Cranford uses technology to reunite people with lost pets

Photo via Cranford Police Department Facebook page
Officer Ryan Gerrity, of the Cranford Police Department, displays the CPD’s Omni Max Pet Chip Reader, which was recently acquired to help reunite dogs with their owners on its first day in use.

CRANFORD, NJ — Residents no longer have to resort to the internet or handbills with their pets’ pictures tacked onto utility poles to find lost pets.
The Cranford Police Department can now identify lost pets and return them quickly, thanks to the purchase of a microchip reader.

The township’s first scanner is an Omni Max Pet Chip Reader, valued at approximately $300, that was purchased through a donation. It already helped reunite two dogs with their owners within the first two days of its implementation, according to police Chief Ryan Greco.

Prior to buying the chip reader, the CPD relied heavily on social media, posting pictures to its Facebook and Instagram accounts, where more than 5,000 followers then helped to spread the word to find owners.

“We tell all of our patrolmen that if they find a lost dog or other pet, they should take a picture of it and send it to our captain, who manages the social media,” Greco said in an April 5 phone interview.
Police also relied on other chip readers — such as those from a local veterinarian — to scan for the microchips embedded in lost pets.

“If we found a dog at 2 a.m., we couldn’t necessarily go use someone else’s chip reader,” he added. “Having our own microchip reader brings us to the next level.”

Using the scanner is fairly easy, according to Greco, who said that there’s no additional training for officers to use the device.
Once a dog or cat is found by the police, the officer must scan them to locate the chip — if it has one — and then a serial number shows up on the reader. The officer types the number into a database to obtain contact information for the owner.
“It’s as easy as physically typing the serial number in, and then all of the owner information pops up,” Greco said.

Once a pet is located, microchip or not, it is housed in the department’s kennel, which can pose challenges, according to Greco, since it’s outdoors.

“We house them for as long as we can, weather permitting,” he said, adding that a roof was recently built for the kennel by a local Eagle Scout.
Greco advocates for microchipping pets, and said that when an owner registers their animal with the township they will now see a place on the application to note the pet’s microchip number.
“We’ve been spreading the word about this chip reader, which helps bring awareness to the importance of microchipping your animals,” he said. “We encourage pet owners to look into it.”

It costs approximately $50 to implant a microchip in a pet, according to the Cranford Veterinary Hospital website,
and it takes only seconds to actually perform the procedure.

After posting on Facebook about the chip reader, the department received plenty of positive feedback, according to Greco; the post received more than 700 likes and almost 80 comments, he said.

The Cranford Police Department also will be partnering with Home for Good Dog Rescue and other local organizations to help dogs become adopted by displaying a dog in need of a home each month on its Facebook page.

“We’re going to partner with multiple organizations to help spread the world about dogs in need,” Greco said. “This is where our 5,000-plus followers come into play because the word can be spread within seconds.”