The Operation Fire Scan and Rescue initiative was officially launched in a joint training session Friday, Aug. 20 at the Fire Services Training Center Station 15 on Tiger Bay Road in Daytona Beach.
Volusia County Animal Services Director Adam Leath announced that they had partnered with Volusia County Fire Rescue to purchase and distribute pet microchip scanners to all 20 fire stations in Volusia County. A few weeks ago, Leath had approached Fire Rescue Chief Howard Bailey about the joint initiative and they quickly formulated a plan to train all fire and rescue personnel on how to utilize the scanners and implement procedures to return the identified pets back to their owners.
“Volusia County Fire Services and Animal Services are committed to providing protection for our pets and our public,” Leath said. “So today that partnership brings about some unique opportunities. If you take the opportunity to microchip your pet, your local fire station can now identify that microchip and we can get that pet immediately home to you.”
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in fiscal year 2018-2019, there were over 223,145 pets in Volusia County with 5,645 brought in to local shelters. Ormond Beach had 717 pets taken in, Holly Hill had 208 and Daytona Beach had 1,691. Pets enter these facilities at an increased cost to the citizens, increased stress to local shelters and sometimes not a positive outcome.
Firefighters and animal services officers are already out in the community fighting fires, responding to medical emergencies and reuniting pets with their owners. Having the additional scanners strategically located at fire stations throughout Volusia County adds another means to effectively serve the public while increasing current, ongoing lifesaving measures.
“Our motto — in most fire agencies around the world — is everybody goes home,” Bailey said. “We want to include that with the pets. They too should go home.”
Station 42 Lt. Paramedic Jeremy Karaginis is a self-proclaimed animal lover with two dogs of his own, both chipped.
“This is a super great initiative,” he said. “As firefighters, anything we can do for the community to help, we look forward to every day."
The American Humane Association estimates that 1 in 3 pets will become lost at some point during their lives, but cats and dogs with registered microchips are much more likely to to be reunited with their families. That success is dependent upon pet owners ensuring that their registration information is kept up-to-date.
A microchip is the size of a grain of rice and is usually inserted in between the shoulder blades of a dog or cat using a needle. Contrary to misinformation that has been circulated, the chip is not a GPS device. The pet is scanned upon its arrival at any county animal services facility or fire station and the coinciding microchip number is displayed on the scanner. The database is accessed at VCAS and the pet owner is contacted immediately. If necessary, the pet will be driven back to its home by an animal services officer.
“We have been offering free microchipping events for over a year-and-a-half,”Animal Services Officer Shawn Riggins said. “Some people think that since their pets don’t go outside on their own, they don’t need to microchip them. What about during a fire or hurricane? You never know. It’s better to be prepared in case of an emergency.”
Volusia County's next free pet microchipping event will be held at the Volusia County Fairgrounds on Sept. 18 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.