Friday, December 4, 2020

Help available for Windham, Raymond residents with missing pets

Microchipping is an effective way for animal
control staff members to identify and return
lost dogs. The average cost for the service is
less than $70 and widely available through
local veterinarians. COURTESY PHOTO
By Daniel Gray

Whether or not you have a fuzzy loved one at home, many know the heartbreak that happens when a family pet runs off and aren't able to find their way back home. It isn’t uncommon for dogs to run out the front door or somehow snap themselves off their leashes, but there are ways to prevent pets from becoming lost and if they do, to get them back home safely.


Windham resident Myia Canty, a student currently majoring in mechanical engineering at the University of Maine, knows exactly what it’s like to have her dog run off unexpectedly. And to make matters worse, she lives right near River Road in Windham, making it very dangerous if her dog were to run off.

Her German Shepherd and Lab mix named Trinity loves to play and will want to play in the front yard right next to the treacherous road.


“Every once in a while, she’ll see something move outside like a squirrel or my dad getting home from work, so she will just book it out the door and once she realizes she’s outside, she’ll get excited and think it’s time for a walk,” Canty said.


Recently, Trinity has started clicker training, which is when a pet owner can use a small hand-held device that makes a soft clicking noise that gains a dog’s attention and, when done properly, the dog can associate a click meaning they did a good job and get a treat. The Cantys started the training a year ago and say that it is extremely helpful with Trinity. She knows to come when the clicker sounds, which is a vast improvement from without the clicker.


A dog training company called Partners in Canine, 756 Roosevelt Trail in Windham, has a very confident outlook on clicker training. Partners in Canine owners and trainers Merri Button and Meg Terrio believe tremendously in the science behind clickers that dates to the 1890s. A Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov created the “classical conditioning theory,” ring a bell and give a dog food, and they will expect food every time the bell chimes. The same thing happens with clicker training.


“Once we have established this conditioned response to the clicker, we have the ability to do tons of things that can make training your dog easier and more positive,” Button and Terrio said.


Windham’s Lake Region Animal Hospital’s head veterinary technician, Leah Janus, has a very positive
view on clicker training as well, but said she would also add professional training into the mix.


“We feel that clicker training can be a great training tool for dogs. But, if you are a true beginner, it is probably best to start with a professional trainer,” Janus said. “Without realizing it, people can give their dogs confusing cues when they are learning how to train a dog.”


Partners in Canine offers a few different programs that can help with dog training if someone can’t do it on their own. They have the Puppy 101 course for younger dogs and also offer a Partner Program for dogs 6 months or older. These courses are made to help owners with dogs who have behavioral issues or goals they would like to achieve.


Janus says she also strongly urges residents to get their pets a microchip. The chip is injected and the chip itself is the size of a grain of rice, being placed between a dog's shoulder blades. The microchip has the dog's registration number along with where the ship was registered. If your dog is found and their chip is scanned through the skin, the vet clinic can contact the registry and get your information from there. At the Lakes Region Animal Hospital, it costs $66 dollars for the “Home Again” microchip bundle. It includes a microchip implanting chip, registration, 24/7 pet recovery assistance for one year, a medical hotline for pet poison control, and even a lost pet travel assistance for when dogs end up far away from home.


Jackie Frye is Windham’s personal animal control officer and for the past three years has logged 40 hours a week on average to assist with strays or various animals roaming in Windham. The town’s animal control’s budget for 2019 was a little more than $68,000 with this year’s budget being slightly more than $67,000.


When Frye is notified of an animal running loose, she catches them safely and brings them to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland (ARLGP) in Westbrook. She does have happy stories to tell of when she has examined a lost dog’s collar to reunite them with their owners.


“Before going to the shelter, I’ll try to find the owner. If there’s a rabies tag with the number, I’ll also call the town to get the owner’s name and information,” Frye said. “I’ll definitely try to find the owner first and I would rather do this every time than go to ARLGP.”


Raymond’s animal control officer is Jessica Jackson who has been serving the public since 2013. Raymond’s lost pet process is similar to Windham’s with Jackson bringing stray animals to ARLGP or returning them home if the information is available. In 2019, the budget for Raymond’s animal control was about $32,000 and 2020’s budget was nearly $35,000.


Jeana Roth of Windham is the director of community engagement for the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland and said the first thing done when a stray animal arrives is to scan for a microchip or locate other information.


“For pets without any identification, we hold them for a period of time to try to locate their family and to observe and treat any medical needs they may have,” Roth said. “We work with groups like Maine Lost Dog Recovery/Maine Lost Cat Recovery on Facebook to share that we have a stray pet with the hopes of an owner being identified.”


Typical recovery fees for owners of animals taken to the shelter is $25 and all dogs are held there for six days.


Both Raymond and Windham mandate that pet owners register dogs each year. pick them up and they hold all dogs for six days.


Registration is Dec. 31 and requirements include proof of a rabies vaccination and veterinarian's name and phone number, and a neuter certificate if applicable. For neutered animals, the registration fee is just $6 or $11 for animals not neutered. Registration can be done online at the town website, by mail or in person at town offices. <

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