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Pet Lover Geek: Modern Pet Identification and Licensing

On today's episode of Pet Lover Geek, powered by PetHub, Lorien talks with Jerrica Owen from the San Diego Humane Society in California. The two discuss what modern pet licensing looks like and the importance of a multi-level pet identification strategy. In honor of Lost Pet Prevention Month, Lorien is talking with pet industry experts throughout July about the basics of lost pet prevention and recovery techniques and resources. PetHub started Lost Pet Prevention Month in 2014 to drive deeper conversations around all of the ways pet parents can prevent a pet from becoming lost, as well as how to get them home quickly if they go AWOL (Absent WithOut a Leash).

[00:00:02.100] - Lorien Clemens Welcome to Pet Lover Geek, powered by PetHub, pet lovers. I'm Lorien Clemens, and I'm one of the pet loving geeks here at PetHub. We are celebrating Lost Pet Prevention Month, an annual event where we partner with other pet industry organizations to drive deeper conversations around all the lost pet prevention and recovery strategies out there for pet parents. Did you know that one out of three pets in the United States will go missing at some point in their lifetime; or that only 17 percent of dogs in shelters are returned to their owners and sadly, only three percent of cats in shelters make it home again. Here at PetHub, we work with a variety of animal welfare organizations to create custom licensing tag programs that help lost pets get home faster without ever having to enter the shelter. This saves organizations time, resources and money. For the past four years, we've worked closely with the San Diego Humane Society in California doing this very thing. And we're so excited today to be talking with Jerrica Owen. She's the Director of Strategic Initiatives at San Diego Humane Society. We're going to dive deep into what modern pet identification and licensing looks like for pet parents and how it can make their lives easier; how it can help them get their pet home faster in the event that they become lost. So, Jerrica, welcome to Pet Lover Geek. I know we've had you on the show before, but I really can't wait to dive in and hear the latest news coming out of San Diego Humane.

[00:01:31.700] - Jerrica Owen Hi, thank you so much for having me! I'm really excited to be here with you all today. [00:01:35.980] - Lorien Clemens As you know, Jerrica, San Diego Humane Society is one of the largest shelters in the country, and it's actually one of the most beautiful facilities I've ever seen. And you get to work with so many other shelters nationwide through really innovative programs that are really exciting. And I want our listeners to hear more about that. So could you tell us a little bit about some of the magic that takes place at San Diego Humane. [00:01:59.050] - Jerrica Owen Yes, Diego Humane Society, we're a very large organization, in fact, we're one of the largest shelters in the entire United States. We care for nearly 50,000 animals each year. And we have a 140 year history here in San Diego. We're an open admission shelter and we're committed to creating a more humane world by inspiring compassion and advancing the welfare of animals and people. We really care about both ends of the leash. We do work with other shelters too in a variety of different ways. We have a coalition in our immediate area that is made up of a group of organizations, and we all come together, we collaborate. We also have a lot of great relationships with rescue groups in our area. So we support each other in a lot of different ways. We definitely help each other out when it comes to the needs for transporting animals, educational opportunities, the sharing of resources and sharing of innovative ways that we're working on some of our programs, our return to owner program, taking services into the communities; we really partner with a lot of different organizations locally and of course, nationally and even internationally on things like disaster response and that kind of stuff. So, yeah, it's a very magical place.

[00:03:18.820] - Lorien Clemens It is. It's amazing. And I think what's incredible about working with you guys over the last four years and certainly been watching you for even longer than that, is how you really are helping to drive that innovation throughout the industry. And I'd love it if you can talk a little bit about the changes and advances that you've seen in shelters, specifically in pet licensing, because that's the primary relationship that we have with you at Pet Hub; but those big changes and innovations that you've seen over the last 10, 15 years in animal welfare. [00:03:48.520] - Jerrica Owen Tremendous advances in the last 15 years in so many areas, you know, from shelter, medicine, advancements in behavior and technology to support the behavioral well-being. And then, of course, my favorite is the advancement and reunification. So in multiple areas, you know, from the grassroots getting out into the communities all the way up through the high tech technology. And so we're committed to operating a comprehensive lost pet reunification service - we work to successfully reunite pets with their owners. For licensing specifically in the last 15 years, although the laws have remained consistent, the reunification efforts that we're committed to have really advanced: social media platforms that did not exist 15 years ago, facial recognition technology streamlined, lost and found reporting. So the community has a really quick way to report their missing pet or to post a found pet, you know, texting and emailing. And then, of course, the amazing technology, the QR code specifically that we're so thankful for PetHub and having created this technology for us to use, really enables the public to license their pet in a really unique way and support those reunification efforts for getting those pets back home. [00:05:15.250] - Lorien Clemens Yeah, let's talk a little bit more about that because a lot of what we've learned here at PetHub is about the misconceptions that surround pet licensing across the country. I mean, I know you can specifically talk about San Diego, but a lot of it applies everywhere. So I'd love if you could talk a little bit about, you know, pet parents say like, why do I need to license my pet? Or I didn't even know I needed to license my pet. What is all this about? Fill us in a little bit. [00:05:39.820] - Jerrica Owen So licensing, you know, depending on where you live, licensing is going to be required by the law. It really helps to identify your pet in case they go missing. You know, licensing also provides proof that your dog has been vaccinated against rabies, which is why it's required in most municipalities. In addition, it really helps to relay important health information about your pet should they go missing. If they end up in our care, we're able to quickly pull up the record of your pet and know which vaccinations they have had, and we're able to see that robust medical history if we have it. You know, collars can fall off and microchips can wander around the body, so really having a robust identification system for your pet is going to be the most effective way for a successful reunification and hopefully avoid having to come into the shelter. [00:06:31.660] - Lorien Clemens Yeah, and that's actually a drum that we bang all the time here at PetHub, that it's more than you know -- you would never sit in a stool that only had one or two legs. You want something that actually has multiple legs, multiple things that are helping you keep support on that. So talk a little bit about that, because we started the whole conversation of Lost Pet Prevention Month because everybody was focused on microchips, microchips, microchips and we realized it's more than just microchips - we've got to talk about more. So I'd love if you can talk about those steps that are involved with all that multi-layer of identification. We already mentioned a couple of them, but if you could kind of talk about from your perspective, what are those different identification things that you think pet parents should be looking for? [00:07:13.060] - Jerrica Owen Yeah, I mean, sadly, like you mentioned, the data says that one in three pets will go missing in their lifetime and one in ten will be reunited. So that's a really low number. We want to be able to help make sure that as many pets that go missing can get back home. The reason for a multilevel identification system is pretty simple, right? Collars, like I said, they can fall off and microchips often can wander. Another thing is that microchip scanners are not always easy to find or it may be not at a time where a local vet office is open. It would be amazing if we had microchip scanners right next to the doggie bags throughout communities -- and San Diego Humane Society is actually working on a community scanner program. But it's not always easy to find those microchip scanners, so by having multiple types of identification on your pet, it really helps support reunification. [00:08:15.250] - Lorien Clemens I'm throwing a curveball at you here. I know that licensing can also support more than just identification. It's also, for many communities, it's a fundraising source for keeping the shelter operations going and other parts of licensing. And so I would love it if you could talk a little bit about that, not just even necessarily from San Diego's perspective, but other things like beyond just the identification like what are those core reasons that you would need to license a pet in order to help the community? [00:08:44.260] - Jerrica Owen Yeah, I mean, two things come to mind. You mentioned that it is revenue generating. So by paying a required fee for a vaccination and for your license, whether that's your municipality, your city government, a lot of times, you know, licensing is required by law in most jurisdictions. So it's the city government that is using that licensing income, you know, to help support maybe their contract with the shelter or help support animal-related programs or really any programs throughout your community. It really keeps the money in your community. Another one is that it really will help, you know, if you get into a situation where maybe somebody found a pet and decided that they wanted to keep it and they never reported it as lost, you know, having that ID that links you to your pet, it really helps to support that. That it is your pet, right? [00:09:37.750] - Lorien Clemens On a legal basis, it's like, yeah, I have licensed this pet with the city or county or whatever. I mean, we've definitely seen that case, those cases coming through PetHub's lost calls for sure. There's a lot of really important reasons, and you had another one?

[00:09:52] - Jerrica Owen It kind of speaks to all of that, but the animal protection and public safety, you know, by ensuring that the pets are vaccinated against rabies. In order to get your pet licensed that is required, so you're really ensuring you maintain the public health which we know is a huge concern on different areas right now. It is really helping the whole health of the community.

[00:10:15] - Lorien Clemens Yeah, it's part of being a conscientious pet parent. My way of thinking about it is the same as being a human part, which I am both right now -- well, forever I will both. You've got to do what you've got to do to protect that animal, but also to protect the world around you with vaccinations and things like that. So it's really important. Now I would love it if you could talk a little bit about lost pet recovery. One of the statistics that is occasionally thrown around is that most pets are found within a mile of their home, and I know for a fact that you guys have actually done a little bit of research on that. I would love if you could talk about that idea that most pets are actually close to home when they are lost.

[00:10:55] - Jerrica Owen Yes, we recently heard that most pets are found within a mile. I got curious and said "I wonder how that holds up for our organization and our community." So we ran some data and we found that 52% of dogs and 53% of cats who entered our organization as a stray and were reclaimed by their owners were in fact found within a mile of their home address. So for our organization specifically, that equals 3,000 animals that could have skipped the trip to the shelter if they had some sort of easily identifiable identification system on them. It is safe to say that any pet who has even just one type of identification on them will help to reunite them with their owner.

[00:11:47] - Lorien Clemens External identification is so critical, especially for animals that are going to be outdoors a lot; whether they are in a backyard or whatever, but any of those animals that have easy access to the outside. Like indoor/outdoor cats have to have identification on them -- external identification on them. We say here at PetHub "Never let your pet go naked, ever". They should never be without a collar and that external ID tag because it is the fastest way for them to get home and chances are they are going to be close to home when they are found. That is how they get home super-duper fast. Now I love the stories that you guys have on your platform to share about the reunification of animals. You've been around for a long time, you have some wonderful stories but there is a particular video about a kitty cat named Mufasa -- which you got to love the name from the Lion King -- but I would love it if you could share that story because it is one of those stories that you hear about and go "Wow! That is amazing!" I would love it if you could share that story.

[00:12:48] - Jerrica Owen Yeah, absolutely! I do love the name as well, both as a human parent and pet parent, it's a great name. So a family who lost their cat -- whose name was Mufasa -- while they were living in Arizona 5 years ago really had quite the story to tell. They were living in Arizona and their kitty went missing. They gave up hope unfortunately and they ended up having to move to Oklahoma City, and had given up all hope of finding Mufasa. Well fast forward, 5 years later, and in January someone turned Mufasa in to San Diego Humane Society. We used the cat's identification, we used his microchip to find his family. The dad immediately flew out and was able to reclaim Mufasa, and rented a car and drove all the way back to Oklahoma. The family was so happy to have their kitty back, and it really goes to show you that identification is absolutely key to successful reunification for Mufasa and any of the pets that go missing.

[00:13:56] - Lorien Clemens Definitely! Obviously we have been talking about external ID tags, but the microchip is a core safety net that every animals must have. And never give up hope; keep the information up to date even if you move. Get on the registry for your microchip, get on one of the free registries for a microchip and put the information down there; just never give up hope because we do hear stories like Mufasa's where years later -- of course we want them home in 5 minutes not 5 days or 5 years, but never give up hope. Where can people find that video an other great videos about what you guys do?

[00:14:39] - Jerrica Owen At San Diego Humane we have a Facebook page, we have an Instagram, we also have a Twitter account. It's all linked through our website at, please check us out! There are lots of cool videos. We also have a YouTube channel as well. Lots of really heartwarming stories.

[00:14:52] - Lorien Clemens By the way, Mufasa is the most beautiful Bengal cat, and it's such a cool looking -- isn't it a Bengal, is that what they are called?

[00:14:57] - Jerrica Owen Yes! He is a Bengal, I didn't mention that. Yeah, he is.

[00:14:59] - Lorien Clemens Ah, he is gorgeous. I think that is why I like it so much because he is such a beautiful kitty. And Oklahoma City, which is my hometown believe it or not! Born and raised in Central Oklahoma, so that was a nice tag there. Well I hate to say goodbye, but I would love it if you could also -- if they want to adopt a pet from you guys, or anything like that, if you could tell them about where they can find out more information about that. Things are a little bit weird right now with our situation, so I would love if you could give a little information about that.

[00:15:27] - Jerrica Owen Absolutely! We're lucky, we were never forced to close our doors. Things definitely look a little bit different right now. We've got an appointment system for all of our services. We also are operating some really innovative and unique ways to bring services, whether we're drive-thru operations or curbside pickup. We are still adopting out a ton of animals. We adopted out 50 in one day from one campus last weekend.

[00:15:52] - Lorien Clemens Wow!

[00:15:52] - Jerrica Owen It is amazing, this whole pandemic while really unfortunate has really required our shelter specifically to reevaluate the look and we had to pivot quickly. And we have been successful in that. And all of our adoptable animals are on the page, all of the services are on the page. We have a lot of really unique services that we offer. We have a wildlife center, we have a kitten center, so definitely check out our website and hopefully we will see you soon.

[00:16:22] - Lorien Clemens Wonderful! I love the facilities, so make sure if you are in the San Diego area you go visit them for sure. Jerrica thank you so much for visiting with us today! Speaking here for everyone here at PetHub, I can honestly say that working with San Diego Humane is one of the joys that we have. We are always so excited to work with your team and come up with new innovative things to do with you. We really love having you guys as part of our pack. Remember that throughout the month of July, we've been talking to experts from across the pet industry about lost pet prevention and recovery. Make sure you visit where you will see more resources and tips to help you get your pet home safe and keep them safe at home. Until next time, I am Lorien Clemens and you've been listening to Pet Lover Geek, powered by PetHub.

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