By Phyllis DeGioia
August 30, 2011
Significant disaster planning prevented the nearly unimaginable June EF-5 tornado that flattened a 6-mile long and half-mile wide swath in Joplin, Mo., from being worse. The Missouri authorities had been fine-tuning their disaster response for years, and it paid off. What we learned about people being unwilling to leave their pets during Hurricane Katrina about pets was applied: Some emergency shelter space accommodated pets.
Although it’s painful to contemplate what could have been worse in what the National Weather Service calls “the deadliest [tornado] since modern recordkeeping began in 1950,” there was one area lacking in which people could have prevented much heartache: microchips.
About 1,300 pets ended up in the Joplin Humane Society. The trick was reuniting them with their owners – a difficult task given that all but a handful of the pets did not have an ID tag or a microchip. Seen as an unnecessary expense by some people, a tiny microchip and its one-time cost could have saved a lot of worry and grief.
“Microchips are an invaluable resource in a time like this,” said Dr. Ben Leavens of Main Street Pet Care in Joplin, who volunteered a staggering number of hours at the shelter. “When they were present and properly registered, they made a HUGE difference. Tags are OK, but often not on the pet when you need them most. Microchips are such a small investment to make and do so much good when things go bad. We will no longer have any problems getting people to put them in, I am pretty sure.”
Karen Aquino, executive director of the Joplin Humane Society, saw how difficult it was to reunite pets and owners.
Before the massive adopt-a-thon, more than 500 animals were reunited with their families. … Aquino estimates that 97 percent of the displaced animals were not microchipped and did not have an identification tag.
“About 30 had ID tags but the numbers were disconnected, or old ID tags. You always get ‘I gave that dog away 5 years ago,’ ” Aquino said. “The one thing I say over and over is that an ID tag is your pet’s phone call home. I’m a firm believer in microchips.”
If your pets are not microchipped, make an appointment now: do it before the next tornado, hurricane, earthquake, flood, fire, or blizzard ravages your home town. It’s the cheapest insurance you can buy.
(original article url: http://www.petconnection.com/blog/2011/08/30/the-pet-lesson-from-joplin-microchips/)