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Prevent Your Pet from Becoming Lost

It’s a pet owner’s worst fear. No one ever wants to lose a furry family member to accidental loss, runaway, or theft. We've all seen the heartbreaking "missing" posters stapled to trees and telephone poles by owners pleading for the safe return of their beloved pets. Accidents happen, and even the most diligent pet parents cannot always prevent the dreaded loss of a four-legged family member. However, there are some tips to safeguard your pet in and around your home. If your pet were to become lost, there are steps you can take to dramatically increase the chances of your loved one's safe return.

1. Securely fence in your property The best way to keep your dog safe at home is to install a secure fence. Fences should be tall enough that an athletic dog can not jump over it when tempted to chase a squirrel on the other side. Fence posts should be buried at least six inches in the ground. This will help to prevent small dogs from digging escape routes underneath, as well as prevent unwanted animals from wandering into your property. Some dogs do fine with invisible fencing, but many dogs don't mind getting a brief electric shock if it buys them the freedom to roam about. Keep in mind that the batteries in the electric fence collar must always be charged for it to work effectively.

2. Tag your pet Even with a secure fence, there is always a risk that someone will forget to latch the gate or the delivery person might inadvertently leave it open. Therefore, your pet should be wearing a collar with identification tags at all times. The identification tag should have your pet's name and a phone number where you can be reached. This makes it easy for someone who spots your pet to pick up the phone and call you to let you know where he/she has found "Spot," "Fido," or "Porkchop." If you travel with your pet, it is best to put a cellphone number or another number where you can easily pick up your calls. Make sure to choose a collar that is weatherproof. It should be durable enough for your pet to wear at all times, yet light enough that it is comfortable. You should also select an I.D. tag that is sturdy, easy to read, weatherproof and attaches securely to your pet's collar.

3. Microchip your pets Having your dog or cat microchipped is one of the most important things you can do to prevent your pet from going missing. Microchipping is a simple practice performed right in your veterinarian's office. It is a virtually painless procedure in which your vet places a chip under the skin between your pet's shoulder blades. The chip contains a unique identification number that will only belong to your pet. If anyone finds your pet and takes him or her to a veterinarian's office, shelter, or clinic, he can be scanned for a microchip, and the unique identification number will come up. You must make sure your information remains up-to-date in the microchip registry. If you move or rehome your pet, make sure to contact the microchip company so they have updated contact information.

4. Spay or neuter your pets The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that approximately 75% of pets in homes are spayed or neutered. However, only 10% of dogs and cats entering shelters are neutered. This is partially due to the likelihood of animals who are not fixed to wander and breed. Spaying or neutering your pet significantly reduces the chance that he or she will wander off in search of a mate. There are also numerous health and behavioral benefits to spaying and neutering, such as the prevention of uterine and breast tumors in females and the prevention of testicular cancer and aggression in males.

5. Don't leave your pet unattended Experts say up to 2 million pets are stolen each year, many of them from yards and cars. Even in a fenced yard, a supervised pet is a safe pet. Never leave a pet outside when you leave your home. When heading out to run errands, your safest choice is to leave Fido in the comfort of his own home. Better yet, leave him in his crate if he has one, and have a dog walker or sitter check in on him. When it comes to preventing the heartbreak of a lost pet, a little planning and prevention really are worth the effort. By taking a few simple actions, you can prevent your beloved pet from ending up as a statistic.

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