Microchips, microprocessors and member shelters help create better lives for animals.
By SEAN BARRON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
Carolyn Ammerman saw Gretl and knew she wanted to adopt the puppy from the Lawrence County Humane Society. But a 6 1/2-hour drive stood between them.
Nevertheless, Ammerman left her Old Tappan, N.J., home and headed to the western Pennsylvania shelter to meet Gretl.
"I saw the puppy online and called," Ammerman said, referring to petfinder.com, an online service that makes information about dogs and cats more accessible to those wanting to adopt a particular breed. The site features pictures and descriptions of more than 40,000 animals.
Members: About 2,000 animal shelters nationwide are petfinder.com members, including several Mahoning Valley shelters.
The New Castle, Pa., shelter has had about a dozen out-of-state adoptions in the last year -- one from as far away as North Carolina -- said Rochelle Wawrzynski, shelter supervisor.
"Our adoptions have increased about 100 percent," Wawrzynski said.
The online service has also increased local adoptions at the Lawrence County Humane Society, according to its director, Cindy Mittica. The shelter takes in dogs and cats, as well as various wildlife such as ferrets, guinea pigs and parakeets. Snakes have been added this year, Mittica said.
Lost pets: Petfinder.com is also valuable to animal shelters because it enables owners of lost pets to better track them, said Diane Less-Baird, president of the Green Township-based Angel for Animals. Fewer than 2 percent of cat owners find their lost animals, Less-Baird pointed out.
"There's no good system for tracking [cats]," she said.
But the 11-year-old animal shelter has a hand-held scanner and is now promoting microchipping -- the injection of a tiny computer chip somewhere on the animal's body, Less-Baird said. The chip has a certain number that would be fed into the scanner, improving a generic description of the animal and making it easier to track the lost pet, she explained.
Conversely, the device has the capability to scan strays for microchips, making it more likely someone will claim the animal. Angels is starting to scan its cats, Less-Baird added. Information is fed into a national databank, which brings up the name of the animal's owner.
Microchipping fees will likely be included in the cost of adopting a pet from Angels for Animals, said Mary Jo Nagy, the agency's referral director. Nagy also said the process will probably be mandatory for those wanting to adopt an animal when Angels for Animals moves to its new location in Beaver Township.
The facility also requires the dog or cat to be spayed or neutered before it can be adopted. The surgical procedure removes the animal's reproductive organs and is used to help control overpopulation.
In Trumbull County: The Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County is considering linking into petfinder.com, said Debbie Serbati, director. The online option hasn't affected the number of dogs and cats coming into or leaving the shelter, she added.
The number of homeless animals coming to the Animal Welfare League has remained steady in each of the last five years, averaging about 2,000 annually, Serbati said. Cats and dogs are usually kept for up to 21 days before being euthanized, although strays are given less time, she noted.
The shelter offers low-cost spaying and neutering to people of low income, making adoptions more affordable. The league also offers other treatments, including an AIDS test for cats, Serbati said.
Ammerman said she had Gretl spayed shortly after adopting her last December. The puppy, which looks similar to a cocker spaniel and golden retriever mix, has adjusted to her surroundings, Ammerman said.