This guest post is authored by Gina Knepp, Animal Care Services Manager at the Front Street Animal Shelter in Sacramento, CA.
The City of Sacramento has a population of 460,000 with an estimated 254,000 pets (not counting about 70,000 community cats). Our shelter supports 10,000 lost, stray, abandoned and surrendered pets every year.
The Front Street Animal Shelter in Sacramento is on a mission to microchip everything with four legs!
Offering $5 microchips has made a big difference in pet owner affordability and the public’s interest in microchipping is on the rise. With over 100 offsite adoption and community outreach events per year, Front Street recently began offering “free” microchips. Local pet owners who visit these events often donate more than the face value of the microchip, which allows even more animals to be chipped, especially in economically challenged neighborhoods. Donations are the primary mechanism to make this possible for pet owners who may otherwise not be able to afford the service. The City’s general fund supports the program with tax dollars as well, but as we see it, the fewer animals that end up in our shelter, the less the tax base is burdened.
Many pet owners love the notion of paying it forward and will donate additional money beyond the cost of the microchip so other pets can benefit. Also, all pets that are redeemed by their owners from the shelter are offered a complimentary microchip, which very few decline. As the number of microchipped animals increases, the long term return on investment will materialize. We believe shelter intake can be reduced with an aggressive microchip campaign. Overall, we are seeing a decline in intake, but it is premature to say with any certainty that our microchip campaign is the primary reason. However, we are seeing an increase of animals coming to our shelter with a microchip, so we are hopeful that our efforts will ultimately demonstrate the value of the program. Having only done a soft launch to test community response, we are certain that with a full-fledged campaign, we will see significant improvement.
The shelter’s Animal Control Team feverishly works to return strays directly to their owners with what we call, “field services.” Armed with microchip scanners, our officers work diligently to get lost pets home before even bringing them to the shelter. Not only is this cost-saving to the shelter, but a sure-fire way to build trust and community support.
Soon, our Animal Control Officers will be offering microchipping services in the field. If our Officers manage to find an owner (without the help of a microchip) they can implant a microchip immediately upon returning the pet home. Our customer service team will input all of the necessary data to register the chip and answer any questions pet owners may have about microchips and how they work. Our hope is to garner more community support for our microchip program, and to help pet owners see microchips as a way of making sure every animal has a way to get back home.
We have recently entered into partnership with a local public relations firm, Runyon Saltzman and Einhorn, Inc., who absolutely love our campaign and are in the process of developing a comprehensive marketing program to raise awareness about the benefits of microchipping.
We would like to encourage other animal shelters to take on the chip challenge!
Does your shelter offer low-cost or free microchips? Do you think the “chip challenge” would work in your community or not?