Microchip IDs: The Small Tech That's a Big Help in Proving you are the Real Owner of your Lost or Stolen Companion Pet

Kathy LaFollett

Exotic pets in Florida number equally to dogs and cats. You may just find a lost croc at the SPCA.Photo byAdobe Express Pro

Seven footlong young Caiman crocodiles float in their baby blue kiddie pool. We’re in a basement of a brick ranch home, in a beautiful residential neighborhood, looking down at bright yellow eyes looking up at us.

“I have an exotic dealer who calls me when he’s got something interesting. These guys are interesting!” Jeremy smiles while he tells me his story of becoming an exotic animal broker himself. “Getting a license isn’t so bad. Once you get that, you can get serious about what you are dealing with.”

Tortoise live a comfortable life in outdoor environments in Florida. They don't mind the temps or the humidity.Photo byAdobe Express Pro

A large sulcata tortoise ambles past our feet on the tiled floor. Ignoring us, our conversation, and the crocs in the kiddie pool. He’s heading for a fresh head of lettuce on a feeding platform customized for him. It’s placed in front of a sliding glass door that leads to a sun-filled backyard that has a habitat large enough to house a four-foot alligator. Who ignored us earlier.

Jeremy’s residential exotic animal brokerage LLC is unusual. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, in his home. The neighbors know about the alligator in the backyard. They’re comfortable with him, considering he’d been there since he was the size of the Caiman’s in the basement. The alligator winters in the basement in a larger kiddie pool.

“I had another sulcata tortoise. Not sure if he was stolen, or he just wandered off into the brush. He’s been missing a few months now.” Jeremy reinforced his fencing and hardened his locks and access paths. It’ll be ten years for pet microchipping and another fifteen years for residential security systems to be affordable and available.

Missing residents happen in zoos. Two endangered Galapagos tortoises were stolen from the Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine, Florida.

Cockatoos are the most sensitive and sensationalized companion parrot.Photo byAdobe Express Pro

Lost companions happen in households. Gladys, a female cockatoo, was stolen from her front porch while enjoying the weather outside in Clearwater, Florida. She’d enjoyed her outdoor perch time for five years. Since her adoption day.

Sugar gliders are a gliding possum. Yes, trash panda fans, a flying possum.Photo byAdobe Express Pro

Hernando, an adult sugar glider, was taken from his enclosure in a residential backyard nestled in a cul-de-sac in Holiday, Florida. Tucked away from searching eyes, the enclosure was a natural setting mimicking the backyard’s landscaping. You’d have to know it was there. “What I don’t understand is why the thief left the other three. Maybe he didn’t see them in the hut. They’re upset. Breaks my heart.” Barry had been a breeder but retired. These were his personal gliders, meant to travel through retirement with him.

Lost, stolen, and missing exotic and domestic animals. It’s an entirely different criminal landscape. With entirely different results for each species. Statistically, dogs are the most commonly stolen pets. Particularly the small breeds. French Bulldogs are the current breed of choice for profit. Exotic pets like parrots, reptiles, and small mammals are also targets for profit. Exotic pets can bring a higher price as an exotic breeding opportunity.

When stolen animals are located, proving ownership is the hurdle owners face to bring their companion home. Microchips prove ownership. They provide identity proof and can provide instructions and health information about the lost pet. Air tags, collar ID tags, rabies tags, city and state tags. These are removable. Missing pets found by a good Samaritan will surely find their way home with these devices. An air tag will lead you to your pet if the tag wasn’t removed and thrown away. Improved microchipping technology and shared databases provide strong evidence of pet ownership and important information. The microchip depends on a lost or stolen pet being found first. This is where social media, online lost and found websites, pet detectives, investigators, and law enforcement come into play. The difference between finding and proving ownership for lost, stolen, and missing companion pets rests in the microchip. A swipe of the wand reveals the ID number that once searched on the supporting database reveals the owner.

A wand reads the data and ID number found in the microchip of a lost cat.Photo byAdobe Express Pro

· In Pinellas County, start at the county government page which offers links, resources, and help to find your companion. No matter who your companion is, dog, cat, or guinea pig.

· Pinellas County Animal Services has a page listing found pets with their photos. There’s a dog page. Cat page. And page for all other pets. They also have a dog page specifically featuring dogs found in the community, and living with their good Samaritan. And cats found in the community, living with their good Samaritan.

· SPCA has a great page with information offering local help. They’ve partnered with the county animal efforts to streamline reuniting companions with their humans.

· A Facebook group for reuniting lost pets in Pinellas County is active and engaged.

· If your pet and their microchip hasn’t been found for a time, you hire a pet detective. As the Washington Post article so succinctly put it, “When a parrot is held hostage or cats go MIA, Jamie Katz is on the case.” PI Jamie Katz, LLC is the only private investigation agency in South Florida that specializes in locating lost, missing, and stolen pets with the aid of scent specific tracking dogs.

The juvenile Galapagos tortoises have microchips. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation officials scanned the chips on site. Confirming they were the same tortoises stolen from St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. The microchips expedited their identification. Allowing FFWC to return them to the zoo immediately.

To date, Gladys, the cockatoo, has yet to find her way home. She was not microchipped. Historically, stolen parrots are sold to breeders or on sites such as Craigslist. They pose a more challenging process than dogs or cats. 911 Parrot Alert has been on the front lines of reuniting parrots on a national level with their families since 2003. Their website resources provide direction and local links to find your bird. The biggest issue for parrot owners is proving ownership. Microchipping eliminates that point of contention to bring your bird home.

Hernando, the sugar glider, was for sale on Craigslist. The owner paid the asking price to bring him home. “I’d rather be out of the money than without Hernando.”

As far as the missing sulcata tortoise, he was three miles away, at a park, under a tree. Jeremy uses an analog way of marking his ownership of all his tortoises. Permanent marker, under the lip of their shell. “Nobody thinks to look under there.”

Improved microchipping technology and shared databases provide strong evidence of pet ownership. Microchips follow your pet no matter where they roam. Local, county, state, or nationally, your pet’s microchip is a scan away from getting them back home.

Permanent markers may work in a pinch, too.

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Florida author, speaker, and wildlife/companion animal advocate writing about life in the Sunshine State from my cityscape, St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg, FL

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