Lost and found goes high-tech, saving more pets
Special to the Tribune
More than 30 years ago, the microchip was adapted to keep livestock and pets safe with permanent identification in the form of an external ear tag or implant. Animal shelters saw returned-to-owner statistics improve and fewer stray animals were killed because owners could be tracked. However, the lack of a uniform system among American companies and the difference in international standards delayed widespread use. With universal scanners available, the microchip became routinely implanted at shelters and pet owners began asking veterinarians to perform the simple procedure. Unlike common ID collar tags, microchips are permanent, but they do require a scanner to be read.
Today, along with advances in identification and tracking technology, there are high-tech products that can be programmed and read by the general population via their “smart” devices. Anyone who finds or loses a pet can act quickly and eliminate the need and cost of the animal being transported to a shelter. One caveat is constant: the owner must keep the pet contact and identification current, and except for microchips, the tags, bar codes and tracking devices must remain on the collar or harness, which in turn must remain on the pet.
Available at most pet stores, the Flexi PC ID tag is actually a lightweight aluminum tube that hangs from the dog or cat’s collar and stores a USB flash drive. Twist the top off and plug the drive into any computer. The finder of a lost pet now has access to pet contact information, pet name, medical issues and whatever else has been input. The information can be updated easily. When traveling, a hotel or cell phone number can be programmed. The tube is waterproof, weatherproof and shock-resistant.
Two more high-tech ID tags include the Pet QR and the Pet Hub Smartlink. Both attach to the pet’s collar and display bar codes which can be read by anyone with a smart phone. A unique pet ID number and the web site link re-imprinted on the tag as well. so that the pet finder can go on the internet and obtain owner contact information. Both tags can be updated for travel or other reasons. Pet Hub SmartLink also enables lost and found alerts to be broadcast on social media sites and is offered with optional services including pet insurance. Information is available on the brand web sites.
GPS pet tracking systems have been around for awhile. They operate on a rechargeable battery. There are many brands and are expensive, but can be invaluable if a pet gets out of the house or yard and travels a good distance. Most GPS tracking systems for pets combine the technologies of GPS tracking from satellites with either GSM cellular networks or RFID (radio frequency) signals. The tracker is attached to the collar. Computers, smart phones, iPads and iPods can pinpoint a pet’s location. Because of larger size, tracking tags are best for dogs and cats that weigh more than pounds.
A less expensive, simple tag and handset tracking system is available to locate a pet (or any object with the tag attached) within 600 yards. Lightweight homing tags attach to the pet’s collar. Press the handset button and the Loc8tor’s audio and visual clues lead to a pet’s exact location.
With the exception of the implanted microchip, all of the above depend on the pet’s collar being put on and staying on, and – for the microchip as well – the owner maintaining current contact information. No matter how high-tech, if the information isn’t current a Good Samaritan still will not be able to reunite pet and owner. Remember that every pet depends on his or her guardian for protection.
– Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and S.P.C.A. to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.