Fla. county enlists firefighters to help rescue lost pets with microchips

Beginning on Sept. 1, residents who find pets that seem lost can bring them to Volusia County fire stations for microchip scanning


Brenno Carillo
The Daytona Beach News-Journal

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Firefighters already provide lifesaving services to people in Volusia County. Now, they're adding another service: scanning for microchips when people find pets they believe are lost.

The county's animal services and fire department have launched a program to train firefighters in the use of microchip scanners. Microchips for pets have been around for years, but the firefighters' involvement in such a program is new.

Volusia County Fire Lt. Jeremy Karaginis along with Volusia County Animal Services Director Adam Leath demonstrate the use of a microchip scanner on Pogo, Friday, August 20, 2021.
Volusia County Fire Lt. Jeremy Karaginis along with Volusia County Animal Services Director Adam Leath demonstrate the use of a microchip scanner on Pogo, Friday, August 20, 2021. (Photo/Volusia County Fire Rescue)

All 20 county fire stations will have staff trained in the use of microchip scanners. Beginning on Sept. 1, residents who find pets that seem lost can bring them to fire stations for microchip scanning.

"As many people know, microchipping is the only permanent method for identifying pets in our community," said Volusia County spokesman Gary Davidson in a press release. "All too often, pets become lost from their owners and can't find their way back home. With a microchip, we can ensure pets aren't needlessly brought to shelters; rather, they're returned to the loving arms of their owners."

The program kicked off Friday at Station 15 on Tiger Bay Road in Daytona Beach. Volusia County Animal Services Director Adam Leath led a presentation about the importance of microchipping and how firefighters should use scanners.

The scanner is a portable magnetic device that is very sensitive; for this reason, it is important for the person using the scanner to make sure the animal's entire body is scanned.

Pet microchips are tiny, about the size of a grain of rice. It is inserted into the animal's skin through a needle where it remains permanently, according to Leath.

Leath explained in the presentation that the main drive for bringing this program forward is the high number of pets entering local shelters. More than 5,600 animals entered local county shelters in the 2018-2019 Fiscal Year, according to Leath.

Leath approached Fire Rescue Chief Howard Bailey several weeks ago to propose the partnership. Bailey thanked animal services for the partnership, adding that it falls in line with the department's mission of serving the public.

"Ordinarily, our personnel are out fighting fires, responding to medical emergencies, conducting fire inspections, whatever the tasks - it all boils down to serving the public," Bailey said. "Our motto, and most fire agencies', is 'everybody goes home', and we want to include that with the pets. They too should go home."

Bailey said that when residents find a lost pet, they can go to one of the county fire stations, where firefighters will scan the animal for their microchip number. From there, animal services officers will then be able to contact the pet's registered owner.

"That's where Fire Rescue is so crucial, because often times individuals find pets and don't know if they have a microchip, and if they're waiting for an officer to respond or there are other issues happening, this could actually end up with the owner finding the pet even faster," Leath said.

Lost pets are found in all parts of the county, Leath said.

"Those pets enter local shelters, and it increases costs to citizens, and sometimes there's not a positive outcome," Leath said. "They may never actually go back to their owners because we don't know who their owners are."

Firefighters at Friday's event practiced the scanning process with the help of two guests: "CoCo," a 15-week-old female German Shepherd adopted by Battalion Chief Chuck Kamine; and a female three-legged rescue cat named Pogo, who is looking for a home.

One of the firefighters at the training session was Jeremy Karaginis, a lieutenant paramedic with the department. An animal lover, Karaginis said both his two pet dogs are microchipped.

"The fire station is the first place everybody thinks to go to whenever anything is going on, whether it's your blood pressure or a neighbor issue," Karaginis said. "The way our stations are set up and how we're available 24 hours a day, we're able to add this service."

He said the scanner device is easy enough to use, and joked, "It's so easy a firefighter can use it."

"We love helping our community every day and if it's one more thing we can do to help out with our public safety, it's a very good thing," Karaginis said. "We wear many hats as firefighters, so this is just one more thing we do."

"Microchipping is a life-saving measure and incredibly important for us to do," Leath said.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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