Scanning shelter pets for microchips after the staff has killed them is one of the worst ideas in the modern history of animal sheltering. The excuse that the animal was too aggressive to be scanned while alive is unacceptable. Likewise, scanning after a pre-kill sedative has been administered may be useless if the pet has been allowed to get sick during the shelter’s hold period, been denied treatment and is in a severely compromised state. The pre-kill sedative may be the final nail in the coffin in those cases.
Clearly, the times to scan shelter pets for microchips are:
- In the field, if being picked up by an ACO
- During the impound process, if the animal has been brought to the facility by a member of the public.
- Re-scanning is good practice and should be performed the day of impound, e.g. during the vet’s routine impound exam.
- In rare cases when an animal can not be safely handled by a staff member while another scans for a chip, a sedative might be administered under the appropriate veterinary supervision at the time of impound.
Trained shelter staff equipped with appropriate tools such as cat handling gloves and dog leashes should be able to safely handle almost every pet in order to scan them. When I worked in veterinary medicine many years ago, it was my job to wrangle the animals, who were sometimes in pain, fearful and/or aggressive, and prevent the vet from getting bitten or scratched. I received no training. And I had to hold the animals still for invasive procedures such as blood draws and wound treatment. I would be whistling Dixie if all I had to do was hold animals while a scanner was waved over them.
On Tuesday, Brevard Co Animal Services in Florida picked up a microchipped cat and killed him. Oops. The cat’s owners had been looking for him for weeks. The lost pet, called Max, was in rough shape when impounded, per pound director Bob Brown:
The cat was found less than a mile from his home, covered in scabies, a parasite that can lead to rapid weight loss and a painful rash.
Max was down from 30 pounds to just eight pounds. He was missing hair, had an eye infection and wounds all over his ears.
It does indeed sound like Max needed immediate vet care. His owners, having gone to the effort of microchipping him for his own protection, should have been notified and given the opportunity to obtain vet care for their pet. Instead, they got the oops-kill call from the pound.
Animal services said they scanned for a microchip, but missed it and felt it was only humane to euthanize the cat.
Brown said, “And unfortunately, after the cat was euthanized, then just as a precaution, we do one more sweep and we picked up the chip.”
FYI: It’s not a PREcaution if you’re doing it after you’ve killed the animal.
Brown admits his agency made a mistake and is promising to do a better job of scanning animals for microchips. He also admits in the past 12 years, the same thing has happened three or four other times, but said part of the problem is the animals are injured and in pain and don’t want people touching them, scanning them for microchips.
So Max’s killing is not an isolated incident at Brevard Co, but part of a pattern of needless killings of owned pets. And peddle your animals-are-bitey excuse someplace else. Number one, it’s your job. Number two, I notice you always come up with a way to kill the animal. Use your ingenuity to figure out how to scan them first.
(Thanks Clarice for the link.)