By: Lorrie Ward Jackson | Category: Pets | Issue: March 2011
Shelli Holland-Handy’s dog, Bruce, who was rescued from the Tulsa Animal Welfare Center. He was found wearing a collar but no tag, and waited in the shelter for almost two months before she adopted him.
If you own a dog or a cat, you will understand the sentiment: your animal is more than just a pet to you; he or she is a part of your family. Oklahoma Alliance for Animals (OAA) understands this, and that is why they are hosting their annual Tag Day on April 2, sponsored by American Humane.
“Shelters and rescues take in so many strays, and many times these are dogs and cats that obviously belong to someone – they are socialized and well fed, they obey commands, and they are clean and healthy,” says Shelli Holland-Handy, director of Oklahoma Alliance for Animals. “But without proper identification, these shelters have no way to reunite animals with their owners.”
By hosting Tag Day, OAA hopes to offer specific help for this problem by setting up several locations around Tulsa where free identification tags (one per family) will be available. In addition, some of the locations will offer microchip identification at a reduced cost.
Even if you are interested in microchip identification, Shelli explains that every pet should have a collar with an identification tag. Pets with a tag are generally returned sooner, sometimes even minutes later, as neighbors or passersby can easily access the information on the tag. Shelli notes that more people are willing to stop and help a wandering pet if there is a tag as well. Microchips are considered a “safety net,” in case the pet should lose their collar and tag, as most rescues and shelters have a way to scan for the devices. However, Shelli points out that this costs time and creates extra stress on both the owner and the pet.
No matter how well prepared pet owners think they are, the unexpected can always happen. “People will say, ‘My pet is never outside so he doesn’t need a tag,’ but what if someone leaves a gate or door open? What if there is a disaster like a house fire or a tornado?” asks Shelli. “Because you cannot control the different variables, the responsible thing to do is make sure your pet has proper identification so they can easily be reunited with you should they become lost.”
Just having identification is not enough, however, according to Shelli: “Both of these items (collar and microchip) are only as good as the information you put on them. Pet owners should update changes of address and phone numbers.” She suggests placing as many phone numbers as you can on identification tags and points out microchips must be registered with a rescue service in order to be effective. She also reminds pet owners to put temporary information with the pet sitter’s information on the pet’s tag if they go out of town. “You can use a little sticker or anything else removable,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be fancy or perfect, just functional.”
Shelli Holland-Handy has been involved with Oklahoma Alliance for Animals since it began in 2003 and has served as director for about eight months. “I am an animal lover – my dogs are all rescues,” she says. “I have a particular passion for solving pet overpopulation problems, and I believe proper identification is one of the pieces to the puzzle.”