Pair of animal lovers raise money for pet identification

UNION, NJ — Police will be able to reunite furry friends with their owners faster than ever before, thanks to two local animal-lovers and donations from residents.

Gale Petrecca and Karen Loessel raised more than $300 from a GoFundMe internet campaign needed to purchase a microchip scanner March 29, and within two hours, enough money was raised to purchase two to donate to the Union Township Police Department.

“Unfortunately, a lot of dogs get lost in Union,” Petrecca said in a May 8 phone interview. “Now, with the scanners, if someone finds a stray, even if it’s from another town, the police will be able to identify the owners more quickly if the pet is chipped.”
“There are a lot of people that support our efforts and the animals in town. When we got that much money in two hours, we were just thrilled beyond belief,” she added.

Both Union residents are involved in animal rescue. Petrecca fosters animals and networks through social media, while Loessel is involved with the Union Animal Shelter.

“We’re just two volunteers that love the animals,” Petrecca said.
Microchips are tiny electronic chips implanted under the skin of pets that identify them and their owners if the pet becomes lost. The two OmniMax microchip scanners are portable, universal scanners that have Bluetooth capabilities to read the chips.
The local animal shelter, located on Jefferson Avenue behind The Home Depot, has a scanner but the facility has limited hours.
“If you find a dog at 7 o’clock at night, there’s no one around to help you find the owner unless you are able to find an open veterinary hospital,” Petrecca said. “Other towns have larger and more active shelters.”

The Union Police Department did not respond to a request for comment by deadline time this week.
Petrecca and Loessel have organized a microchipping event for Sunday, June 9, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. At the event, microchips will be available for $15, to be implanted by veterinary professionals through the sponsorship of NJ Strays, a local nonprofit organization that advocates for animal rights and no-kill shelters.

“Fifteen dollars is very, very cheap,” Petrecca said, adding that the cost to implant a chip could be double if done by a regular veterinarian.

The event will be hosted by Silky Pups Grooming Spa, a groomer on Morris Avenue, at its office and is open to all Union County residents. The chip insertion itself takes mere seconds, according to Petrecca.
Both Petrecca and Loessel believe the chipping event is an educational experience, so there will be microchip registration available at the event as well.

“Educating people about chipping your pet will encourage responsible pet ownership,” Petrecca said, adding that many owners make the mistake of getting their pet microchipped, but not registering the chip with once they leave the vet. “And then, they only find out that the chip wasn’t registered when the dog actually gets out of the house.”
“We feel really good about this because it’s all about education,” she added.

All animals must be accompanied by their owners and all dogs must be on a leash, and cats must be in carriers.
Petrecca said Union’s effort has sparked the interest of other towns, such as Linden, where the community raised enough money to buy the city two of the same OmniMax microchip scanners in 19 hours.

That effort was led by 6th Ward Councilman John Francis Roman, who wrote on the GoFundMe page April 23: “although we contract with Newark Associated Humane Societies, a fee is usually required to pick up your pet if it is found and sent to the shelter. By buying this petfinder for our police department, we can quickly reunite pets with their owners without having to send them to AHS.”