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Protecting Your Canine Friend

Did a puppy come into your life this year as a Christmas present? Dogs can be a man and/or woman’s best friend and often play an important role as a member of a family.
Whether lost or stolen, losing a pet is a harrowing experience which often leaves owners racked with grief, terror and guilt. You constantly wonder if your dog is safe? is it alive? is it being abused? is it warm and being fed properly? is it being used for research? The questions and the worry haunt you endlessly. There are, however, preventive steps owners can take to help 

protect their beloved canine companions.

• Jot down your pet’s identifying marks, plus its color, breed, and size. Take some good clear photographs of your four-legged friend every few months through at least one year of age, then once a year thereafter. Besides the fact that photos of your puppy will be treasured for many years to come, a current photo of your pet can be very helpful in his safe recovery should he disappear. Remember, black & white photos produce better photocopies than color photos do.

• Be sure to attach identification and license tags on your puppy or dog’s collar or harness. ID tags should include: the word “REWARD” in capital letters on the first line: your address, city and state; your home & work phone numbers; and a friend or relative’s phone number. (Generally, it is recommended that your dog’s name not be included on the ID tag, as it only serves to give a pet thief more control.)

• Have your animal tattooed. A tattoo of an identifying number placed on the inner thigh of your pet can’t get lost and will be difficult to alter. Everybody has heard tales about animals being stolen and sold to research facilities. These aren’t always tales. A buncher is a person, licensed by the Federal government, who can gather dogs and other pets from “random sources” and sell them to Class B licensees, including puppy mills, who then sell your beloved family member to research facilities, other dealers, pet shops, at auctions and to other breeders. Bunchers answer “free to good home” ads in the papers and on community bulletin boards. They can take pets from shelters, and they have been known to gather from the streets, from parked vehicles and even from yards.  In other words, a buncher is someone sanctioned by the Feds to steal and sell stolen pets for profit! They will not try to use dogs that are tattooed because it is illegal for research facilities to use dogs that are so marked.

• Microchipping is yet another step that can be used. A tiny capsule, about the size of a grain of rice, is injected under the flap of skin on the back of a dog’s neck. Veterinarians and shelters are provided with a scanner that reads the digital number on the chip inside the capsule. If your pet is picked up as a stray and he is microchipped, a quick phone call to the microchip company will have your information and your pet will soon be home safe. A microchip is completely permanent, it can not be cut off or altered. If your pet is stolen and sold to a research facility he will be returned. Research facilities will not take any animal that has a microchip implanted.

Contact your veterinarian or local humane shelter for a safe animal tattoo or microchip.

• If you live in town, keep your dog leashed at all times except when safely confined to your fenced-in yard or property or in a safe, enclosed dog run. Never allow your puppy or dog to roam without you.

• Obedience train your dog. A well-trained dog is safer, more responsive and happier.

• Have your dog spayed or neutered to help prevent risky romantic escapades.

• Prepare and keep handy a current list of persons who can help you find a lost or stolen pet. List the phone numbers of local pounds, shelters, and other animal collection centers. Add newspaper offices, radio and TV stations that have lost-and-found departments, as well as police, sheriffs and other officials who might help locate a lost or stolen pet.

Below are ideas that may help you find your dog, if he or she was stolen or picked up by someone who found it wandering.

• Begin the search for your pet immediately. Don’t wait a few days hoping he’ll return on his own. Begin looking for your dog by circling around your block, then gradually widen the circle to include neighboring areas. Be sure to have a friend or family member wait outside your home in case your dog returns to your doorstep. Check all of your dog’s favorite places.

• Call the police or sheriff right away if you know your pet was stolen. They MUST take a report..do not let them refuse to take a stolen pet report.

• Call your local shelters and animal control, and be sure to call any shelter or pound within a 50 mile radius. It is best to visit the shelters yourself, as many shelters are too busy to look for your dog and may miss him or her.

• Put together a clear, bold, easy-to-read "lost dog" flyer. The two- line, bold headline should read: "REWARD: LOST DOG." Use good, clear photos. Note any distinguishing markings or behaviors. DO NOT post how much the reward is. Be sure to note on the flyer if your dog is on any medications or needs regular veterinary care. Be aware of scams!! DO NOT pay anyone for any reason your reward money until you have your dog in your hands!!

• Flyers should be handed out and posted throughout the neighborhood. Also give them to:

  • Schools…ask the principal of any area schools if you can give a flyer to each teacher to show the class. Kids are great at spotting dogs.

  • Delivery people and agencies

  • Gas and propane delivery

  • Postal employees (if you live in town, post one in post office lobbies too, and ask if one can be posted at the time clocks of the employees)

  • UPS and FedEx offices and delivery employees

  • Garbage collectors

  • Meter readers

  • Road crews and construction workers. Tell them that if they find your dog on the road dead, that you need to know about it. Not knowing is the worst part.

• Keep looking for more than a few days. Strays sometimes return to their old neighborhood days or even weeks after you first miss them.

• Don’t give up.

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Date Last Updated January, 2006