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Keeping pets identified

"Badges, we don't need no stinking badges."

Just how important is pet identification? Too many pet owners subscribe to that "Badges" quote from "Blazing Saddles."

In 2009, 622 stray, lost or abandoned pets came through our doors at the Detroit Lakes and surrounding communities city animal impound. The numbers would be much higher if we had the capacity to accept every animal that citizens report.

Only 109 or 17.5 percent of those animals were claimed. The simple acts of attaching an identification tag, or having a microchip implanted would dramatically change those numbers.

Here are some of the ways to provide identification for your pet:

• ID Tag -- A collar tag that contains your name and phone number. It's nice to list your animal's name, but if your pet is lost or in the city impound, the pound needs your name and phone number. This offers the quickest way for you to be contacted.

• Microchip -- This is a small electronic chip implanted under the skin between the shoulders. A scanner passed over the shoulders of the pet will read and display the chip number plus a telephone contact number for the microchip registry office. Most animal rescues programs and impounds have scanners.

All animals brought in through our city impound are scanned. If a number comes up, kennel personnel will call the contact number for the owner's (your) information. You can then be contacted, assuming you have kept your contact information currant.

• Rabies Tag -- This collar tag gives the agency who finds your pet an identification number and the name and phone number of the vet clinic that vaccinated the animal. The clinic can be called during business hours for your contact information.

• City License -- This collar tag works similar to the rabies tag. It is useful during hours that city hall is open and someone can look up your information for the agency or rescue that has your pet.

• Tattoo -- One of the oldest forms of identification, tattoo numbers are of little value in locating you. Tattoos link individual animals to registration or other paperwork. However, there are no listings or call numbers to trace tattoos.

• GPS -- Collars and microchips can contain a GPS chip for tracking purposes. These are still in the research and development stage. These units will be easily tracked by the owner or manufacturer/agent and will also contain contact information for use by impound and rescue personnel.

Please remember that anything attached to a collar can be separated from the collar, or the entire collar can be lost. The inserted microchip is the most reliable long-term identification. If you choose to use this form of identification, choose a company that offers a permanent registration for your initial registration fee. Some companies require an annual payment or they will refuse to release your contact information to animal shelters.

Also remember that collars and tags do not help us if they are not on the dog. Too many folks start out with good intentions in ordering ID tags, but fail to get them attached to the collar. We have had owners come to the kennel with a brand new collar and shiny tags that just "haven't had time to put it on the dog." Best laid plans....

So what should you do if your pet goes missing?

• Be prepared and be proactive. In your file with your pet's medical records, keep several current color photos of your pet. If you have your pet's coat cut regularly, have photos showing both the fresh cut and the grown out coat.

• Know your pet's current weight. Record any peculiarities about your pet that might aid in identification.

• With this information make phone calls. Call your local animal city impounds, shelters and humane societies. Give them your pet's information. Visit these places and give them a copy of a photo or photos of your pet. Ask to look at any animals that sound close in description to your missing pet. heck back every three to four days as some shelters will euthanize pets that have not been claimed within five days.

• Contact local law enforcement/public works agencies that are in charge of animal control as they often receive reports of animals at large, but aren't always able to capture them.

• Contact radio/TV stations that offer Pet Patrol or similar broadcasts.

• Get out and look. Check places that you and your pet have visited or places you know your pet has frequented in the past.

Check with service people (garbage haulers, paper deliveries, meter readers) who frequent the last known area your pet was seen in.

• Print and distribute posters with a clear, current photo of your pet. Consider offering a reward for information leading to the return of your pet.

Prevention is always preferred to cure. A spayed or neutered pet has one less reason to wonder off in search of, well you know. A good fence keeps your dog in and others out of your yard. Where fences aren't possible, trolley style tie outs or exercise kennels are possible options.

Whatever you choose, please, please make sure your pet is not allowed out the door without proper identification.

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