Panel Discussion: A Grassroots Effort to Reform Broken Lost & Found System
I previously wrote about the disconnected and often dysfunctional systems in place to help reunite lost pets with their families, and how microchip manufacturers, lost and found web sites, and other important players on the lost & found playing field refuse to share data with each other to help families find their lost pets. It is a serious problem that I believe is a sign that many people are more interested in expanding their businesses, rather than fulfilling their stated missions. Each of them, it seems, wants to become the "go-to" place on the Internet for lost and found pets, so refuse to send their lost & found pet records to others to help develop a centralized data source everyone can use. This behavior not only guarantees that none of them will ever become that coveted "go-to" identity (because everyone is working with utterly incomplete data sets), it also ensures that pets, in effect, get lost in the computer systems after having already been lost in the real world. Worse yet, many shelters don't even bother to check the lost & found systems when they pick up stray pets.
Since I wrote that original piece, some national animal welfare organizations, namely Best Friends Animal Society and the Humane Society of the United States, have taken dramatic steps to make this problem worse by advocating for shortened stray hold periods in animal shelters.
On May 25, I was honored to host a panel discussion with national experts on lost and found pets to discuss these issues, and some things we are doing together to fix them. It is an important conversation that could save animals' lives all over the USA. The panel discussion was recorded via Google Hangouts and is available for watching below. Recommendations for shelters, rescue groups, or others involved in helping lost or found pets can be found below the video.
Tips for those who find lost pets:
Scan the pet with a universal microchip scanner immediately. Any delay in doing this can cost even more time later on.
If a microchip is found, search for that chip at http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/. This is an important step, because a microchip could be registered in any number of different pet registries. Too often, shelters and rescues only check the registry created by the microchip manufacturer. But, there are many other registries in which the pet might be registered. If a pet is registered in any credible registry, you should be able to find out WHICH registry they are in by first searching http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/.
If you find a record at Pet Microchip Lookup, you will then need to go to the registry indicated and search for pet owner information.
Photograph and document the pet and then enter it into your shelter or rescue software system (if you have one). If your shelter software does not automatically push found pets into HelpingLostPets.com.
Post a found pet record at Helping Lost Pets AND search for any lost pet reports in the area to see if there are any possible matches.
If you are a shelter or rescue that purchases microchips, ensure the company from which you purchase your chips is cooperating and sharing data, and that they offer free, lifetime microchip registration, and preferably automatic, electronic registration. I recommend 911PetChips.
Ensure your shelter or rescue software can electronically register your microchips for free. RescueSuite Software does, and also provides deep discounts on 911PetChip purchases.
Don't be passive and assume the owner of the pet is able to find it on their own.