If you've ever lost a pet or feared losing one, you'll really appreciate this HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service Interview with Claire Fisher, Senior Marketing Manager.
A Little About Claire Fisher
LoveToKnow (LTK): Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to work for HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service?
Claire Fisher (CF): I've been with HomeAgain since 2006. Prior to joining HomeAgain, I worked for a large consulting firm for eight years, and spent most of that time working with clients in the marketing and sales areas of various electronics, high-tech and telecommunications companies. When one of my former colleagues - who had recently joined the HomeAgain team - reached out to me to tell me about the HomeAgain position, I knew I had to have it! The opportunity to combine my love of pets with my career was something I just could not pass up.
LTK: Do you own any pets of your own? If so, what kind and tell us a little about them...
CF: I have three in my furry family - a cat and two dogs. The first is my cat, Frankie. She is a ten-year-old chocolate brown and apricot Tortoiseshell. The second is Isabel, my eight-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The third is Madeline, my five-year-old Lab mix. Frankie and Isabel are so cute together. They're about the same height, and Isabel greets Frankie every morning with kisses on the head. Frankie loves the attention!
Info from HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service Interview
LTK: HomeAgain® offers a service that helps lost pets become reunited with their owners. Can you tell our readers a little more about how this technology works?
CF: HomeAgain actually offers two related products that work together to help bring pets home: a state-of-the-art microchip and the HomeAgain Complete Pet Recovery Service which includes microchip registration plus many other member benefits.
It all begins with permanently identifying the pet with a microchip that is about the size of a grain of rice and is implanted between the pet's shoulder blades. When a microchip scanner is passed over the pet's shoulders, the chip emits a frequency so that the microchip's unique ID number can be read. Virtually every shelter and veterinary clinic has a scanner to read microchips. When a pet's microchip is scanned and HomeAgain is called with the unique microchip ID number, we use it to look up the owner's contact information in our database. We then get in touch with the owners to let them know where their missing pet is.
LTK: You also offer pet travel assistance. Can you tell us a little about that?
CF: Through the Travel Assistance for Found Pets benefit of HomeAgain membership, HomeAgain covers up to $500 to fly your pet home if he or she is found more than 500 miles away. If your pet is injured while lost, your HomeAgain membership provides up to $3,000 in medical expense coverage, less a $50 deductible. In addition, as a HomeAgain member, you have 24/7 access to ASPCA veterinarians through the Emergency Medical Hotline.
LTK: The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has released some startling statistics that not even five percent of cats are reunited with owners once taken into a shelter. How can microchipping help with those statistics?
CF: Dr. Linda Lord of Ohio State University has researched pet recovery rates and found that the pets most likely to be reunited with their owners are those with microchips, and more specifically those with registered microchips. Her study also shows that microchip registration rates for cats are far below those of dogs. (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, July 15, 2009, Vol. 235, No. 2, Pages 160-167: "Characterization of animals with microchips entering animal shelters".)
Increasing the rates of feline microchipping and registration will increase the percentage of cats reunited with their owners, which is why HomeAgain is trying to spread the word that cats need chips too. For the past two summers, we have partnered with the Winn Feline Foundation to get nearly 110,000 cats microchipped. There may be some misconceptions that indoor cats don't need to be microchipped because they are "house cats", but think about how many ways a cat can escape to the outdoors. A repairman leaves the door ajar or a window screen is loose and the cat is able to escape. If you microchip your cat and register the microchip number in a national pet recovery database along with your contact information, the likelihood of being reunited with your pet dramatically increases.
What Happens When a Microchipped Cat Goes Missing?
LTK: HomeAgain does more than just tracking a microchip. Tell us about a little about what happens when one of your clients informs you his cat has gone missing...
CF: When a pet owner notifies HomeAgain that an enrolled pet is lost, we contact nearby veterinary clinics and animal shelters. We immediately send out Lost Pet Alerts to PetRescuers (volunteers who sign up to receive lost pet alerts) within a 25-mile radius of where the pet was lost. The alert contains your pet's photo or physical description, unique microchip number, and the last place seen. Our network encompasses over 400,000 veterinarians, shelters and volunteer PetRescuers. We also provide a lost pet poster for you to print and distribute in your neighborhood. Throughout the search, you have access to a trained counselor who assists you until the pet is recovered.
LTK: How many cats have been found as a result of HomeAgain?
CF: HomeAgain has successfully reunited over 600,000 lost pets with their owners. In fact, we reunite approximately 10,000 pets with their owners every month! Cats, however, are microchipped and registered at a far lower rate than dogs. Cats represent approximately 25 percent of the registered microchips in our database. Spreading the word to cat owners about the benefits of microchipping is something we feel strongly about at HomeAgain. Many cat owners would be surprised to hear how often we recover "indoor only cats" whose owners are shocked that their cats got lost, since they "never go outside". Those cats are lucky, but so many other cat owners either don't know about microchipping or think that it isn't necessary.
The statistics speak for themselves, though. Dr. Lord's study showed that less than two percent of cats without microchips are returned to their owners. With a microchip, the rate increased to 38.5 percent. Why not higher? Her study revealed that only 58 percent of the chipped pets' microchips were ever registered.
Concerns and Costs
LTK: What about owners that worry microchipping might not be safe?
CF: Veterinarians have been microchipping pets since the 1990s. Since a microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and implanted by an injection, the procedure is virtually pain-free. No anesthetic is required, and your pet will feel a slight pinch much like that of any routine vaccination. Millions of animals have been microchipped. It is widely considered to be a safe and highly effective method of permanent pet identification.
Think of it this way - one in every three pets will get lost during its lifetime. What if it happens to yours? What if your pet arrived at a shelter without its collar and tags? Many cats don't wear them to begin with. Without ID, 90 percent of lost pets never make it home. A microchip can't fall off, be removed, or become impossible to read. Having your pet microchipped - and then registering the microchip with your contact information in a national database like HomeAgain - is a simple and inexpensive way to protect your pet from the unthinkable.
LTK: Do microchips ever wear out or malfunction? How can you know if your cat's chip is functioning properly?
CF: A microchip will last the lifetime of your pet. It is made from a biocompatible substance so it will not degenerate over time. It does not require maintenance or need to be replaced. The HomeAgain microchip has a Bio-Bond™ patented anti-migration feature that bonds to the skin so it will permanently stay between your pet's shoulder blades once implanted. However, you can ask your veterinarian to check the chip by scanning it during your next visit if you have concerns.
LTK: About how much does it cost to enroll in HomeAgain service?
CF: The cost of having a microchip implanted varies among veterinarians, but usually costs between $25 and $60. This is a one-time fee and typically includes the cost of the microchip registration. The first year of membership in the HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service is included with the lifetime microchip registration. Member benefits include a range of services such as travel assistance, lost pet medical insurance, proactive pet recovery and others, and are renewable for only $16.99 a year.
Bringing Your Lost Pet Home
LTK: It sounds like this tracking system will really help owners whose pets are turned into a veterinary office or animal shelter, but is there anything else cat owners can do when their pet initially goes missing? Anything that might up the odds of finding their pet and bringing him home safe?
CF: If your pet is microchipped, make sure your pet's microchip is registered and that the registry has your current contact information. Go and visit the animal shelters near your home and walk through to look for your pet.
Cats tend to hide when they get into unfamiliar territory. For an indoor cat, look around your own property as well as your neighbors'.
The important thing is to begin your search immediately when you realize your pet is missing, and do not give up. Many pets return home after being gone for a long time or after traveling long distances. Stay positive!
LoveToKnow would like to thank Claire Fisher for participating in this interview.To read real stories of other pet owners' reunions with their lost pets, visit the HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service Found Pet Stories page.