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Greater Birmingham Humane Society offers free microchipping for pets


July is coming to a close, and so is this month’s round of free microchipping at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. The animal adoption and rescue service has held popup microchip clinics in Central Alabama every Saturday since July 1.

The final two clinics are tomorrow and Monday. The first clinic will be held at Cahaba Brewing Company off Fifth Avenue South from 12 to 2 p.m. The second clinic will be held at GBHS’ adoption clinic in Homewood off Snow Road from 10 a.m. to noon. The organization will provide and administer all microchips as well as register microchipped pets online. Pet owners will be given additional instructions on how to view and edit the personal information included on their pet’s microchip. All microchips will be digitally stored online through HomeAgain, which is a microchip manufacturer.

GBHS officials report the free microchip clinics honor National Lost Pet Prevention Month, which is nationally considered every July. According to the nonprofit organization American Humane, in 2019, roughly 10 million pets were lost in the United States and only 15% of dogs and 2% of cats in shelters without microchips or ID tags were reunited with their owners. Stephanie Salvago is GBHS’ director of marketing. Salvago said losing pets is not uncommon in Alabama, particularly during the summer months.

“In July, we see an uptick in lost animals every year,” she said. “We have the Fourth of July. This is kind of the last month that people are going on vacations. Maybe you're leaving your pet with a pet sitter, or you're taking them with you. They're in a new location. It may be easier for them to get out or they're nervous. We see an increase in stray animals and phone calls from worried pet owners asking if we picked up their animal. This month serves a purpose to inform people there are ways to prevent your dog from being scared from fireworks or if you go on vacation, here's some steps that you can take. But the number one [recommendation] that you'll see is microchips.”

Greater Birmingham Humane Society

Though a trusty collar with the pet owner’s information is also helpful, Salvago said sometimes it is just not enough.

“Collars can fall off,” she said. “Microchips are the best way.”

Microchips will be administered by GBHS staff. The procedure involves sticking a syringe in between the animal’s shoulder blades. Salvago said while the sight of needles may make a pet owner hesitant, microchipping is relatively quick and painless.

“It is just like us getting the flu shot,” she said. “The needle itself looks intimidating. I'll be the first one, I'm not a fan of needles. The first time I saw it I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ but most pets don't even realize that it's happening. We've had a lot of people come and be like, ‘Oh, I just can't watch, I can't watch.’ But their dog didn't even realize it. They just thought they're getting held by a stranger.”

Salvago said it is normal for some pets to show temporary signs of discomfort. However, she said the procedure is not invasive.

“There are a few young puppies, just because their skin is thinner, [who may] yelp a little bit,” she said. “But it’s just like when your child gets vaccines or a flu shot. It hurts for just a second, and then it's fine. Most dogs and pretty much every cat just looks at you like, ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’ What normally scares them the most is [that] we always scan the microchip once it's been injected to make sure our reader is picking it up. Normally, the reader, because it makes a beeping noise, scares the pet more than the shot does.”

Salvago said microchipping is important for pet owners to consider because not only does it help save them money; it helps save them time.

“When I got my pet chipped, I think I spent around $100 at the vet's office,” she said. “I know staff that's paid around $50, but, in the long run, it's such a valuable asset. God forbid, your pet gets out. It's so much easier and so much quicker for them to be returned if an animal control officer, vet clinic, shelter, rescue or even police stations and fire stations can scan your pets. Our animal control officers can scan in the field, see, ‘Oh, this dog lives right around the block’ and just drop it off at your house right there instead of having [the pet] go to our impoundment facility. It’s going to allow pets to be reunited with their owners so much faster.”

Salvago said microchipping also allows pet owners to be proactive in keeping their animal safe.

“It allows us [to], if there's an animal that is continually getting out, go to the owner and say, ‘Hey, we think you might have a hole in your fence, can we help you fix it?’ she said. “We’ve done that before. We have built fences. We build dog houses. We want to make sure that every pet owner has everything that they need to ensure their pet is living a happy, healthy life.”

Above all else, Salvago said microchipping is crucial for pets because it can help bring them back to their owners and save their lives.

“Our animal control officers are picking up animals every single solitary day, and some of them are obviously owned pets that have gotten out. But because they are not microchipped, or they don't have a collar or tag, we have no way of knowing who that owner is,” she said. “We always encourage people if they’ve lost their pet to visit our Lost and Found pet page, go to their neighborhood pages on Facebook or call our Animal Control Office, but, a lot of times, people either don't know that or they don't realize that their animal has gotten out.”

To celebrate the final Saturday of the month, GBHS decided to make tomorrow’s microchip clinic a little different than the rest. In addition to free microchipping and online pet registration, the organization is also hosting an on-site GBHS Alumni Reunion Party from 12 to 4 p.m. Former GBHS adoptees are invited to dust their paws off and mingle with their fellow Magic City furry friends. GBHS will have additional activities for children like face painting, free pet photography from The Bark and extra information on GBHS’ volunteering, fostering, adoption and transport driving services.

Registration for either clinic is not required. However, pet owners are asked to fill out a form that includes them and their pet’s information. A free microchip clinic is in the works for next month, but an event date remains unknown. More information on this week’s clinics and any future clinics can be found on the GBHS website and visiting the organization’s Events Page.

Joshua LeBerte is a news intern for Alabama Public Radio.
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