By: Leann Quire, Director of Shelter Operations for Humane Pennsylvania 

If you ever had a pet go missing, for any length of time, you know how terrifying and stressful it can be.

The fear of never seeing them again sets in immediately. Or if they end up hours away – how will someone get in contact with you? What if they’re hurt and need help?

The thoughts, concerns, and anxieties can go on and on until your beloved pet is back in your care, safe and sound.

July is National Pet Loss Prevention Month, which is intended to bring awareness to the many animals that go missing every year. Animals are family – and they deserve to stay safe in their homes, by their owner’s side.

To help ensure your animals remain safe by your side, we are going to discuss some helpful pet loss prevention tips.

Microchip

What is a microchip? A microchip is a tiny radio-frequency identifier that is inserted under your pet’s skin, typically between the shoulder blades.

The chip has a unique identification number that appears when it’s scanned with an appropriate device (typically found at shelters and veterinary hospitals). Some police officers even carry microchip scanners now so they can immediately scan stray animals to see if they can get them back to their owners quickly.

If your dog or cat is not already microchipped, talk to your veterinarian about setting up an appointment. Many shelters and rescue groups hold vaccine and microchip clinics, some of which you don’t even need an appointment to attend.

Throughout the year, Humane Pennsylvania offers pay-what-you-can vaccine and microchip clinics. You can find upcoming dates by going to humanepa.org.

Register and update the chip! Many people who have had their pet microchipped make the mistake of not keeping their information updated or even checking to make sure their pet’s microchip is registered. Contact your microchip company regularly to update addresses, phone numbers, and alternate contacts.

Not sure if your pet is microchipped? Many shelters and veterinarians will scan your pet at no cost. Call those in your local area to find one that can help.

Once you receive a microchip number, you can use AAHA’s microchip lookup at https://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/ to determine whether the microchipped is registered, what company your pet’s chip is registered through, and how you can update necessary info. You can also find out how to get your pet’s chip registered if it isn’t already.

Report a Lost or Found Animal

If you find a lost pet, there are some important things you should do to play your part in helping that animal get back to its owner.

  • Check with neighbors to see if anyone recognizes the pet.
  • Take the animal to a local shelter or veterinary hospital to get scanned for a microchip.
  • Call your local shelter to complete a found report or to see if they have any lost reports that match the description of the pet you found.
  • Post to Facebook groups and websites created for helping owners find their lost pets.
  • If you are unable to keep the pet safe while you try to find the owner, call the municipality where you found the pet and see who they contract with to advise you on where to take the pet to safely stay while the owner is located.

Spay and Neuter

Spay and neuter isn’t just important for controlling the pet population; it can also prevent animals from going astray. Intact males are highly driven to roam and find a mate, so they are more likely to find ways out of the home.

Supervise

Don’t leave your pets unsupervised. Even in a fenced yard or enclosure, you should always be with your pet in case they find a faulty fence post, are a master digger, or have perfected the art of fence climbing.

Collars, Harnesses, and Leashes

Make sure your dog wears an appropriate fitted collar or harness. You don’t want to find out the hard way that the collar was too big and your beloved pet slipped out of it while trying to chase a bicycle or squirrel.

Use the “two-finger” rule to check for a proper fit by sliding two fingers between your dog’s neck and collar to make sure the collar is not too snug or too loose. You should not be able to pull the collar up and over the dog’s head.

Remember that dogs grow, lose weight, and gain weight just like people do, so it is important to frequently check how your dog’s collar fits and also that it is in good condition.

Harnesses are also great options for smaller breeds and brachycephalic breeds (short nose dogs like pugs and bulldogs) with delicate windpipes. Harnesses can discourage pulling, provide you with better control, and prevent injury to the neck area.

There are many different kinds of harnesses, so do your research or work with a professional to identify which harness is best for you and your dog.

Retractable leashes are generally not safe and are not recommended. Retractable style leashes provide little control and often extend very far, which can be dangerous if you and your dog are walking near roads or encounter other animals that are not pet-friendly.

Additionally, the cord used in these leashes is not durable and can snap or easily tangle around the walker or dog and cause serious injury.

Talk to your veterinarian or trainer before making the decision to purchase a retractable leash.

Proper Identification

Not only should your pet have properly fitted collars and harnesses, but they should also have proper identification if they happen to get loose.

An identification tag with your pet’s name, along with your phone number and city, can increase the chances of you reuniting with your pet.

Having your pet’s current rabies tag, license tag, microchip tag, and identification tag on their collar is beneficial and increases the chance of your furry friend getting back home.

We hope you never have to experience the terrible stress of having a pet go missing, but hopefully, following these tips will result in a quick, healthy, and happy reunion!

 

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Today we celebrate Lauren Henderson, our Director of Development, who continuously perseveres and exceeds our expectations! Lauren truly puts the “L” in building the best community anywhere to be an animal or animal caretaker, and we are so happy to have her on our team! Learn more about Lauren and some of the fantastic things she’s done since her time with Humane Pennsylvania!

What do you love most about working for Humane Pennsylvania?
I genuinely enjoy connecting people to our organization, whether by attending an event or having their business partner with us for a fundraiser. It’s so lovely to see people really embrace our mission and have an understanding of what Humane Pennsylvania is all about.

What do you see as your most significant accomplishment since your start with Humane Pennsylvania?
My biggest accomplishment has been my ability to continue to grow and learn within the organization. When I started here five years ago, I was the Events/Donor Relations Manager. Now, to be Director of Development is very exciting and rewarding for my career.

What is one of your favorite Humane Pennsylvania memories from the past year?
A couple of months into the pandemic, we started selling mystery boxes to boost the Humane PA’s income. My coworker Chelsea and I would come into the office (with masks on, of course) for a few hours a day and stuff hundreds of boxes! It was a lot of work, but seeing the support still coming in was fantastic, and hanging out with Chelsea is pretty great too.

What part of your position do you enjoy most?
I love forming relationships with the donors and corporations I work with to become as passionate about supporting the animals we serve as we are.

What is one fun fact about you that we might not already know?
I am a HUGE Philadelphia sports fan; I love the Sixers, Phillies, Eagles & Flyers!

Thank you, Lauren, for all you do for Humane Pennsylvania and the animals in our care!

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In light of Pet Fire Safety Day, which takes place on July 15th this year, we took time to chat with Andy Gudinas – Berks County Suppression Instructor, Lieutenant and Paramedic, Samantha Kaag – Berks County EMT and Firefighter, and Chad Moyer – West Reading Fire Chief, about the different ways we can ensure the safety of our pets before and during a fire!

What are some common ways pets can start a fire?

Andy Gudinas (A.G.): Most common are kitchen fires, whether by bumping the knobs for the burners or knocking something onto the stove.

Samantha Kaag & Chad Moyer (S.K./C.M.): Stoves are the number one cause of fires by pets. Electrical cords are also a hazard because dogs, cats, mice, bunnies will sometimes chew on them. Unattended lit candles are not only dangerous on their own but can be easily knocked over by pets.

How can I prevent my pet from starting a fire?

A.G.: Prevention is not so easy when animals have free reign. Keeping them out of the kitchen unattended is best practice.

S.K./C.M.: You can remove stove knobs or use stove knob covers, block off access to the kitchen, and never leave an active stovetop or a lit candle unattended. Also, DO NOT leave food boxes, bags, or anything your pet may want to jump up to get in, on top of the stove. Keep pet-designated food/water bowls away from risky areas. Hide your plugged-in electrical cords appropriately and check on your pets (especially smaller ones), periodically, when left to roam.

What should I do with my pets during a fire?

A.G.: You would be surprised; the pets usually have a natural instinct to flee when there is a fire. A lot of the time the pets beat the humans out of the house.

S.K./C.M.: Try to evacuate the house with them; this can be made easier by keeping leashes and crates near an exit and having an escape plan in which someone is designated to grab the animal, if able to do so safely. If you cannot secure them get out and stay out.

What if I can’t take my pet with me when I escape from the fire?

A.G.: If you can’t get them out, DO NOT go back in to get them. Let the arriving responders know the last known location and a description of the animal.

S.K./C.M.: You should get yourself to safety and let the dispatcher and/or firefighters know that there are pets inside, upon arrival, and tell them about any potential hiding spots your pets may run to. When you get out, stay out, leave it to the firefighters on the scene.

How can I prepare myself, my family and my pet for a fire (in general)?

A.G.: Practice fire drills and establish escape routes. Designate a meeting place. If you do this often, it becomes muscle memory for your pet. Positive reinforcement is key. Lastly, post pet finders on or near the front door — they let responders know to keep pets in mind while performing primary and secondary searches.

S.K./C.M.: You can prepare by having a fire plan in place for your family that includes your pets; having a plan for a fire is important for any family to practice. There are also stickers you can put on your doors and windows to alert firefighters that there are pets inside.

In one year, there are nearly 360,000 house fires; pets cause over 1,000 of them. Unfortunately, almost 40,000 pets do not survive because of fires each year.* Awareness and having a fire plan can save the lives of not only you but your loved ones and your pets as well.

*These statistics were provided by Samantha Kaag, Berks County EMT and Firefighter.
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