The car skidded as it pulled up outside our clinic door. The driver leapt out and rushed inside. ‘I’ve hit a dog, and he has no identity tag’, he stammered ‘ I think it’s dead’. We lifted the body from the boot of his car, and I could see at once that the large cross-bred German Shepherd was still breathing. The nurse helped me move its motionless body into the examining room, and we carried out an initial assessment.
The dog was concussed, in a state of deep shock, and was battered and bruised. However, there were no life threatening injuries. With the right treatment, this dog was going to survive. But who was his owner? Did somebody care for him or was he an unwanted waif? He had no collar and no identity tag.
If he was a stray, then even if we saved his life, he would have to be sent to the dog pound as soon as he was fully recovered. At the pound, he would probably become one of the fifteen thousand stray dogs in Ireland who will be euthanased in 2007. Would it be fair to let a stray animal suffer the discomfort of broken bones and bruising if death was going to follow soon in any case?
If he was somebody’s pet, then how could we find them? The dog could have wandered several miles from home, so asking around the immediate vicinity of the accident might not help. We could contact the police, and we could inform the different animal charities, but unless his owners made a serious effort to look for their dog, we were unlikely to be able to identify them. In such a case, again the dog would have to be sent to the pound, and again he would be likely to suffer the same sad fate as an unwanted stray.
Many veterinary clinics are faced with this sort of dilemma at least once a month. It is always very distressing. The car’s driver is often in a state of grief and guilt, feeling unnecessarily responsible for causing injury to the wandering animal. The animal itself is confused, in pain, and is certainly not to blame for its predicament. An animal cannot be expected to ‘know’ to stay at home and to have road sense.
In these cases, it is the owner of the animal who carries the full responsibility for the sadness, confusion and distress. As an owner, it is very simple to prevent this sort of situation arising. A collar with a small metal disc, engraved with a telephone number, is all that is needed to solve the problem.
If an animal has an identity tag, then within minutes of an accident the owner can be contacted, and the necessary decisions about treatment can be made. The car’s driver can be thanked for his/her assistance in rushing the dog to a vet clinic. There is no need to waste time telephoning the police and other agencies. The dog pound need not be contacted at all. Everybody’s job is made easier and the animal does not face an uncertain future.
An electronic microchip is an even more secure way of ensuring that a dog is identified. These microchips carry a code which links the dog to its owner, like the registration number of a car. The chip is injected beneath the skin in the scruff of the neck, and they remains in place for the dog’s lifetime.
The nameless German Shepherd cross survived the night, but no owner could be found. The pound was telephoned. The end of the story is too sad to tell. If you care about your pet, get him microchipped, or at the very least, make sure he carries your phone number around his neck on a tag.