Pet Points: Make sure your pet has ID

The new year is a good time to make sure that your dog has a license. The city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and other counties provide licenses that protect dogs.

In addition to being required by law, licenses can help identify dogs that are picked up by animal control officers or delivered by Good Samaritans to shelters or veterinarian offices so that their owners are contacted. Licensed dogs are held for additional days at the shelter, according to state regulations.

In addition to a license, a microchip ID device, implanted internally, can also help a dog or cat be returned to his owner. Shelters, animal control officers and veterinarians scan a pet with a chip reader and with a simple call can get valuable owner information for dogs and cats.

Local veterinarians are cooperating with Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein's office to make the benefits of the microchip more affordable. Veterinarians are signing up to accept the county coupon and discounting the microchip by $10.

In addition, one of the microchip companies (AVID) is giving a special promotional deal on the registration that enters the owner and additional contact information into its computer system. If an animal is found and scanned even on a Sunday, the owners can be contacted. Normally the AVID chip that is not registered by the owner can still be tracked to the veterinarian that inserted the chip.

Home Again is the other common chip that is used in this area. Its chip and registration have additional options that can help animals be returned home safely. Other microchip companies also provide protection in the event a pet strays.

No mater what chip system is used, owners should be aware what reader will scan for their microchip. Although we are closer to a true universal scanner, not all readers scan for every chip. If your pet is lost, providing the chip manufacturer information to shelters will help in scanning with the proper device.

Although cats are not licensed, the microchip is highly recommended for them also.

Cats have a special talent for losing a collar. Break-away collars are best for cats so they don't get hung up by their collars. Without an ID tag or microchip, the chance of a cat being returned to its owner by animal control is slim.

When stray animals are brought to a veterinarian or animal control facility, the protocol is to look for a collar tag and scan for a microchip. In an emergency medical situation, proper identification is critical and time is of the utmost importance.

Veterinarians and shelters need to make life-saving decisions based on who will care for an injured pet. If injuries are serious, immediate action must be taken to provide pain relief, and we are often faced with difficult decisions without proper owner information.

The easiest time to place a microchip is at spaying and neutering. The process is simple, but the needle with an injected chip inside is larger than most. Pets, however, tolerate a microchip placement anytime. The quick injection and placement might just one day save your pet's life. Now with the added economic incentive and the cooperative effort, everyone benefits, especially the pets.

Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His biweekly column is intended to educate pet owners. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you'd like addressed in Pet Points, email Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.