Marlene Winter often sees posts on social media about finding lost dogs or cats with no tags, and responds the same way each time. “If you have a Renton bill or anything to prove you’re a resident, you can get your pets microchipped for free,” she said.
Winter, a former volunteer manager of the Cedar Park Dog Park and current owner of Teddy the cocker spaniel, is talking about Renton’s Free Pet Microchipping, a unique program where Renton residents can have their dog or cat microchipped, free of charge.
“It’s a great program and it helps the police and pet owners,” said Parks Director Kelly Beyer, who is also the fund advisor for the city’s Unleashed Furry Friends (RUFF) Fund, which not only funds the microchipping program but also helps maintain Renton’s first off-leash dog park.
In 2013, Winter created the microchip program after donating a large sum to the RUFF Fund once the off-leash dog park was completed. “I have $15,000 – take it,” Winter recalled telling the city. “I want to microchip pets for free.”
According to the American Humane Association, it’s estimated that over 10 million cats and dogs go missing in the United States every year and that 1/3 of pets will become lost at some point in their lives.
“We would not have a single lost pet if we required [microchip] registration,” said Dr. Hung, a veterinarian at Eastside Veterinary Associates, where the free microchips are given out. Winter agrees, saying that lost pets are a problem that could be fixed with licensing, proper tags and microchipping.
The cost of microchipping a pet can be around $50, a price that can make otherwise responsible pet owners put it off, especially since Renton requires pets to be licensed every year, with a price that ranges from $30 to $50. Winter hopes that the microchipping program will ease these costs for Renton pet owners.
Microchipping is where a small chip the size of a grain of rice is placed under the skin of a cat or dog, with a barcode on it that shows an identification number with the pet owner’s information. The microchip is not a GPS device and should be updated as often as with the correct information so that the pet can be returned home.
With the RUFF Fund, microchips are bought from a manufacturer by Renton Police Commander Dan Figaro who then passes them on to Dr. Hung, who implants the microchips in pets that are brought to her clinic. “We’ve blocked off a time from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday to Friday for techs to do this,” Dr. Hung said. “On average, we chip about 10 pets a month.”
Along with microchipping, a good way to keep beloved Renton pets off of NextDoor and Facebook posts, is to put collars on all pets — even if they are indoor animals only — with an updated identification tag, rabies license and city license.
The Eastside Veterinary Associates Newcastle/Renton is located at 1700 Northwest 44th Street. Microchipping is available Monday through Friday, with check-in at 11:30 a.m. Proof of Renton residency is required at the time of service, which can be a utility bill or a driver’s license.
To donate to the “Renton’s Unleashed Furry Friends (RUFF) Fund”, visit https://renton.fcsuite.com/erp/donate/list.