Our pets deserve better

Published 5:30 pm Thursday, August 13, 2015

In 2014, our local animal control facilities took in a collective 757 stray dogs. Of these, only 135 were reclaimed by their owners. That’s 18 percent.

Individually, the Cumberland reclaim rate was 21 percent, followed by Prince Edward at 19 percent and Buckingham at 13 percent. Statewide, 49 percent of stray dogs were reclaimed by their owners.

We in the Heart of Virginia have a lot of catching up to do.

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In Cumberland last year, not one stray dog came in with tags or a microchip. Not one.  We occasionally got one in with a collar, a sign of ownership. A sign of a family. For 79 percent of these stray dogs in 2014, their family never came.

Why is it that 82 percent of the stray dogs in the Heart of Virginia don’t have families looking for them? Perhaps it isn’t that people don’t care what happened to their missing dog, but that they don’t know where to look. In my work with Friends of Cumberland County Animal Control, I have spoken with many citizens who aren’t aware that Cumberland even has a “pound,” let alone that they might find a missing pet there.

The Code of Virginia mandates a minimum hold of five days when a pet shows no sign of ownership and 10 days when there is, such as a collar. That means that animal control will hold the animal for that time or longer depending on local ordinances, allowing the owner time to come forward. If your dog is picked up as a stray and has identification, animal control will contact you and advise that they have your dog.

There are several ways to make sure your dog can be identified should they be separated from you. The most common, but not common enough, is a tag. State law requires that any dog four months and older be licensed with the owner’s county and that the license tag be displayed on the dog’s collar. There are some circumstances in which a dog is not required to wear the license, such as when engaged in lawful hunting or when a medical condition prevents the wearing of a collar.

You can also make sure that your dog is wearing a current rabies tag; the tag number will link back to you through the veterinarian who administered the vaccination. We know that tags can come off, however. An ideal backup plan, as my own three dogs will tell you, is a microchip. It’s an implant about the size of a grain of rice that is inserted between your dog’s shoulder blades by a veterinarian. Stray dogs can be scanned for a microchip and easily reunited with their family providing the chip information is current.

Here is my call to action: Keep current identification on your dogs at all times, and go look for them if they haven’t come home. Call your local animal control offices. Put up fliers, post on Facebook, or take an ad out in The Farmville Herald.

Buckingham Animal Control is located 9659 Andersonville Road, and its phone number is (434) 969-4242. Cumberland Animal Control is located at 11 Range Road, and its phone number is (804) 492-3076.  Prince Edward Animal Control is located at 252 County Shop Road, Farmville, and its phone number is (434) 223-7310. 

Leigh McCrea is the founder of Friends of Cumberland County Animal Control and serves as a juvenile probation officer in Cumberland. Her email address is dogmom610@gmail.com.