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To find a missing pet: how to protect your dog or cat, and what to do if it has strayed or is lost or stolen.

How to protect your dog or cat and what to do

if it has strayed or is lost or stolen.

My local newspaper recently published an article about a frequentflier cat named Felix that escaped from its cage and flew 179,000 miles in the cargo hold of a Pan Am Boeing 747. Felix's owners were located from the baggage-claim records and reunited with their lost pet. This is certainly a heartwarming account about a lost pet, but not all such stories have a happy ending. Mrs. Bowman, one of my elderly clients, was moving to a new neighborhood. With her cat Taffy in her arms, she lost her balance and fell on the sidewalk in front of the new house. Luckily, Mrs. Bowman was not seriously injured; however, Taffy escaped into the bushes by the house and has not been seen since.

Taking Precautions

A few simple steps may help you reduce the chances your pet will end up like Taffy, either lost or stolen.

* If your pet stays in an outdoor run or fenced yard, check to make sure that gates and fences are secure. If it resides in the house, keep doors closed and windows screened.

* If your pet is frightened by company, parties, fireworks, or thunderstorms, take extra precautions during these occasions to ensure that it feels secure.

* Join a neighborhood crime watch, and advertise your membership on your fence and home.

* Do not allow your dog outside its yard unless it is on a leash. Cats can also be trained to wear a leash or harness; start training them when they are kittens. And teach cats and dogs to come when called by name. Your dog should respond to the basic obedience commands of heel, stay, and sit.

* Have your pet neutered or spayed to reduce its tendency to wander.

* When transporting your cat, use a cat carrier. Dogs may travel in a portable kennel if they have not learned proper automobile etiquette. Never invite theft by leaving your pet unattended in an automobile.

Tattoos, Credits Cards,

and Computer Chips

Adequate pet identification will reduce the chances of your pet's being stolen and aid in its recovery if it is lost. All pets should wear an identification tag engraved with the owner's name, address, and telephone number.

The Bark Alert and the Meow Alert cards are interesting variations on the identification tag. They look like credit cards and attach to your pet's collar. The cards contain an individual identification number and the 1 -800-BARKUSA telephone number. Owners supply pertinent information and six telephone numbers to U.S. Pet Protection. The 800 telephone number is manned 24 hours a day. A lost pet will be boarded if the owner cannot be contacted.

The injectable computer microchip is another recent innovation in pet identification. A chip the size of a pencil lead is injected directly into the muscle of the animal. Information on the chip can be read with a device similar to those used by airport security. The information about the animal is registered on a computer at the AVID (American Veterinary Identification Devices) company headquarters. This method of identification is currently used by many zoos to protect valuable exotic animals, including birds and reptiles. AVID markets the identification chip through veterinary clinics and humane societies. For information write AVID, 3179 Hamner Avenue, Norco, CA 91760.

Tattooing, like injecting the microchip, is a permanent, painless means of pet identification. An identification number supplied by the registry is tattooed on the belly or inside leg of the cat or dog. The animal also wears a tag calling attention to the tattoo. This ID method has worked well in cases of animal theft, Goldie, a blonde Labrador retriever destined for research at a famous medical clinic, was traced back to her owner 350 miles away when a veterinary technician found the tattoo and called Tatoo-APet (1-800-828-8667). The founder and executive director of Tatoo-APet, Julie Moscove of Brooklyn, New York, claims a 99 percent recovery rate overall for the 16 years the company has been operating. Tattooed pets can also be registered with the National Pet Registry (1-800-255-5726) and the National Dog Registry (914679-BELL). Tattoo fees vary, from $20 including registration to as high as $50 without registration. Shop carefully and ask questions.

Taking Immediate Action

Karen Green, a pet detective and co-founder of Pet Finders company in Amarillo, Texas, recommends taking the following steps if your pet comes up missing: Contact all animal shelters, humane societies, and veterinary clinics in the area and give them a description of your pet. Place an ad in morning and evening newspapers. Notify radio and TV stations that offer lost-pet announcements. Check with neighbors. Place posters in a 20-block radius of your home. Posters should be easy to read, and they should offer a reward of as much as $200 if the animal is exceptionally valuable. If possible, put a large photo of the pet on the poster, along with information on where the loss occurred, height, weight, collar and spay or neuter status. To help lost-pet owners get off on the right foot, Karen sells The Pet Finders Reward Packet, containing a typeset poster, booklet, and tape with instructions.

Letters for the Vet Dear Dr. Whiteley,

Several months ago, an article appeared in The Saturday Evening Post concerning apartment residents' right to keep pets.

Could you please send me a copy of the article? I am an apartment resident in a government-owned complex. I am an elderly widow and have a cat for companionship. I need to

know my rights concerning my cat.

Mary Gaines

Cave City, Kentucky

Dear Mary,

An amendment to the Housing Act of 1983 outlaws discrimination against the pet-owning elderly and disabled tenants of federally assisted rental housing, if it is designed specifically for such tenants. The key phrase is federal funding. I recommend that you check with your local national Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office to see if your apartment is federally funded. Call HUD st 1-502-582-5251 in Kentucky. If you legally fall into this category and feel that your rights are being denied, I suggest that you contact your local congressman, who is William Natcher, Representative 2nd District, 2333 Rayburn House Of fice Building, Washington, DC 20515. Congressman Natcher's office can be reached at 202-225-3501 in D.C.; in Kentucky, try 502-842-7376 in Bowling Green, or 502-765-4360 in Elizabethtown. The legislation in question allows the landlord to set reasonable guidelines on pet ownership, taking into consideration such factors as size of the pet, the standards of pet care involved, the financial obligations of the pet owner, and the population density of the building. Should the pet pose a threat to the health or safety of the occupants of the building, the landlord has the right to remove the animal. Examples of pet policies or guidelines for federally assisted housing for the elderly are available from the Delta Society, P.O. Box 1080, Renton, WA 98057-1080.

H. E. W.

Dear Dr. Whiteley,

You may wish to know the correct definition of "negative reinforcement," as suggested by your Jan./ Feb. '88 article in the SatEvePost.

When you catch the puppy squatting and ready to puddle, squirting him in the act is punishment. Punishment reduces behavior.

When the dog stops puddling, one immediately stops squirting. The dog

is rewarded for stopping. Therefore, the removal of punishment is negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement increases behavior.

You may also wish to be advised that one strives to extinguish the punishment by pairing it with a verbal cue. Continuing your example, one squirts and yells no. Eventually, one will be able to yell no to have the dog stop. The threat of punishment has been withdrawn, and the dog's behavior will increase.

I enjoyed your article.

Frank Hunyady

Address withheld

Dear Frank,

Thank you for your excellent clarification of the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment.

H. E. W.

Dear Dr. Whiteley,

I'm in dire need of advice. My friend Maggie, a miniature sheep dog, was given to me about a year ago. She's a very old but active dog. Her problem is, she has numerous scabbed small sores (mostly on her head but also scattered on her body). Herhair seems to have flakes that cause it to clot in bunches.

She rolls in dirt and leaves, I assume to relieve her itching, and is constantly filthy. I bathe her trying to keep infection out, but off she goes to waddle and roll again. She chews and scratches constantly. I've checked for fleas, which she doesn't have.

I can't budget a vet visit, even though she is dear to me. My family wants to put her to sleep but she doesn't seem to be in pain. She's happy, just itchy. Help!

Angela Rader

Detroit, Michigan

Dear Angela,

Old age is not a good reason to put Maggie to sleep. Old age happens to all of us eventually. Moms Mabley says, "You just wake up one morning and you got it!" Maggie's chewing and scratching way be due to an allergy. Dogs suffering from allergies to grass, pollen, and other environmental substances usually show seasonal symptoms. Food allergy or skin inflammation due to poor diet are also possibilities. The March 1, 1988, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported 13 cases of dogs suffering from a crusting skin condition associated with the feeding of generic dog food. The generic diets were corn- and wheatbased foods that failed to provide balanced nutrition. The skin condition In each case was resolved by changing the dog's diet to meet the National Research Council's recommendations for balanced nutrition. It would be best to solicit a veterinartian's advice about Maggie's skin problems. If this is not possible, I suggest that you feed her a diet marketed by a reputable dog-food manufacturer and labeled as complete and balanced. H. E. W.
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Article Details
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Author:Whiteley, H. Ellen
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1988
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