highway when the new owner had a bad car accident. A lady trucker was seen picking the dog up on the median and refused to return the dog. A multi-state TV, police and flyer blitz ensued, staking out the trucker's home in Texas, and finally reclaiming the dog at a convenience store in Florida.

6) A Pup Polygraph- For various reasons, the public is not always honest when turning pets into shelters. Microchips do not lie. "Good Samaritans" recently said they found a "stray" Cocker and kept her over night before bringing her in. The chip said the dog belonged to their former tenant. Coincidence? Nah….

A few years back another couple said they found a Boston Terrier. I scanned him and assured them I'd try to find his owner. True confession time- he belonged to their recently divorced daughter who had returned home with her kids, cats and this dog. The Bostonian now lives in Connecticut. His new owner and I have become good friends.

Oyster Bay Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset still has "Honey" # 0004 the unique young Korean Jindo. She is shy in the kennel but very loving when out of the run. Meanwhile "Marmaduke" #1172 is a big boned Shepherd mix with floppy ears. He's posing in front of the lovely lobby mural created by members of "Mixed Breeds In Need". You have to visit the shelter to get the full artistic effect.

More adoptables: "Penny" #0081- a purebred German Shepherd; a female Peke #0086; "Jingles" #1196- Mr. Congeniality of Pits; "Kitcha" #1182- the black & white cat.

For Adoption: 10 week male Beagle puppy. Prospective homes will be screened. 631-225-0741.

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