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When Your Pet Goes Missing
Written by Kelly Chandler, Staff Writer

Flyers from pet owners searching for their missing animals fill the wall at the Montgomery Coun-ty SPCA’s Perkiomenville shelter. About 40 percent of the animals housed at the shelter come in as strays.

        With spring officially here, people aren’t the only ones getting the fever to get outside and run around. So are our pets.

        From late March until August is the busiest time of year for pets to fly, jump or run the coop, said Rachael Demeter, animal control officer for Pennsburg and East Greenville boroughs, as well as owner of United K-9 Obedience Training and Pet Care. And there are several things pet owners can do to ensure their pets don’t end up with their faces plastered on a utility pole or a store bulletin board.
        Demeter said the majority of cases can be prevented. Most animals run away while not being properly secured. Summer time is prime time for dogs and cats to get out through doors or window screens that are improperly latched. Demeter said many dogs jump out first-floor windows to their freedom.   

Shanna Murphy, kennel technician at the Montgomery County SPCA’s Perkiomenville shelter, demonstrates a microchip reader used to check for information about a pet’s ownership.

        Birds routinely escape while being put out for some sun and their cage doors aren’t tightly closed. Demeter said she recently rescued a lost blue parakeet from a local outdoor bird feeder.
        “People are often just not paying attention,” Demeter said. “When the kids are in and out of the door, when they have company over…They need to make sure their pets are properly secured and entertained.”
        But sometimes animals run out of fear. Separation anxiety and loud noises, like thunderstorms and fireworks, spur flight as well. Those instances can be harder to control.
        Demeter said the first thing pet owners should do when they lose their animal is to call local shelters, veterinary hospitals and police departments. Posting flyers with the animal’s picture, description and location or placing an ad in a local newspaper is also helpful. 
        No matter how or why the animal got separated from its owner, Demeter said she recommends animals are microchipped and have tags.
        Cherie Alderfer, of Marlborough Township, has been looking for her black Lab mix, Shadow, since August 15. Shadow ran away from her Upper Ridge Road property after a series of startling events that day including a thunderstorm and nearby gunshots.
        Alderfer and her family have gone all out to find the 8-year-old they raised from a puppy. To date they have handed out about 500 flyers, posted 250 posters and put ads in three newspapers as well as online through Petfinder and Craigslist.
        “We want to thank all the people who have helped us look for Shadow,” Alderfer said Tuesday. “There are so many nice, kind, helpful people out there. We miss her so much.” 
       According to Tracie Graham, shelter manager of the Montgomery County SPCA’s Perkiomenville facility, approximately 40 percent of the shelter’s residents come in as strays. She has seen everything from lost cats and dogs to birds, horses and even goats.
        She recommends microchipping as well.
        “Animals can lose their collars and tags but microchipping is permanent,” she said. “It’s becoming more popular as the price is more affordable now than it used to be.”     
         While the animal is awake, a microchip about the size of a grain of rice is injected subcutaneously with the animal’s identifying information stored on it. Most veterinary hospitals and shelters have universal scanners that can scan the animal for their ID number and information.

Cherie Alderfer of Marlborough Township has put up some 500 posters throughout the area in search of her missing black Lab mix, Shadow, who ran away in August of 2011.

        If owners change, the information can be updated through the scanners.
        Microchips now run about $40 and pet owners can sometimes get the procedure done less expensively at microchipping clinics.
        Demeter said she reunited a stray dog with its family last August after a Montgomery County couple brought the canine home after finding it while on vacation in New York. The animal was microchipped and was actually only about two miles from home before being brought to Pennsylvania.    
         Anyone who finds a stray animal should also follow the guidelines for those who lost their pet, including contacting shelters and police. 
        Alderfer is hoping for a happy reunion with Shadow too. While her family adopted another black Lab named Tara from the SPCA, Shadow can never be replaced, she said.
        “She’s a smart dog and she’s a part of our family,” she said of Shadow, noting her grandchildren keep asking about the dog. “With God’s help Shadow will come home. We just want her to come back to her forever home.”





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