But Willow Could Have Been Home by Dinner
Every 6 months or so a similar story hits the press… Fluffy reunited with his family after 3 years, thanks to his microchip. This time it was Willow. Willow the cat was lost in Boulder, CO, about 5 years ago – and was brought in to New York City Animal Care & Control last week. The staff at NYC AC&C scanned Willow for a microchip, and lo and behold… Willow was found!
Call me cynical, but I do not really find this story heartwarming… Willow escaped the family home when contractors left the door open. The family was frantic and had no idea where poor Willow was for 5 years! They are quoted as noting that there are many coyotes and owls where they live – imagine the horrible nights they must have had, imagining the worst had happened to Willow. The family immediately began the search and even put up posters and posted on craigslist – which is great to hear. But five years passed and they never found Willow. What they did not do, and what they probably thought that they did not need to or even should not do, was put a collar and ID tag on Willow for just the occasion of a door being left open.
I do not blame the family. When we conducted our research around ID tagging, we found that the vast majority of pet parents thought ID tagging was very/extremely important, but only 9% reported that their cats always wore a tag! We know there are myths around cat collars that are proving to be false. But while we have seen the data, the general public has not – and many may see the risk of injury from a collar as much higher than the risk of their cat getting out and lost. In fact, our ID ME research found that one of the top reasons owners had for not putting a collar and tag on their pet was the pet was indoor-only and therefore did not need one.
Stories like Willow’s do show that microchipping can get pets home. It is important to microchip as collars can break and tags can fall off. But microchips can’t be read by the average Joe who might find Willow on the street. ID tags do not require a vet or shelter, can be read immediately and without fancy equipment, and require nothing more than a phone call to the owner to get the pet home.
We can help. We can assure that every cat who leaves our shelter has a collar and tags with the new adopter’s contact info on them. Thanks to PetSmart Charities, we are helping several spay/neuter clinics—those run by Springfield,IL, Animal Protective League, Central Oklahoma Humane Society, Charleston Animal Society, Humane Alliance, EmanciPET, Animal Trustees of Austin and Sacramento SPCA — get collars and ID tags on every owned cat who comes in for service. Our follow-up of these cats is showing that the majority are still wearing the tag and collar after at least 3 months. The more cats we can impact, the more we can get the word out that collars are likely much less of a threat than the threat of your cat getting lost.
While stories like Willow’s capture the press’ eye, we should follow with some great stories of the dogs and cats who do not spend 5 years on the lam, of the dogs and cats who are known to be someone’s loving pet because the ID tag tells the finder so…
Yesterday the New York Times ran a post on their blog highlighting our ID ME research, The Importance of Pet Tagging. Let’s hope that’ll facilitate stories that have quick and positive endings to the one that starts, “He never gets out, but somehow the door was left open…”
Photo: Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press