AKC Reunite Program for Lost Companion Animals

Kelly Roper
Contributor: Mychelle Blake
Affectionate girl embracing her dog

Losing a pet can be one of the worst experiences of an owner's life. It's upsetting to hear that of the more than 10 million dogs and cats lost or stolen annually, only a small number are reunited with their owners. You can dramatically increase the chances to be reunited with your pet by using a microchip and a recovery service such as AKC Reunite.

What Is AKC Reunite?

The AKC Reunite program, previously the AKC Companion Animal Recovery (AKC CAR) program, began in 1995 and is the largest non-for-profit pet identification and recovery service in all of North America. It is affiliated with the American Kennel Club (AKC) which promotes responsible dog ownership, purebred dogs and competitive dog sports. Tom Sharp, President and CEO of AKC Reunite proudly states the program has, "helped reunite over 500,000 pets with their owners over the years! Some of the stories are pretty remarkable." One such incredible story is that of Bemis who found his way back to his owner after seven years due to AKC Reunite.

Difference Between AKC Reunite and AKC Companion Animal Recovery

Sharp explains that the organization and its services, "are the same great company." The primary reason for the name change and rebranding is because, "AKC Reunite is much easier to say and more quickly conveys our mission to our customers." Other than the end of the Spotlight GPS option for previous members of the AKC CAR program, the services are the same. According to Sharp, the Spotlight GPS service was ended due to the product no longer being available on the market

How AKC Reunite Works

Pet owners should microchip them first in order to enroll in the program. Most veterinarians and animal shelters can microchip your pet for you if they don't already have one for a minimal cost. You can also use the service if your pet has been tattooed or if you choose not to microchip, although microchipping is strongly recommended as the method of choice.

  1. Owners can visit the AKC Reunite website and enroll online for a one time fee of $17.50.
  2. If your pet was microchipped as part of the breeder's registration with the AKC, the basic program is free.
  3. If you prefer to mail in your registration, there's a downloadable registration form available on the website. The cost of registration for the mail-in form is $19.95.
  4. You will provide your contact information as well as basic identifying information about your pet such as breed, sex, and coat color and patterns.
  5. In addition to the one time registration fee, you can pay for additional protection services:
    • The Lost Pet Alert service will send a broadcast to veterinarians, shelters and Reunite members in your local area with information on your pet and their last known location. This service is a one time fee of $13.50.
    • The Pet Poison Helpline gives you a subscription to this 24/7 service with critical health information for a one time charge of $15.00.
  6. Enrollment in the program comes with an AKC Reunite tag for your dog's collar that has your dog's program ID number and the 800 number for the program.
  7. You can also order an upgrade of your dog's tag for an additional fee.
    • A designer tag can be personalized with your dog's name and microchip number for $6.95 to $10.95 depending on the style you choose.
    • Collar tag silencers are also available for about $1.99.
    • If you don't like tags, dog collars with personalized, engraved buckles are available for order for between $21 and $22.

When Your Pet Is Lost

When a pet becomes lost and is found by your local animal control officer, dropped off at a shelter or discovered by a good Samaritan citizens, they can call the 800 number on the tag and give the customer service representative the ID number on the tag. The AKC Reunite staff will immediately contact you with the information you have provided to let you know your pet has been found. You can also list alternate people to be contacted if you do not respond.

How the Lost Pet Alert Service Works

When you sign up for a basic Reunite membership, this adds you to a list of people, shelters and veterinarians that are notified when a pet is lost based on location. In order to have these alerts work for you if your own pet is lost, you can pay an additional fee for the Lost Pet Alert service. Says Sharp, "This is a great network that helps get pets back home quicker. Our Lost Pet Alert service includes uploading a picture of the pet to the pet profile and the owner can print and share PDF lost pet posters. Many times pets are located by a neighbor and the Lost Pet Alert and the posters help get the word out!"

Importance of Microchips

While you can enroll without having microchipped your dogs, getting a microchip is strongly recommended. Sharp explains that the unique microchip ID number, "must be tied to the owner's information in a national recovery network service to be helpful. If you don't enroll the microchip, it's like having a social security card with a number and no name on it - it really does no good." Tags, such as the AKC Reunite tag, can come off, "which is often the case when a pet goes missing" and Sharp says, "the microchip is a key backup in case the collar or tag comes off."

The Data on Microchip Use

Sharp's recommendation about microchips is backed up by research. Studies have found that dogs with a microchip are reunited with their owners 52.2% of the time whereas the percentage for dogs without a chip is only 21.9%. The numbers are even more compelling for cats. Only a mere 1.8% of cats without microchips are reunited with their owners but this number leaps to 38.5% if the cat has a microchip.

All Dogs Should Have ID Tags

Many dog owners who have microchipped do not use tags on their collars because they believe they're unnecessary. However Sharp says AKC Reunite "highly recommend a collar tag or collar with ID to help get the pet home so if a neighbor finds the pet, they don't need to go the vet or shelter to scan for the microchip." Having both a tag and a microchip, paired with a service like AKC Reunite, will greatly increase the chances your lost pet will be found and brought back to you.

AKC Reunite Brings Owners and Their Pets Back Together

With over half a million pets returned to their owners, it's easy to see why the AKC Reunite program is beneficial to responsible pet owners. Whether you decide to use AKC Reunite, make sure at a minimum your pets have microchips and identification tags with up-to-date contact information. Having a pet become lost is terrifying but the more steps you put in place to make it easier for them to find their way back to you, the better your chances that an awful scenario will have a happy ending for you and your pet.

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AKC Reunite Program for Lost Companion Animals