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Madison Heights

September 11, 2013

Missing dog reunited with family thanks to microchip scan

Shelters receive scanners from All About Animals to take lost pets home

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Kristen Tzay, bottom right, and her family, bottom row, were reunited with their dog Charley, thanks to a universal microchip scanner donated by All About Animals. Both the Madison Heights shelter and the Hazel Park shelter received a scanner. Standing behind the family are local animal control officers and staff from All About Animals.

MADISON HEIGHTS — Back in June, Madison Heights residents Kristen Tzay, her fiancé Dan Newman and their three kids were shocked to learn that their puppy, Charley, had squeezed through a small gap in the fence and gone missing.

The dog, a boxer/St. Bernard mix, was named Charley after Charlie Sheen, since he beat pneumonia the first weekend they had him — “winning,” as Sheen would say.

But when Charley went missing, their fear was his luck had run out. 

“It was scary,” Tzay said. “Our biggest fear was he’d be hit by a car, being so close to I-696 and I-75. Another one of our big worries was someone would take him and train him for illegal purposes.”

Fortunately, Tzay had equipped her dog with a microchip, something recommended by local shelters and rescues.

Injected beneath the skin in a painless shot, the chip is never noticed by the animal and can be scanned by a shelter or rescue to determine the rightful owner, if the animal is ever lost and found. A simple scan reveals the identity of the owner, who is then notified about their pet.

On Aug. 27, Suzette Gysel, the animal control officer for Madison Heights, went to the 12 Mile and John R area on a report of a loose dog. She gained the dog’s trust with treats and petting, before bringing him back to the shelter.

“He wasn’t malnourished or covered in fleas,” Gysel said. “He was fairly clean and looked like someone’s dog, not a stray. He didn’t look like he was on the road. My guess is someone had him for a while, and then he got away from them and was never checked for a microchip.”  

With this in mind, Gysel took a donated scanner out of its box and gave it a whirl. The owner was immediately identified, and arrangements were made to return the dog to its home.

“It was pure excitement,” Tzay said. “We have another dog, an older dog named Rocko, and Charley is his buddy.” 

“The kids (ages 16, 15 and 4) were also excited, taking pictures and posting them on Facebook,” Tzay said. “My 4-year-old was laughing and jumping with Charley, playing with him a lot, saying, ‘I love my Charley!’ It was so cute. He’s such a good puppy.”

The pet owner must take the extra step of registering their information so it comes up when the chip is scanned. There are no GPS capabilities to the chip, as some conspiracy theorists like to think. The chip is also inexpensive — a one-time cost of only $25 at All About Animals in Warren.

“A microchip is not a replacement for ID tags — the pet should have both — but it’s extra insurance,” said Catherine Garrett of All About Animals. “Should the tag fall off, it’s the best and most permanent ID the pet can have. But it shouldn’t replace the tag, since not everyone thinks to scan an animal.”

All About Animals is a licensed nonprofit that aims to prevent homeless animals through low-cost spay and neuter. They fixed 17,000 animals in 2012, and nearly 70,000 since 2005. Fixing an animal reduces the risk of cancer and other illnesses, and prevents them from wandering off when in heat. Should they ever be lost, it also prevents them from having puppies, which will add to the number of homeless animals.

Garrett said this is crucial, pointing to national stats that indicate six out of 10 dogs and seven out of 10 cats are put down in shelters.

“There are enough homes for the animals out there, but the problem is, they’re not adopting,” Garrett said. “And 20 percent of the litters that happen are because a person didn’t get the parent animal fixed in time. They had no intention of breeding.”

All About Animals aims to prevent homeless animals in other ways, too. Finding lost pets and returning them to their homes is one way. They knew the shelters in Madison Heights and Hazel Park had microchip scanners, but the scanners were only able to detect chips of certain frequencies. That’s why All About Animals put out the word on Facebook and collected donations for a fund to purchase two universal scanners, $300 each, at a discounted rate of $200 apiece through Petfinder.com.

Already, the investment has paid dividends, with Charley being the first to benefit.

Now Charley, about eight months old, is back with his family. So is another pet who the Madison Heights shelter was able to identify with the new scanner.

Someone had brought in a neutered cat on Aug. 19, the day it had gone missing. Gysel scanned the cat’s chip and identified its owner, returning it home Aug. 29.

“The woman’s daughter (age 3 or 4) was so happy to see her cat that she was crying,” Gysel said. “The scanner was well worth the fundraising; it’s already paid for itself. These families had been heartbroken. And again, if the pets hadn’t had the chips, there would’ve been no way to find their owners. I tried the old scanner and it couldn’t read the chips, but with the new scanners, it picked them up immediately.”

Tzay said the whole experience reinforced for her the importance of the microchip. She had already learned the hard way when a previous dog got away from them.

“To not micro-chip your dog is foolish,” Tzay said. “It’s only $25, and it’s worth every penny.”

All About Animals is located at 23451 Pinewood Street in Warren; Pinewood is the first street west of Mound, between Nine Mile and Stephens (Nine 1/2 Mile). The group can be reached at (586) 435-1745.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.