The Simple Things

 Photo: William Wise

Photo: William Wise

by William Wise, Walton County Animal Control Director

I’m a good pet owner. I know about all those things that good pet owners do: spay and neuter, heartworm preventative, socialization, no chaining, annual vet visits, current vaccinations. Simple. With a sense of pride, I look down at my dog lying nearby and see what is hanging on his collar: nothing! 

During a recent review of our shelter at the Walton County Animal Control, an evaluator noted that it is often the common, simple things that we overlook. The things we all know to do are often the things we neglect, because “everybody knows that.” We think we are in compliance through knowledge but may actually fail to implement it. Likewise, as a pet owner, we can overlook the simple things… simple things that can have huge ramifications when neglected. Simple things that can mean life or death for a beloved animal.

One of those simple things is an identification or rabies tag. As good pet owners, we know the importance of an ID tag in reuniting an owner with a lost pet. But look at your dog right now. Does she have a tag on her collar? We all know our dog or cat should have on a tag, but does he? A study published in Preventative Veterinary Medicine revealed that only 33 percent of owners keep ID tags on their pets.

“But he’s an indoor dog.” Accidents happen: doors are left open; squirrels run by; kids drop a leash; thunderstorms pop up and random fireworks go off; the pest control guy comes in and forgets to shut the door behind him. Not to mention natural disasters, house fires or other unforeseen circumstances. Even if you have a perfectly-trained dog who is always walked on a leash, it is possible to end up losing your dog. 

I want you to consider another viewpoint on this issue. Having a tag on your dog or cat can be an issue of life or death in another capacity. A simple tag on your dog may save the life of a shelter dog. How so?

As the director of an open-intake shelter, I have to come in each morning and assess the available room. There must be some kennel space for the day’s possible intake. The officers working after-hours and weekend emergencies must have a kennel or two if needed. Unfortunately, there are times when we reach capacity and some animals must be euthanized. Each animal that comes into the shelter puts a strain on space, and sometimes tough decisions must be made. 

So how does your dog’s tag come into play? Recently, a dog named Ginny came into the shelter on a day when we were at full capacity. Her intake prompted one of those “tough decisions,” and a couple of dogs were put down. A few hours later Ginny’s owner came and claimed her. At the time of intake, we had no idea who owned her, and no crystal ball to know she’d be claimed so quickly. Had she had on that simple tag, she could have been re-connected with her owners even faster, and two dogs could have possibly been spared another day. 

So tagging your pet may not just save the life of your animal, it could also spare the life of a shelter animal waiting on a home. Don’t neglect the simple things.