Losing a beloved pet out in the big world of unknowns can be an uphill battle for pet owners.
Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) have steps to help make this an easier process and steps to make sure this does not happen all together.
According to Lluvia Ellison-Morales, RASKC communications and community engagement administrator, one of the best ways to protect a pet, cat or dog, is to make sure they are licensed.
This is not only a legal obligation for pet owners, it is also the easiest form of identification for a pet.
“It’s not just about having the pet licensed, it’s about all the benefits that come with that pet license,” she said.
Denise McCollum, marketing and licensing program manager for RASKC, said the shelter receives far more cats than dogs that have no identification on them at all.
She said the cost of caring for the pets that come in is pretty expensive. Whether it be for housing a pet, returning a pet to its home or from a medical standpoint, it can cost quite a bit of money.
“So it’s very important we have the resources available to take care of those (pets), but more importantly, the owners that love them could prevent them from getting there in the first place by covering the a license,” McCollum said.
Five key benefits of licensing your pet
1.When a pet has a pet license on its collar, a good samaritan, neighbor or worker can call King County and give them the license number. In turn, King County will give the caller the phone number of the owner, and then the caller can then contact the owner and alert them that they have their pet.
“Right there with no cost they can get the pet returned quickly. This is a 24/7 service, so even if we’re not here to answer the phone, we have a recorded message that allows these folks to call in and provide the license number and get a contact number to call the owner and get the pet returned, even overnight or on the weekends,” McCollum said.
2. If an animal control officer finds a pet and it has a license, the officer will take the pet straight to the owner as opposed to taking it down to the shelter first.
3. When a pet does get taken to the shelter and has a license, it will be held for a much longer period of time than it would be if it did not have a license.
“If we can’t get contacted by the owners in three days, we would end up putting them up for adoption. But a licensed pet we will wait for a much longer period of time and doing everything is our power to make contact with that person,” McCollum explained.
4. For a licensed pet, owners can take advantage of a program at RASKC called “Vacation Pet Alert.” As part of the program, pet owners contact pet licensing or the shelter and provide them with information about their pet — a photo, name, contact information any description they can give — which is then put into the system of the shelter or licensing department. That way, if the pet runs away while its owners are away, the shelter knows who to contact, what the pet looks like and where to take the pet if it is found.
For example, if it’s staying at a pet hotel, the shelter would take the found animal there if that is what the owner said to do.
5. While licensing your pet can help your own personal pet, it can also help out hundreds of others.
“The license fees help support the return of hundreds of lost pets to their homes and it helps us to adopt out thousands of homeless pets each year to loving families. It helps us also to fund investigations of animal neglect and cruelty. It helps us with our spay neuter programs, to help pet overpopulation and community education,” McCollum said.
According to Morales, there are a lot of pets in the King County area that are not licensed.
She said in Maple Valley, only 34.4 percent of pet owners have their pet licensed. Only 25 percent of lost pets were returned to its owners as of 2018.
The outlook in Covington is not much different. Morales said 32.5 percent of pet owners in Covington have their pets licensed and only 33 percent of lost pets were returned to its owners in 2018.
As for Black Diamond, 26.8 percent of pet owners have their pets licensed and only 8 percent of lost pets were returned to its owner
A dog owner in Maple Valley was one of the lucky ones.
Monica Sauerwein lost her two dogs, Tugs and Polo a couple of weeks ago.
She said they got out on Jan. 27 at around 9 a.m.
The two of them busted through the backyard gate, Sauerwein said.
Soon after, she said she started looking for them, but they are fast.
“We have a general idea as to where they go, but they’re taking off in a dead run and 15 minutes in a dead run could be miles (to them),” Sauerwein said.
At around 2:30 p.m. on that same day, she said someone called her to say they had caught Tugs.
She said they took Tugs over to Reber Ranch Pet and Vet Clinic in Kent to see if he was microchipped — and he was.
Sauerwein said chipping her dogs was really important to her and her family. While both of her dogs are licensed, she said the tag always comes off of their collars. Having them chipped makes it easier for her rest easy knowing that if their tags have fallen off, there is still a way for someone to reach her if her dogs ever escape again.
“If you’re not going to have tags on their collar, at least have them chipped. Anyone can take them to any vet clinic and find them back home,” she said.
Polo ended up coming home on his own about an hour after Tugs was taken home, Sauerwein said.
Next steps if you do lose a pet
Morales said if someone loses their pet, one of the first things they should do is go to the RASKC website that shows lost and found pets. The website and specific page is https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/regional-animal-services/lost-and-found/LOST/found-animals-search.aspx
On that web page, there is a list of lost and found pets that people can go through to see if their pet is on there.
If someone would like to list their pet as missing, all they have to do fill out a missing pet report. In this report, a pet owner must include their pet’s picture and as much detail as they can to help the community find their pet.
“Then when that gets uploaded, that’s something that is shared on our system and that alerts our staff and volunteers and they’ll do the best they can to look at the lost pet report and then check to see if it matches with any of our found strays. Then we’ll follow up with residents,” Morales said.
If your pet is not licensed go to https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/regional-animal-services/license-your-pet/purchase-renew-license.aspx.
Morales said it’s only $30 a year to license a pet and that money goes toward shelter operations such as food and supplies for the animals housed at the shelter.
Fines for unlicensed pets can cost up to $250, depending on if the pet is spayed or neutered, according to the RASKC website.