By Dr. Becker
The Animal Health Division of Bayer Healthcare has just launched an effort they're calling the 'Lost Pet Alert Network.' The network is described as:
"… a virtual community of veterinary clinics, pet owners and animal shelters that is designed to share information about lost pets in order to more easily and quickly reunite them with their owners."
Sounds great so far, right?
But then the waters get a little murky. According to an online press release, the 'Lost Pet Alert Network' does the following:
"… allows pet owners and pet healthcare providers to register, free of charge, for an interactive online application that empowers pet owners to announce to the community that a pet has been lost.
Registrants can develop personalized lost pet posters that can be proactively distributed through local shelters and clinics.
Registrants can also send alerts via Facebook, Twitter and directly to other pet owners that have opted into the system."
This is a rather flowery, confusing paragraph, isn't it?
So confusing, in fact, I just had to visit the links provided in the press release to see what was up.
Warning: More Confusion Ahead!
Now, the first thing you might notice clicking either of those links is they don't, as you would expect, take you to anything that identifies itself as the 'Lost Pet Alert Network.' The website is actually PetParents.com, sponsored by Bayer, and while I didn't read every word, nowhere did I find reference to a 'Lost Pet Alert Network.'
I'm now feeling a bit lost trying to find the Lost Pet Alert Network, but maybe it's just me.
The link that takes you to pet owner registration doesn't actually do that. It takes you to a sales page for Bayer's microchip product.
I scrolled down the page. The lower half of this non-registration registration page invites me to 'Join the Cause.' The cause is something called LinkedforLife, and it's also described as a community of pet owners and animal caregivers. The community's mission:
LinkedforLife stands for the fact that pets with a microchip are still connected to their owners even if their collar and tags come off. Furthermore, LinkedforLife stands for a community of people who are connected around a common cause: HELPING PETS!
Apparently LinkedforLife is not the Lost Pet Alert Network. And in order to join the LinkedforLife community, you must microchip your pet as a first step.
…I scroll back up the page, looking feverishly for something that might take me to the registration page I was originally promised.
I decide to click on 'Register Your Pet' from the menu at the top, since out of several options, it seems to make the most sense. And while this page said nothing about lost pets, I went ahead and filled out the short form, agreed to the Terms of Service, and clicked Submit.
The next screen told me I had registered successfully and gave me a short list of things I could do on the site, like upload pictures to make customized e-cards, set up pet treatment reminders, and other similar activities.
Still nothing about lost pets though.
So I clicked 'Continue.' I was then taken to something called a 'PetLink.net Registration' page. There was just one question to answer: Do you have a PetLink.net account?
Since I don't even know what a PetLink.net account is (but have gleaned at this point it must have something to do with Bayer's microchip product), I click No and then Continue. The next screen asks for my pet's microchip ID number.
Okay, so the 'Register Your Pet' link can't be used to register lost pets unless perhaps they are microchipped.
Let's Try Another Route
Back I go to the pet owner registration link page.
This time I click on 'Report a Lost Pet' from the menu at the top. The next screen gives me the 3-step process for reporting a pet: Add a Missing Pet, Create a Poster, Start Sharing.
This looks like the real deal, so I click step 1, Add a Missing Pet, and am able to add a (fictitious) pet to the list, including a photo. I then quickly and easily created a color poster to print copies of.
Next I clicked on the Start Sharing link and found very fast, user-friendly tools to spread the word about my lost pet on Facebook, Twitter, the PetParents.com community, and local veterinarians and animal shelters.
As a final step, I found my 'lost' pet under Missing Pets in the top menu, and quickly deleted my fictitious listing.
The Bottom Line on the Lost Pet Alert Network
There's no reference to this network on Bayer's PetParents.com. Nothing. Zip. I even did a search for it on the site.
So if you're interested in becoming a member of the Lost Pet Alert Network, I don't know what to tell you. Maybe more information will be available in the future from Bayer.
Meantime, if you've lost your precious pet and are looking for ways to spread the word, there are some useful tools at the site.
Cut to the chase by going directly to the Report a Lost Pet page. There you can, in just a few minutes, create your lost pet listing, upload a photo, generate a color poster in PDF format for printing, and spread the word using whichever available tools fit your needs.
A Word about Microchips
There are pros and cons to implanting microchips in pets.
If your pet is a runner or escape artist and heads for the hills at every opportunity, a microchip might make sense. They do help in efforts to reunite some owners and their pets.
But keep in mind microchips aren't a foolproof method for finding your missing pet. Different types of chips require different types of scanners. So if your lost dog has microchip type 'A,' for example, and the facility he's turned in to has a scanner that only reads microchip type 'D,' your dog's chip can't be read by that scanner.
Also, the person doing the scanning has to know to scan the entire body rather than just between the shoulder blades where chips are implanted – because they can migrate.
You must also be diligent about registering your microchip and keeping your contact information current. Otherwise, a scanning facility – even if they can read the microchip – won't be able to find you.
The primary concern with a microchip is that it's a foreign body implanted in your pet, so there's always the potential for your dog's or cat's body to reject the chip.
There are other potential health risks as well, ranging from localized inflammatory responses to injection site tumors.
The decision about whether or not to microchip depends entirely on your individual situation with your pet.
If you're leery about chipping your furry companion, you can consider having your pet tattooed with your phone number while he's under anesthesia for another procedure. Of course, you are then committed to keep that phone number for the life of your pet!
Regardless of whether your pet is microchipped or tattooed, she should always wear an up-to-date ID tag or collar.