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Pet Theft Awareness

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SAMPA

Case Studies: Stolen Cat Clooney

ZolaCats get stolen but is cat-napping taken seriously?
Are cat owners being fobbed-off when they report their cat as stolen?

Read about Clooney, a cherished Siamese cat who disappeared without trace.

His microchip is perhaps the best hope his owner has of getting back her cat, but unless vets (who charge for inserting the chips) actually bother to scan then Clooney’s owner Toni Clarke is left wondering what happened to HER cat.

Clooney is a large male, seal point Siamese, (very dark points) now 5yrs old who disappeared in the morning 13th June 2013 between 8am and about 11am. (he hadn't had breakfast so would definitely have been in before then moaning about his food)

He is neutered and micro-chipped.

He is a modern, rather than traditional type Siamese with a long nose, large ears, triangular face and a long, tall, slender but muscular body.

Toni Clarke’s story:

During the summer of 2013, I lost a treasured Siamese, Clooney, quite the most special and characterful cat that I have ever had the joy of sharing my home with. I use the word, ‘sharing’ loosely, for he totally owned it, as indeed he did us. His insistence that we love him was such that we fell helplessly and willingly into four years of devoted servitude. Sound familiar? So when he failed to turn up after just a few hours one morning in mid-June 2013, I knew immediately that something had happened. His idyllic life left us in no doubt that he wouldn’t have disappeared of his own volition and despite our desperate efforts to work out what happened through every means possible, he appears to have left without a trace. Did my trusting, bold boy jump into the courier van that pulled into the drive that morning or could he have been taken?

Sadly, I am no stranger to this situation as I lost a cat 18 years ago when I first moved to Norfolk. The sadness and worry that accompanies such an open-ended loss has been carried with me and prompted the immediate micro-chipping of Clooney; I simply could not bear to face that again without the safety net that this scheme promised. However, it’s only when these tragic situations arise that flaws in the system are exposed. I have been rather shocked to discover that all newly registered animals to veterinary surgeries are not routinely scanned for ownership. It appears that the microchip is only useful as a tool for reuniting bereft owners with their lost pets if the animal is specifically brought in to the surgery as a ‘found’ animal and a scan is requested. This has depressing ramifications for all of us pet lovers, as we have paid into a scheme that purports to help reunite us should the nightmare of a lost pet become a reality, but falls far short of our expectations. It is quite likely, especially with cats, that our disorientated and hungry pets are taken in as ‘strays’ by well-intentioned people and then we lose the only route open to us to bring them back home when they are registered with a vet. And as for those pets that suffer at the hands of heartless thieves whose intention is to pass them on for profit, what hope do they have that the ‘please-help-me-get-back-home’ information contained in their chip will be read?

So Clooney’s fate hangs perilously in the hands of the veterinary surgeries who feel that it is too time consuming to scan and check for ownership. In my experience, vets are hardly obstructive people lacking in compassion and most have pets of their own, so what’s the problem? It appears that money has been pumped into creating the microchip, promoting it to the vets and advertising it to us animal loving public as a peace-of-mind facilitator, whilst the scanners do little more than read the chip number. No flashing ‘Missing Cat’ alert as I expected, having informed the company of my boy’s lost cat status, and no coherent central database of chip numbers from the various micro-chipping giants. Instead veterinary staff are obliged to phone the relevant database company with the chip number for them to confirm ownership and to discover if the animal is registered as lost. This doesn’t seem a lot to expect given the chance of bringing immeasurable joy back into the lives of heartbroken owners, but it’s too troublesome and time-consuming given the current system. In fact, it is ‘recommended’ as ‘good practice’ by both the Royal College Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and British Small Animals Veterinary Association (BSAVA) that veterinary practitioners ‘thoroughly scan any animal that they are seeing for the first time to detect the presence of an identification microchip’. However, despite the verbal kindness and sympathy I received from the staff at many of the veterinary surgeries I spoke with, it appears that only the minority follow the guidelines due to commercial pressures. The system is simply not set up for the proper practice as required to get our pets reunited as was originally intended; a massive barrier was erected from the outset.

This is going to be an issue of interest to all dog owners since they will have a legal obligation to microchip their pet from April 2016 (England) and March 2015 (Wales) when legislation will make it compulsory. Let’s hope that the microchip companies are compelled to revise their inadequate system before it is enforced and that there are plans to recognise that cats are just as worthy of such a protective scheme with the same legal requirement.

During my many months striving to find a way to bring Clooney back home, I stumbled across a campaign that seeks to address, challenge and publicise the gaps in the micro-chipping system. When Debbie Matthews’ two dogs were stolen, she fortunately had the invaluable public platform that her celebrity father Bruce Forsyth, could provide. With the benefit of media publicity, she managed to get her pets back safely but altruistically began campaigning for vets to routinely scan, entitled, ‘Vets Get Scanning’ - with his name at the helm. They are collecting signatures to petition the Government for the necessary changes to the current system and I would urge all pet owners to think about getting behind it.

Clooney

In addition, they have been involved in the development of a new Scanner angel ‘Halo’ scanner which can upload data of lost pets’ microchip numbers, providing the much needed alert when a missing animal is scanned. At last, a voice for our beloved lost pets, after all, what use is the invisible microchip as a saviour if it is unseen and silent? Nick Smith of Scannerangel.com is the genius behind this long overdue device who has made this possible - an angel indeed. However, even so, they are still waiting for the collaboration of one of the largest database companies, Anibase, who have yet to allow their database of lost pets to be used with the Halo scanner. Sadly, they aren’t alone. It must be said though, that those registered on Petlog, the largest, have been granted this passport back home, thanks to the cooperation of the company. Who would have believed that not all microchips are equal when it comes to their ability to reunite? Halo Scanner Angel have made registration free to both the database companies and individuals, inviting owners of missing pets to register with them directly on their website and so as not to put any financial barrier in the way, it is the cheapest scanner on the market currently. I have no commercial affiliation to Scanner Angel, my only motive is to get my lad back home and one quick scan with this will say the words that he can’t, ‘I have been reported missing, please take me home’.

So it appears that there is a glimmer of light at the end of the blocked tunnel home if only the rubble of excuses is cleared, the vets understand their role and the technology is used. But until then Clooney, my beautiful, achingly missed lad, my search for you goes on ...

So over to you, veterinary practices, please sign up to a nationwide protocol of routine scanning for ownership at the point of registration at your surgeries because those imploring eyes might just be trying to tell you something


If you see Clooney or have any information at all that might help him get back home to us there is a £1000 REWARD for his safe return. Please call Stolen and Stray Pet Recovery Organisation on 01490 460369/07807 219249 or 07932 662731. Also find him on www.facebook.com/clooney.clarke

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