Lost and scanned: Police get the high-tech tools to identify pets

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Lost dogs or cats may be a timeless problem, but there are better solutions today than posters on utility poles and frantic searches. Small microchips embedded under the skin of pets can be scanned by shelter personnel or police officers to retrieve information that can reunite the animals with their owners.

In so doing, owners are relieved, the cost of searching and sheltering is reduced and the chance of euthanasia — the most tragic potential outcome — is eliminated.

An initiative unveiled Tuesday by Animal Friends, a shelter in Ohio Township, will give free pet scanners to 118 police departments in Allegheny County, allowing officers to scan found animals for microchips in hopes of returning them quickly. The Allegheny Abused Animal Relief Fund and the district attorney’s drug forfeiture fund shared the cost for the scanners, which cost $275 each.

Nationally, an estimated 2.7 million animals are euthanized annually, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In Allegheny County, 20,000 animals are euthanized each year. Making sure that police have pet scanners would reduce these numbers, a result desired by pet owners, animal shelters and law enforcement alike.

The microchips, slightly larger than a grain of rice, are an inexpensive investment, usually less than $40, that pet owners can and should use.


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