SPCA New Zealand

Lost and found pets

03 October 2019
Lost and found pets

Pets are part of the family and we would do anything possible to keep them safe. But unfortunately, hundreds of pets go missing across New Zealand every year.

At SPCA hundreds of lost animals come through our doors every week and we do everything we can to find their families.

A microchipped and registered missing pet is three times more likely to be reunited with their owner and will also get home much faster when found. That, plus an identification tag and collar, is the best way to protect your pet.

It’s particularly important in the event of a natural disaster. A civil defence emergency can occur at any moment, you may be at work or away from home and your animals. Following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, 85% of microchipped animals were reunited with their owners, compared with a rate of just 15% for those without microchips.

With the exemption of working dogs, all dogs registered in New Zealand after July 1 2006 are required to be microchipped.

What is a microchip and how does it work?

A microchip is a small device, about the size of a grain of rice, that is implanted in an animal under their skin as a form of identification. All cats, dogs and rabbits are microchipped before adoption from SPCA, but if you’ve adopted from elsewhere book an appointment with your local veterinarian. It takes only seconds to insert and no anaesthesia is required!

If someone finds your pet and takes them to a vet clinic, SPCA centre, or council shelter, they will automatically check for a microchip. Each microchip has a unique ID number that can be read by a microchip scanner. This number is stored with the pet owner details on a national pet database, the New Zealand Companion Animal Register (NZCAR). A simple phone call to the number listed on the NZCAR will reunite a pet with their owner – sometimes within minutes!

We can’t stress enough: it is essential that all pet owners both microchip and register their animal. A microchip will only reunite an owner with their missing pet if the microchip number corresponds to contact details!

If you adopt an animal from SPCA, our centres will either register the microchip for you or advise you how to do it yourself. If your pet is microchipped at a vet clinic, ask them to register the microchip details on the NZCAR, in addition to their own database. Most vets will do this for you but it's important to double check.

And don’t forget to update your details on the NZ Companion Animal Register if you move - there is no charge to do this. Simply visit www.animalregister.co.nz and update your information online.

"We had almost given up"

One day in November 2018, Anita McCool’s cat Eli walked out of their Featherston property and didn’t return. The McCool family searched everywhere for Eli. After months - and no trace of Eli – they were starting to lose hope they would see him again.

“We had Eli for years, ever since he was a kitten, and to see him walk out the door and not come back was very upsetting,” Anita said. “It had been five months and by that stage we had almost given up. We thought there was only a very slim chance we would ever see him again.”

Then in late March 2019, someone spotted a stray black and white cat lingering around their Featherston property. They called SPCA’s Masterton Centre and Inspectorate Team Lead Ben Lakomy arrived to pick him up shortly afterwards.

“Other than a healed wound on his head, he was in good shape. He’d been hanging around the caller’s address for about a week and a paper collar [a tool used to try locate owners] had been unsuccessful,” Ben says.

After bringing him into SPCA, Inspector Ben discovered the cat had a microchip, and it wasn’t his first visit to SPCA! In 2014 he had been rescued by SPCA’s Wellington Centre when he was just a tiny kitten needing to be bottle fed and he was later adopted from the centre.

SPCA called the owner registered under the microchip - who turned out to be Anita McCool. “We got in touch with the McCool family who confirmed their very much-loved cat Eli had been missing since November. They were over the moon,” Ben says.

Anita says she was shocked to get the call from SPCA. “The inspector dropped Eli back home to us later that evening. Eli heard our voices before we had lifted the towel over the crate, and he was almost in more shock than we were that he was finally home/”

Anita was overjoyed by Eli’s return and wants to ensure that other pet owners take her advice – microchip your pet and keep those details up to date. “We have moved three times since owning Eli and I’ve always made sure to change the address on his microchip each time,” she says.

Inspectorate Team Lead Ben says this story proves the importance of microchipping. “That microchip allowed Eli to be reunited with his owner and he has made himself at home again rather quickly.”

Eli happily reunited at his home in Featherston
Eli happily reunited at his home in Featherston

"I was so devastated"

Louise Piper had just moved to a new house when her cat Cheeko went missing in October 2018.

“When we moved, we kept Cheeko inside and made her feel welcome in her new home as best as we could,” she says.

“We went out one night and had our windows partially open in the second storey of the house. I didn't think anything of it at the time. I thought the second storey windows were much too high – and small - for a cat to get out of. But when we came back home later that night, I discovered Cheeko had disappeared. The only way she could have left the house was by jumping out the window. I was so devastated.”

Louise walked up and down the neighbourhood for months calling for Cheeko. She also recorded Cheeko as missing on Lost Pets (www.lostpets.co.nz) in the hopes she would be handed into a local vet or SPCA and scanned for her microchip.

Seven months later, and fearing that she would never see Cheeko again, Louise received a phone call.

“SPCA called me in May to tell me they had Cheeko with them. I honestly had given up hope that she was around because such an extensive time had passed. I went into shock when they told me. I heard her crying in the background and I just knew it was her.”

Seeing Cheeko again after so much time is a memory that Louise will never forget.“I cried when I saw Cheeko. I honestly thought I would never see her again, when we were reunited it was overwhelming. Cheeko had not changed either, she was still her chatty, cuddly self.”

Cheeko has since settled in well back at home but is still a bit tired after months spent living without a home.

“She is enjoying cuddling her favourite blanket again and playing with all her favourite toys,” Louise laughs.

Louise wants everyone to consider her story and realise how important microchipping your pet is.

“If Cheeko was not microchipped, we would never have been reunited. Cheeko climbs a lot so having only a collar on her was not enough. I highly recommend microchipping to anybody that owns a cat.”

Louise and Cheeko reunite at SPCA's Auckland Centre
Louise and Cheeko reunite at SPCA's Auckland Centre

The future of finding lost pets

Finding your lost pet will soon become easier. With the launch of NZCAR’s Pip Facial Recognition and Microchip technology, your pets unique identifying Microchip number is stored along with their features and photos for future retrieval, ensuring your pet is always on the radar!

‘PiP’ Facial Recognition allows anyone to take an image of a pet they find and upload it to the New Zealand Companion Animal Register. This image is then compared against hundreds of thousands of images to identify the animal in a few minutes. Members of the public can upload images of found animals by phone app, expanding the lost and found network into the public arena.

“Combined with the NZCAR microchip database, the Scanner Angel smart network ‘PiP’ Facial Recognition will add another dimension to helping find lost animals” says the New Zealand Animal Council (NZCAC) Manager, Dr Jessica Walker.

"This impressive technology will work alongside traditional microchipping to help reunite more lost pets with their owners.”

If your pet isn't microchipped, your chances of getting it back are only 25 to 40% - but if it is, that jumps to 85%. NZCAR says facial recognition technology bumps it up even further, to 95%.

While this new software is an additional bonus, it is important to still microchip your pet. To find out more about microchipping visit www.spca.nz or your local vet.

To find out more about registering your animal under NZCAR’s Pip Facial Recognition and Microchip technology visit: https://www.animalregister.co.nz/owner-information/nzcar-pip-facial-recognition.html

Common myths about microchipping busted

Microchipping is sometimes misunderstood - here's some of the myths and why they're wrong.

  • Microchipping acts as a GPS

SPCA Centres across the country are often asked this question. Unfortunately, microchips do not act as GPS Units and we cannot locate your animal or see their movements, but we wish we could! What we can do is use the microchip number to search your contact details in the NZCAR database.

  • Microchips hold all your personal information

Microchips only contain a unique number that can be scanned at a local vet, authority, or SPCA centre. All your contact details need to registered on the NZCAR website. If you are unsure if your details are registered, or up to date, make sure to visit: https://www.animalregister.co.nz/

  • Anyone can access microchip details

There is a common belief that the details on the NZCAR register are publicly available for anyone to view and this belief prevents pet owners registering their pet and microchip details due to privacy concerns. However, this is certainly not the case. Only approved animal entry officers such as your local vet or SPCA can view these details.

  • Microchipping harms your animal

Some pet owners may not microchip their animal because they believe it will harm them. Placing a microchip is a common procedure and is safe for your animal.

To find out more about microchipping visit: https://www.animalregister.co.nz/

What to do if you have lost a pet

Thousands of animals become lost or go missing from their home every year, and losing your pet can be a very distressing time. Some pets are returned, but unfortunately many never find their way back home.

If your pet goes missing, its important that you try a variety of methods to get them back home safely and don't just rely on the hope of them turning up at a local vet or SPCA centre and being scanned for a microchip.

Click here to read our recommendations on what you should do if you have lost an animal.

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