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02.12.14

National Pet Theft Awareness (And Valentine’s) Day

In honor of National Pet Theft Awareness Day on February 14th, it is time to start increasing your knowledge of pet theft prevention. Many of us tend to think, “Oh, it will never happen to me,” but thousands of dogs and cats are stolen each year in the United States, and the numbers are only increasing. There is no harm in playing it safe by brushing up on your pet theft prevention tips and tricks. After all, Valentine’s Day is meant to be spent with your loved ones, and pets make for the very best Valentines.

There are many various reasons that pets are stolen around the U.S. “Some pets are stolen due to breed, color and markings, or demeanor,” said Dr. Stacy Eckman, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Many pets also may not be ‘stolen’ but wander off and get lost, and the finders just fail to look for the actual owner.”

Tips to ensure your pet’s safety may seem like common knowledge, but pet theft rates continue to increase rapidly regardless. “Always keep their environment contained, making sure your yard is secure or that you’re walking them on a leash,” said Eckman. “Keeping them marked with proper identification is also helpful, especially when trying to reclaim a pet. This could include collars and tags or even a microchip or tattoo.” A good rule of thumb is to never leave animals unattended or unleashed, always properly identify your pet and keep the info up-to-date, and have a recent photo of your pet to use for identification in the case they do go missing.

Micro chipping your pet is a safety precaution that has become quite popular in recent years. “Microchips are great because they cannot be lost or removed like a collar or tag can be and the information can be changed if you move or change ownership,” said Eckman. “They are also beneficial because most shelters and other animal facilities scan for microchips when an animal is presented to them, making it easier to reunite an owner with their pet, especially after hours and on the weekends.”

Though microchip implantation can be very beneficial, many pet owners have doubts about the safety and comfort of their pet during the procedure as well as in the long term. “As far as the implantation process goes, it can be done at any veterinary visit and uses a needle slightly larger than what is used for a vaccine,” said Eckman. “Many animals don't even notice it being injected, and in the long term do not even know it’s there.”

If you believe that your pet has been stolen, the first step you should take is to call every shelter, veterinary clinic, and law enforcement office in your region. Posting reward posters around your neighborhood or even information over the internet and social media sites can be very helpful too.

It is best to remember that the chances of your pet going missing are the same as everyone else’s; don’t slack off in terms of precaution and awareness. Always keep a close eye on your pet at all times, do not leave them outside unattended, and do not let them roam loose. In honor of National Pet Theft Awareness Day, make sure you keep your fluffy Valentine close by to snuggle up with you and show how much you love them.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.



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