DETROIT – Each year, animal shelters around the country take in thousands of stray cats and dogs. Sadly, only a small percentage of these animals are able to be reunited with their owners. Here are a few tips to ensure that your pet doesn't end up as an unidentified animal in a shelter.
1. Collar and Identification Tag
Be sure that your dog or cat always wears a non-choke type collar, an identification tag with your current phone number and address and a license from your municipality. If you move or change your phone number, make sure that you get your pet a new tag with updated information. You can purchase a collar and tag at local pet stores, or check out the many options that are available online – there are stylish collars and tags to suit any pet that double as a fashion accessory in addition to a safety tool!
In addition to visible identification tags affixed to a dog or cat's collar, the Michigan Humane Society recommends microchipping - a permanent, effective and unalterable form of identification. Microchipping is not a replacement for tags, which are your pet's first line of defense. However, since ID tags and collars can fall off - or be taken off - the modest cost of having your pet microchipped is well worth the peace of mind.
Learn more about microchipping here.
3. Keep Your Dog on a Leash or in a Fenced Area Safety first! Even if you think you trust your dog, dogs are dogs and are never 100% reliable. A squirrel, another dog, something could distract him and all it takes is a minute for him to get out of sight, or worse. In addition to keeping your dog on leash being the law in most cities and locations, it is the best way to keep your pet safe. Don't let your dog roam around off-leash and unattended and keep him on a leash when you are out and about.
4. Keep Your Cat Indoors
The best way to keep your house cat safe and ensure they will not be lost is to not let them roam outside. Keep an eye on doors and windows and be aware of where your cat is - if they haven't been in sight for a few hours, consider the fact that they may have slipped outside. If your cat wants to spend time outside, consider taking them out on a harness and leash so you can supervise. Only 1% of stray cats at MHS are claimed by an owner, so vigilance with cats is extra important especially if you ever consider letting them outside.
5. Teach a Reliable Recall Command
A door is left open, the leash breaks, the gate on the fence you thought was closed isn't... there are many reasons why a dog might "get out" of a safe and enclosed area by accident, even when management systems are in place. Have a "backup system" in place by teaching a reliable "recall" command so your dog will always come back to you! The best way to get your pet to come when you call him is to always "pay" him for his efforts. Call him out from wherever you don’t want him to be, give him a tasty snack or a thrilling, appropriate play toy. You simply want to say: “Oops! Don’t do that, come here - very good - and do this instead. It’s much more fun!”
Check out this video by MHS behavior expert CJ Bentley for advice on teaching the perfect recall: