Yesterday, two dogs showed up outside my gate; a beautiful German Shepherd Dog and his buddy, a Golden Retriever mix. Both dogs were well cared for and looked like well-loved pets but neither had a collar and tag. Someone was missing their dogs but, without a tag, I couldn’t contact them.
The dogs had continued on their way before I could leash them, but I did call animal control. Hopefully the dogs are microchipped and animal control can catch them before they get injured or worse.
I consider several items vital gear for my pets and identification is the number one thing. I use collar tags and microchips. Collar tags can be read by anyone and microchips that can be scanned by veterinarians or animal control are the back-up in case a collar is removed. My pets wear a collar all the time and all my dogs are comfortable on a leash.
The County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, who was incredibly busy a few weeks ago with the latest round of evacuations due to wildfires, recommends that every animal – pet or livestock – be identified in some way. Horses, donkeys, mules, llamas, and goats, for example, can have an identification tag on their halter. Cats can have a microchip and a tag on the collar. Their recommendations for dogs include a microchip, a dog license, a collar tag, and/or a collar with embroidered or engraved information.
People vary as to what information they like to put on tags; some people put their address and all of their phone numbers. I don’t like giving out my address, so I just put the pet’s name and my phone number. It’s my cell number and I carry my phone everywhere so I am easily reached; even when traveling.
In addition, my dogs, cat, and tortoises are all microchipped. The microchip is a tiny electronic device the size of a grain of rice. It is inserted by a veterinarian using a large needle and, for dogs and cats, is placed under the skin between the shoulder blades. For my tortoises, it was placed in the loose skin on the side of the neck.
For a microchip to serve its purpose, it must be registered with one of the microchip registries. I suggest you ask your veterinarian and local animal control which registries they check. Two commonly used registries include the American Kennel Club’s AKC Reunite program and Found Animals’ free registry. Don’t forget to update your information should you change phone numbers or move.
Collars are Controversial
Most disaster preparedness programs recommend that dogs and cats wear collars. This makes sense as the collar can have an attached tag or can have embroidered or engraved information. The collar also makes it easier to control the animal in an emergency.
Collars can pose safety issues however. A collar that gets hung up on a fence or tree can strangle the pet.
I compromise. I like my cat and dogs to wear collars with identification, so I have them wear collars loose enough to slip off should it get caught. I also use the ones with plastic quick release buckles. I do teach the dogs to respect the collars even when they are loose. They are not allowed to back out of a loose collar when we’re walking or when they are being handled.
Leashes Here and Leashes There
Leashes and good leash skills are important for both daily life and in an emergency. I have leashes in both cars and in the RV. I have leashes in the garage and in the house. I have leashes everywhere. Why? Because I never know when one will be needed.
Daily life with dogs requires leashes. Plus, having been evacuated for Southern California wildfires, for hurricanes in New England, and having hunkered down for ice storms and blizzards in Virginia; I know leashes are always necessary.
Make sure your dog has good leash skills. He shouldn’t pull every time he’s on the leash and he should walk nicely even if someone else has the other end of his leash.
My dogs are very well trained and all three will respond quickly even without a leash, but I don’t trust that response in an emergency and neither should you. Many a well-trained dog has dashed away when faced with extreme danger.
What is Your Vital Pet Gear?
What do you consider vital to life with your pet? What do you need in daily life and what do you consider vital should there be an emergency? Obviously food, water, bowls, and medication, are important.
Last, but not least, take some good clear photos of your pet with your phone and save them. A head shot face on, a profile head shot, and a full body photo can all help identify your pet should he become lost. You can also use them on flyers to post in the neighborhood.