I just renewed my annual membership for our foxhound, Bella, in the HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service. I debated whether or not to spend the $19.99 membership fee. If I hadn’t renewed the membership, Bella’s microchip number and our contact information would remain in the HomeAgain Recovery Database. I could still access that database to update contact information. And if Bella ever did get lost and was taken to an animal hospital or shelter, they could scan for the microchip, read its unique code, and reach out to HomeAgain to retrieve our contact information.

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So why pay a membership fee?

As a HomeAgain member, I get much more support from the company. If Bella should ever get lost, HomeAgain will send out lost pet alerts to veterinarians, shelters, and Volunteer Pet Rescuers in the area where Bella was last seen. As a Volunteer Pet Rescuer, I get these email alerts all the time. They include a photo of the missing pet, the exact location where he/she was last seen, and a lost pet flyer with the pet’s photo and contact information.

These emails blasts to Volunteer Pet Rescuers offer action steps such as posting the flyer in the neighborhood and alerting neighbors to be on the lookout for the missing pet. There’s also a list of tips on what to do if you find the missing pet. For example, if the pet is friendly, HomeAgain suggests taking him/her to a local veterinarian or shelter to be scanned. If you are unable to approach the pet, the advice is to call your local animal control officer. If the pet has a collar and tags and is friendly some pet rescuers – like us – might decide to take the animal home while reaching out to the owners. HomeAgain offers a sensible reminder that found pets should be kept separate from other household pets and away from young children, as even the friendliest pet may act out in a strange environment.

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Does microchipping really help in finding a lost pet?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) there are most definitely benefits to microchipping a pet.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association found that of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters, dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned home 52.2% of the time. Cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time. For microchipped animals who were not reunited with their families, most of the time it was due to incorrect owner information (or no owner information) in the microchip registry database. It’s important once your pet is microchipped to go to the microchip website to register your pet and your contact information.

August 15 has been designated Check the Chip Day by the AVMA and the American Animal Hospital Association. This serves as a reminder to pet owners to make sure their pets’ chip information is current.

There are also numerous national free online pet recovery databases that help reunite owners with their pets. One of the largest is Pet FBI (Lost Pets Found by Internet) that had registered more than 70,000 missing pet reports as of January 2016. The Pet FBI lost and found program received an AdWords grant from Google that places it at the top of the search results for “lost and found pets,” which increases the odds of pet owners being reunited with missing pets. This company offers some great tips and backup help for those who have lost a pet, as well those who are looking to reunite stray pets with their families. It also provides information on scam alerts. For example being on the lookout for people claiming to have found your pet and asking money for his/her safe return. For more information, please visit www.petfbi.org.

The American Animal Hospital Association provides a list of participating microchipping and pet recovery programs.

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I know that if Bella ever did escape, she would have that nose to the ground and could be miles from home and lost in no time at all. It gives me great peace of mind to know if that ever happened, we would have the support of HomeAgain and its network of local Volunteer Pet Rescuers to help us find her.  And that’s well worth the membership fee!