Allegheny County police departments get their paws on pet scanners

About 25 po­lice of­fi­cers and two elected of­fi­cials had their eyes on a big, mixed-breed dog named Beauty. The dog had done noth­ing wrong. She is an abuse vic­tim, found in a barn where she had been aban­doned with­out food.

On Tues­day, Beauty was a demon­stra­tion dog at a news con­fer­ence where it was an­nounced that vir­tu­ally ev­ery po­lice de­part­ment in Al­le­gheny County is get­ting free equip­ment that will help po­lice re­unite lost pets with their own­ers.

“She doesn’t have a mi­cro­chip,” said Kathy Hecker, An­i­mal Friends chief hu­mane of­fi­cer, as she ran a scan­ner over the dog that now lives in the Ohio Town­ship an­i­mal shel­ter. Ms. Hecker showed po­lice of­fi­cers how to use a scan­ner to find a mi­cro­chip em­bed­ded be­tween the shoul­der blades. The chip, about the size of a grain of rice, has con­tact in­for­ma­tion for the owner of a lost dog, cat or rab­bit.


MORE: Visit our Pets section for more coverage about the animals in our lives


Ms. Hecker also ran the scan­ner over the backs and bod­ies of sev­eral dogs adopted ear­lier from the shel­ter that do have the chips. Then the po­lice of­fi­cers, who came from de­part­ments all over Al­le­gheny County, each took a free scan­ner back to the towns where they work. When they find a lost dog or cat, it can be quickly re­turned to the owner if the an­i­mal has a mi­cro­chip.

A to­tal of 118 po­lice de­part­ments will have a free scan­ner by late Au­gust, thanks to a unique proj­ect that took 18 months to co­or­di­nate. The proj­ect was un­veiled Tues­day at the An­i­mal Friends shel­ter.

Speak­ers in­cluded the peo­ple who were heav­ily in­volved in the proj­ect: Ste­phen A. Zap­pala Jr., Al­le­gheny County dis­trict at­tor­ney; Al­le­gheny County Trea­surer John K. Wein­stein; David Swisher, An­i­mal Friends CEO and pres­i­dent; Robert Fra­gasso, fi­nan­cial ad­viser and An­i­mal Friends board mem­ber; Point Breeze vet­er­i­nar­ian Larry Ger­son; and Re­serve po­lice Chief Fred Boory, rep­re­sent­ing the Al­le­gheny County Chiefs of Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion.

Dr. Ger­son is pres­i­dent of the AAARF! board, and Mr. Wein­stein serves on that board of the Al­le­gheny Abused An­i­mal Relief Fund. When Mr. Wein­stein’s of­fice col­lects 125,000 dog li­cense fees each year, peo­ple are in­vited to make vol­un­tary do­na­tions to the fund. Dog own­ers do­nated $1.2 mil­lion to AAARF! in the past 14 years.

The scan­ners that find ID mi­cro­chips cost $275, and 118 have been pur­chased for towns where po­lice chiefs said they’‍d like to use them. AAARF! do­na­tions cov­ered half of the cost, and the other half came from Mr. Zap­pala’s drug for­fei­ture fund.

“Mi­cro­chips are not a sub­sti­tute for dog li­censes,” which state law re­quires, Mr. Wein­stein noted. The li­cense tags also can be used to trace the dog’‍s owner.

With­out a li­cense or mi­cro­chip, lost and stray dogs held in shel­ters or an­i­mal con­trol agen­cies may be eu­th­a­nized in 48 hours, Mr. Fra­gasso said. “We eu­th­a­nize 20,000 an­i­mals a year in Al­le­gheny County,” but if more pets have mi­cro­chips, those num­bers could go down.

As for Beauty, when she is adopted she will go to her new home with a mi­cro­chip.

Mi­cro­chips are em­bed­ded un­der the skin in a sim­ple pro­ce­dure at a vet­er­i­nary clinic or a shel­ter. Cost var­ies, though they tend to cost $30-$40. An­i­mal shel­ters of­ten con­duct low-cost “chip clin­ics.” An­i­mal Friends will be of­fer­ing chips for $20 on Aug. 21, Sept 4 and 18 and on Oct 9 and 23. Call 412-847-7029.

Linda Wil­son Fuoco: lfuoco@post-ga­ or 412-722-0087. First Published July 8, 2014 12:00 AM

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