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Isabella Scandolari and her Mexican chihuahua Violetta are out for a walk on Kitsilano Beach.

Pet owners report fewer lost animals in Vancouver

Chipping and tracking technologies give owners a virtual leash

By Steven Zhu , in City , on March 25, 2020

People are reporting fewer lost pets to the city’s animal shelter in recent years, even as pet ownership is on the rise in Vancouver.

City staff are also matching more of the reports with animals in their possession. That means that last year, 70 per cent of lost animals were matched with their owners.

And the city-run shelter has also been impounding fewer stray animals during the same period.

All of that appears to be due to the growing popularity of microchipping and tracking devices, which allow owners to locate their lost pets more easily without involving the city and other agencies, according to organizations dealing with pets.

311 calls about lost pets on the decline

In 2018 and 2019, the city received around 550 calls about lost pets annually. In previous years, the average number of calls was about 800 per year. 

Lost pet match rates from 311 calls have hovered at historic highs at around 70 per cent for the past three years, a dramatic increase from 30 per cent in 2013. Source: Vancouver Animal Control Inventory – Lost and Found

The number of animals impounded by the city has declined from over a thousand in 2013 to 726 last year.

The number of stray and lost animals impounded by the city have declined steadily over the past six years. Source: Vancouver Animal Control Inventory Register

City spokespeople clarified that their database does not include animals reunited with owners through other means.

“Of the 533 stray and lost dogs animal services took in at the shelter in 2019, 521 were returned to their owners,” said Koji Miyaji, the city’s assistant director of community standards and licensing.

The City of Vancouver Animal Services department is located at 1280 Raymur Ave.
Pet microchipping is on the rise

Microchipping has become a standard procedure at veterinary clinics across Vancouver, and is also contributing to the identification of lost pets.

At Kerrisdale Veterinary Hospital, microchipping is done at the same time as spay and neuter procedures for young cats and dogs. At Hemlock Animal Hospital, over 90 per cent of animals are microchipped.

In 2015, the B.C. SPCA started the BC Pet Registry, a local registry of microchipped pets. By the end of 2019, there were 103,000 pets registered in the database.

“Multiple agencies use the registry on a daily basis to look up and register pets,” said Dragana Hajdukovic, who oversees the registry at the BC SPCA. “In the period between Feb. 13 to March 13, 2020, the registry had up to 64 daily logins.”

Bluetooth tracking help keep pets on a virtual leash

Bluetooth pet trackers are becoming more popular and might play a part in the decrease in lost-pet reports.

According to Grand View Research, a market-research firm based in San Francisco, pet identification and tracking devices had the highest share in the global pet wearables market in 2019, and are projected to reach $2.8 billion USD in market value by 2027.

The Tile app, which offers bluetooth tracking tokens for wallets, bags, and keys, encourages users to try them on their pets. The company has reported that some pet owners have even trained dogs and cats to return upon hearing the device’s jingles.

Local pet owners weigh in

Local pet owners were encouraged by the decline in lost pet reports and impound numbers, but many were unaware of the city’s 311 hotline for reporting lost pets.

John Milne adopted his dog Diesel from an SPCA in Quebec, and now they live in Vancouver. 

“311 eh? That’s good to know. Diesel’s already chipped, and I’m not worried about losing him. He never leaves my side.”

John Milne adopted his dog, Diesel, from an SPCA in Quebec.

Even though microchipping is becoming more commonplace, not every pet owner is open to the procedure.

Isabella Scandolari has a 10-year-old Mexican chihuahua named Violetta. She’s not into the idea of putting a chip in her dog. 

Scandolari actually used to share Violetta with a host through a pet-sharing service. Once, a host actually refused to return her dog, and she had to go to the police. 

She said if Violetta were to go missing or get lost through some other means, her first thought would be to reach for social media and to put up posters. She was glad to learn about the city’s 311 hotline, but wasn’t worried about losing Violetta.

“She’s small. I keep her on a tight leash.”