Start New Year right with collar, tag & microchip
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By Mickey Zeldes  January 3, 2014 12:00 am

Let’s start the New Year off right and be proactive about protecting our pets. Just as there is a campaign to get people to remember to change the batteries in their smoke alarm when the clocks change for daylight savings – we’re part of the campaign to get pet owners to do a collar and tag check on Jan. 1 (Ok, so this column is already late for that – just do it ASAP!).

Checking the collar means looking to see that it’s not frayed or poorly fitting. A well-fitting collar allows just two fingers in. It should be a clip or buckle collar that is worn all the time. Choke chains or other special collars go on and off for walks only. They can be very dangerous if left on all the time – that’s why they are called choke chains. 

Collars are important for several reasons. Just having one on indicates the animal has an owner – after all no dog or cat was born with one already attached. So, thinking it could be someone’s pet, more people are apt to help the animal if he appears to be in trouble. Also, the purpose of the collar is to allow you to attach things to your pet – important things like a leash, license and ID tag.

Without a collar, how would you hook a leash to the animal? It would be mighty uncomfortable just hooked to the fur. And a leash gives you a foolproof way to keep the dog out of the street or to prevent him from running off chasing the cat or rabbit that just dashed by. Even the best-trained dog can’t resist that temptation. Instead of just hoping that your pet will stay with you out of harm’s way, a leash can guarantee it.

A license is required in Rohnert Park for all dogs and cats over 4 months old. As soon as they get their rabies vaccinations, you need to bring that certification in to purchase a license. We have the lowest license fees in the county at only $12 per animal if altered, and $30 if still intact. A license not only shows proof of a current rabies shot but also serves as a form of ID, as it is traceable to you. But an even easier way to let people know where the animal lives is an actual ID tag. Why make it difficult for a Good Samaritan to help a lost pet find his way home? Because lost animals can’t give their addresses, do it for them. Just make a label (tag) and attach it to their collar. You’d be amazed at how many people turning an animal into the shelter they just found have said, “I’d be happy to take her home if I knew where she lived.”

Because ID tags and collars can fall off, though, a microchip is the best backup you can get. It’s not only a permanent form of identification, it is also an invisible way to prove ownership should it ever come into question. This tiny radio wave transmitter is about the size of a grain of rice sealed in surgical quality material that is safely injected under the skin at the center of the back.

All lost animals brought into our shelter are scanned on three different occasions to reduce the chance that we might miss finding a chip. There are now more than half a dozen different microchip companies competing in this market, which, in some ways, just confuses the consumer. All Sonoma County shelters, though, have universal scanners to try and eliminate the need to scan each animal with various scanners.

The best part of all this technology is that we are offering it free to all Rohnert Park and Cotati City residents as part of our “No More Lost Pets” campaign. Just bring your dog or cat and your proof of current residency to the shelter during our regular open hours – Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday 1-5 p.m.; and Sunday 1-4 p.m. – for a free microchip and a personalized ID tag. Make it your New Year’s resolution to give your pet the gift that shows your love – a ticket home if lost.


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at

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