I sometimes am reluctant to seem like a meddler when it comes to my friends and family and their pets. But after this Sunday, I feel like I would be doing a grave disservice to my loved ones and their loved ones, by not passing on the benefits of my sad experiences via volunteering with lost pet organizations.
These things should be non-negotiable as a pet parent:
- ID tags on all pets, at all times. Accidents do happen. They are called “accidents” because they are not planned…you can never predict an accident. So to protect your pet in the event of an accidental parting of ways, for God’s sake, do the least a person can do – put an ID TAG ON THEM with your current contact information. Microchips are great if your dog gets picked up by animal control or someone who knows/cares enough to have them scanned. BUT, as a volunteer with the Lost Dogs Arizona, I have seen firsthand finders of pets that are reluctant to be troubled with scanning – if the dog is cute, and they want them, it’s easy for them to ignore or “forget” to scan. An ID tag says in no uncertain terms: “This pet is loved and has a family that will miss them if lost. CALL ME!”
- If you microchip, for criminy’s sake, take the next step and register your contact info with the chip manufacturer! A chip is USELESS without this information. Keep the chip information updated when you move.
- LICENSE YOUR DOG. It’s actually the law. It’s not optional, and guess what? If you properly license your pet and keep the license updated, your dog will most likely not even spend ONE MINUTE in a county kennel – you will get a call, and your dog will get delivered right to your doorstep! How’s that for a win-win?
- If you dog gets loose, CHECK THE SHELTERS IMMEDIATELY AND OFTEN. Check ALL OF THE SHELTERS IN YOUR CITY, not just the one closest to you. You can’t guarantee which side of town your dog will be found or impounded. Shelters (in our city, anyway) do not share information between them. If you go looking for your dog at the East side shelter, they will not have access to information on dogs taken in at the West side shelter – you have to go there too. Why?
- Because, if you don’t, your dog will probably die.
Which brings me to the thing that motivated me to write this post in the first place. On Sunday morning, I posted a link to the Lost Dogs Arizona Facebook page as a courtesy to followers searching for their lost dog, to Amanda Chilcher’s weekly photos of dogs at the East Side shelter. Amanda does this as a courtesy. She is a volunteer at the shelter, and each Saturday she photographs each and every dog and posts the photos via her Examiner page, in the hope that some will find their families, some might get adopted, or otherwise be saved somehow. I posted the link, and then browsed through them.
I saw one dog that seemed familiar, so I went through our Lost Dog postings and found a potential match. I emailed the owner. The owner emailed back, after I’d left the computer, so I didn’t see it until hours later. “Where is the shelter?” she asked. Her dog had been missing for just over three days on Sunday. I felt my heart go into my toes. I couldn’t believe she hadn’t already been to the shelters to look for her dog – we implore all of our lost dog owners to go to both county shelters immediately and often. Then I saw second email from her, sent a little while after the first response. All it said was, “Yes, that was our dog. They told us she was already put to sleep.”
The stray hold in Arizona is only 72 hours. Her dog was held for 72 hours, and the morning after her stray hold was up, she was killed, because she did not get along with other dogs, thereby making her unadoptable, and given the overcrowding at the shelter, that is a death sentence. Her owners got to the shelter not more than hour after she had been killed.
I don’t want anyone to suffer this, least of all the innocent pets we take responsibility for. Should the stray hold be longer? I think so. Should the shelter do more for these animals? I’m not sure. City Pounds were never meant to be rescues or sanctuaries. They began as waystations for animals that got lost and needed to be reunited with their owners. Nowadays, we expect so much from our shelters, and overburden them with humans’ poor decisions and ruthless irresponsibility.
As pet parents, we are the ones that accepted the responsibility for the lives of these animals. If we can’t give them the basic protections, we shouldn’t bring them into our lives in the first place. It’s a brutal world that we live in nowadays, and we have got to be realistic about their chances alone in it.