All RSPCA officers receive many calls every year where an injured pet animal is in need of rescue. This could be a dog which has been hit by a car and needs to be dashed to a vets for emergency treatment, a cat found stuck in a rubbish skip, cold, wet and tired or even a rabbit found by someone walking their dog. The RSPCA provides a 24-hour national control centre where anyone can call us about an animal in need of help and a real person is there, at any time of the day, to speak to.
The RSPCA receives over one million phone calls a year and many of those are about animals which need rescuing or helping very urgently. In 2010, RSPCA officers rescued and collected over 130,000 animals. No other animal charity provides this kind of 24-hour national service.
Firstly, the technology bit... What is a pet microchip and how does it work?
Your pet can have a tiny microchip - the size of a grain of rice - easily inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades.
Each microchip has its own unique code number which is linked to a national database with your contact details, which you can keep up to date yourself.
When dog wardens, vets and rescue organisations come across a lost pet they will check for the microchip using a scanner which can read the microchip's details and signal a chip is found with a 'beep'.
A collar and identification tag is still required to be worn. By law, in the UK, all dogs have to wear a collar with a tag showing its owner's name and address.
The RSPCA has just launched its Five Pledges to help animals and improve their welfare and responsible pet ownership, including microchipping, forms a part of at least one of the Pledges.
It's such a simple and cheap way to permanently identify your animal it just makes sense to have it done.
Here is just one story from my career as an RSPCA inspector where a pet animal was helped by being microchipped.
In 2005 I was stationed as an RSPCA inspector in the Exeter and East Devon area of England. I lived in Exmouth just south of Exeter. I was on-call that night, something all RSPCA officers do, being available through the night to respond to emergency complaints about animal cruelty as well as rescues. I was available to respond to anywhere in Devon, so was a little relieved when the national control centre (NCC) called me at about 2am to hear that the emergency was in my home town and not miles away, as Devon is one of the largest counties in England.
A young lady heading home from a night out in Exmouth's town centre had found a black cat under a fence on Pound Lane, just close to the garden centre. She had noticed it wasn't able to stand and was worried that it may have been hit by a car. What this splendid young lady, called Rachel, then did is one of the reasons that the UK is known as a country of animal lovers. She didn't just walk on by, she knew the RSPCA is there 24-hours for animals and she called us to help. The NCC answered her call and took all the details from her and then checked to see which officer was on duty for emergencies that night... and of course it was me.
So, while trying not to disturb my wife, I got into my uniform and headed away from home in my fully equipped van straight to the location given by Rachel. Our NCC had asked her that, as we had an inspector really close, could she stay with the cat until I arrived. This she did and I was able to reach her within just 10 minutes of her call for help. Obviously we can't get to every emergency so promptly, but on this occasion it was great to be able to respond so quickly. On my way to the location I had called one of the local vet surgeries in Exmouth and they were going to be ready to receive me and the cat so they could examine and treat the animal for its injuries.
As I drove down the hill to the rescue location, as Rachel had said, just outside the garden centre by the post and rail fence, I could clearly see her by the cat, which she had put her coat over to try and give it some warmth. She was very glad to see the RSPCA and I could see that the black cat was very much in need of emergency help. I very carefully lifted the cat, trying not to move it too much as I feared it had substantial injuries. The black cat had a lovely glossy coat and was clearly well fed and cared for. This was not a stray, this was someone's much loved puss. I could see that the tips of her claws were split and frayed, a tell tale sign of a road traffic accident as the cat's amazing reflexes would have caused her to flex her claws in an instant. They then fray and split on the road surface at the point of impact.
I thanked Rachel for caring for the cat and for calling the RSPCA and headed as quickly as I could to Raddenstiles vets on the outskirts of the town. The vet on call was Chris, and he met me at the door and immediately got to work on examining the cat, including an x-ray and giving her first aid. The RSPCA pays for initial emergency treatment for animals so the animal can receive the immediate first aid which is so important and that initial cost doesn't prevent treatment being given.
Sadly the cat had some serious injuries. She had a broken pelvis and some fractured ribs and Chris was also very concerned about internal bleeding.
As soon as he had stabilised her, given her pain relief and put her on a drip we scanned her for a microchip. We wanted so much to hear that 'beep'... Now, seven years ago not a great proportion of pets were microchipped and I always felt it was a bit of a futile process to go through but every now and then one would be chipped.
BEEP! This one was!
The much-wanted 'beep' came from the scanner and the unique identification flashed on the screen. Chris called the national database number and was given the details, which thankfully were up to date. Immediately we knew so much about 'Sophie' the black cat. Her name, age and most importantly her owner's name and contact details. By this time it was about 3am and we decided we would call the owner straight away due to the serious nature of Sophie's injuries.
I called Mrs Hall who eventually answered the phone in some confusion due to the time, but once I explained the situation she was hugely grateful and, of course, desperately worried about her much-loved cat. Chris then explained to her the condition of Sophie and that although he was confident she would survive the night he wasn't sure if she would pull through in the long run. Another piece of great news was that Mrs Hall had pet insurance for Sophie which meant she didn't have to worry about the expensive vet bills.
This is one of those stories which does have a happy ending as Sophie made a full recovery and returned home with Mrs Hall after a only a few days. Many stories sadly do not end in such a positive way but the RSPCA and our fantastic front line officers will always do our best to help.
This is a shining example of where that tiny piece of technology can help an animal in so many ways.
So, is your pet microchipped? If it isn't, do the right thing and find out where you can get it done. It's not expensive and it doesn't take long. You can get your pet microchipped at your vets and by some local authorities and many of our animal centres, hospitals and branch centres also offer a microchipping service for a cheap cost. All animals, where suitable, rehomed by the RSPCA are microchipped.
For more information about microchipping your pet take a look at this link on the RSPCA website.
Get it booked today! As we want to hear many many more of those all important 'beeps' when we scan an animal for a microchip.