For most Americans, the Fourth of July holiday is a time for celebration. People look forward to having a day off from work, spending time with family and friends, and of course, watching those firework displays. In the veterinary field, we can look forward to the Fourth as one of the busiest days of the year. Did I say look forward to? Perhaps dread is a more apt description.
I'm scheduled to work an evening shift at the front desk this year, and I'm already mentally preparing myself for the chaos that will reign in our lobby. At a 24 hour emergency hospital, we are no strangers to chaos. But because we are a non-profit and offer programs that other private facilities don't, it's often a whole 'nother ball game. There’s busy, and then there’s 6:00 pm on the Fourth of July at DoveLewis. By the end of the night, newer staff members tend to have that vacant glazed look in their eyes like they just survived the apocalypse.
Let me explain. Here at DoveLewis we have a program for sick and injured stray animals (and wildlife, after hours). On the one hand, we never turn away injured or ill stray animals or wildlife, and this is an important part of our hospital’s mission. On the other hand, on any given night our patient ranks are overflowing with the addition of 4 stray dogs, 2 feral cats, and of course a few baby birds that really should have been left where they were found. Every potentially owned animal that comes through our doors quickly has a posting created for our website’s Lost & Found database. We also post on Craigslist, and regularly review existing lost pet posts to see if there are any matches, and of course we scan for microchips.
But the Fourth of July isn’t just any given night. Home Again, a pet microchip company, reports that more pets run away on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year. I usually don’t mind our stray pet procedures; in fact, I think it’s a great service that we offer to the community. But it’s tough to look through those Craigslist posts, hoping to find an owner. It’s even worse when a pet has been microchipped, but the owner never registered it with their information. We have to be diligent as caretakers and make sure this information stays accurate and up to date. When we get calls about lost pets, I always recommend that people update their contact information with a service like found.org - they don’t charge pet owners to update microchip information. It’s simple and virtually instant. Of course, if the pet is already missing, it may be too late. It only works if pet parents have microchipped their furry friends and have the microchip number handy.
It’s heartbreaking how often this happens: A well-meaning “Good Samaritan” brings in a pet that is groomed and obviously well cared for. Then there’s the leap of hope when the scanner beeps and a number shows up. We wait on hold for an absurd amount of time to talk to a microchip company (I’m not kidding, like twenty minutes!) only to find out that oh, whoops, sorry, the owners never registered any information. Alas, the sweet pup or kitty that could have spent the night safe and warm at home, instead must bunk in a lonely kennel with us.
I know, I know, it could be worse. At least they are off the streets. I’ll try to remember that on the Fourth, when we have twenty strays come through our doors in five hours. If we find even one family, all that extra work is worth it. But you can be sure that I’ll be telling every pet owner that will listen about the microchip thing. I’ll also be begging all the pet parents I know to think twice before lighting up that fireworks display at home this year. Gauge your pet’s reaction when the loud noises go off. And please, please, please, if you’re not going to be home, make sure that your pet is secure and can’t escape! (But if they do escape, I’ll be happy to post on Craigslist for them.)