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Here's how to make sure your pets return home if they're lost

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News

The Siskiyou County Humane Society is implementing new strategies to ensure lost pets get home quickly and safely, which allows them to keep the shelter free for dogs and cats that don't yet have loving homes.

The best way to ensure your furry friend will be returned to you if they're lost? Proper identification – including microchips or ID collars.

Siskiyou Humane Society Executive Director Kim Latos holds a small kitten in January of 2020.

“People need to abolish the 'old school' mentality, (that) losing a pet means you are a bad owner, and shift to the more enlightened attitude that things happen and, in many cases, are beyond pet owners’ control,” said Siskiyou Humane Society Executive Director Kim Latos. 

Nationally, fewer than 2.5% of stray cats and 22% of stray dogs without microchips entering the shelter system are reunited with their families. 

“Losing a pet can be one of the most stressful times in your life,” Latos said. “Most pet owners these days treat their pets like children or at least consider them part of the family."

Animals at the Siskiyou Humane Society in Mount Shasta.

The Humane Society, along with hundreds of other shelters across the U.S., has accepted the challenge of expanding their "return to home" programs by educating the community about the importance of microchipping and ensuring pets wear ID collars. 

The challenge is funded by Maddie’s Fund® and Michelson Found Animals Foundation, in collaboration with Adoptimize, the ASPCA, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, Best Friends Animal Society, HeARTS Speak, the Humane Society of the United States, National Animal Care and Control Association and Petco Foundation. 

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Latos said Siskiyou Humane Society's dog return to home rate is great, but the cat rate is low. This is common nationwide, Latos said, and one of the aspects the shelter wants to improve.

Latos is also working to have local fire personnel and law enforcement agencies obtain technology to read microchips to better ID lost pets so they can be returned home more quickly.

The Siskiyou Humane Society in Mount Shasta in 2017.

The goal, she said, is to have fewer animals taken to the Humane Society and other local shelters. "It's all about reuniting pets with their families ASAP! Because they already have a family that loves them, they just need a little help finding their way back home," said Latos.

“The administrative and time-consuming activities involved in returning pets to their owners are nothing compared to the burden it places on all aspects of the organization to house the animal,” she said. By working diligently on identifying pet owners, shelters can decrease the time stray animals spend in their care.

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She said "return to home" strategies also play a vital role in reducing the number of animals in the shelter, decreasing the likelihood of disease outbreaks, and giving shelters the opportunity to focus more resources on the animals already in the facility. 

“I’m excited about this,” Latos said. “We really want to educate the community about this issue. It’s all about awareness and returning pets home safely.”