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This year, as in every year, record numbers of pets injured or have run away in terror from festive season fireworks flood into animal shelters.

Every year, residents returning home from festive season holidays discover their pets are either missing or injured. The year 2011 proved no exception.

On Monday 3 January as they reopened their doors for the New Year, the Johannesburg Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was inundated with calls from frantic pet owners whose beloved pets had gone missing.

In the Roodepoort area 276 strays were taken in between 1 December 2010 and 2 January 2011, of which 103 came in over the New Year’s weekend.

All five SPCA offices around the city were extremely busy with pets continually being brought in from local vets and owners calling in trying to find their animals.

“Pet owners continue to leave their pets at home with irresponsible caretakers or no caretakers at all whilst they go on holiday. They also fail to make provisions for their pets when they know crackers are going to be burst,” explained Dirk van Niekerk, CEO of the Johannesburg SPCA, as to why pets go missing or are injured at this time of year.

The Roodepoort SPCA has reported a number of injured animals, including a cross collie which ran into palisade fencing. “Often pets are injured whilst trying to get away from the noise, either hurting themselves in their surroundings or getting bumped by cars,” said Van Niekerk.

 “We are actively working with local law enforcement to curb the illegal sale of fireworks, but unfortunately that won’t stop the public from buying them and using them. We have shifted our attention to advising pet owners on how to look after their pets over this period, what measures they can take to aid in finding their pets and what to do should their pet go missing.”

Should you find that your pet is missing start by calling your local SPCA.  “Animals can cover great distances when they are scared and disoriented so pet owners need to make sure they contact as many animal welfare organisations as possible.”

Ensuring that your pet has proper identification makes finding them much easier.

Collars and tags cost, on average, R60 from pet shops, while a microchip costs about R100. The microchips can be supplied by any veterinarian or SPCA.

If your dog has no identification and is recovered by the SPCA, owners must pay for their pets to be microchipped before they are returned to them.

There are two suppliers of microchips, Verbex and Identipet. These companies supply the chips and keep track of the animals on their databases.

The owner fills in a form giving their details and that of their pets to the company keeping track of the animals. The chip has a unique number coded into it and is read by means of a scanner.

The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is injected between the shoulder blades of the animal by a veterinarian or a trained person.

If you have lost your pet contact the Johannesburg SPCA on 011 681 3600 or check out our animal welfare and rehabilitation page for a list of animal welfare organisations found in the city.

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Animal welfare and rehabilitation