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Christina Aguilera funds pet project:
donating microchip scanners to police
May 26, 2005
By Linda Wilson Fuoco

Grammy-winning pop singer Christina Aguilera loves animals, so she has donated $16,000 to make it easier for lost pets to be reunited with their owners.

The former Marshall resident bought 40 microchip scanners to be placed in the patrol cars of the police departments of Cranberry, Pine-Marshall-Bradford Woods, Ohio Township, McCandless, Franklin Park and Richland.

The scanners read identification numbers that are programmed onto tiny computer chips injected under the skin of dogs, cats and other pets.

"I'm sure most people don't realize that a large percentage of our calls are animal related," said Ohio Township police Chief Norbert Micklos, one of the north suburban officers who attended a news conference Friday announcing the donation.

Aguilera was not there, but her mother, Shelly Kearns, who still lives in the area, came with her golden retriever, Bowser, to present the scanners at the news conference at Bradford Hills Veterinary Hospital in Marshall.

"Because of space and time constraints, we don't have a lot of options when we find animals without identification," Micklos said. "We let dispatch know we have an animal and keep it in a cage at the station, but we can only keep it so long.

"If we don't get any calls on the animal, we call Triangle Pet," the private contractor that provides animal control services for Ohio Township and more than 70 other suburbs. "They keep the animal for 48 hours."

If the owner does not come forward, the animal is killed.

"Having the scanners will be great. They will make our job easier and hopefully help us save a lot of lost pets and get them back to their owners quickly," Micklos said.

Aguilera and her mother, have six dogs, two cats and three guinea pigs, which turns the Kearns household into Noah's Ark when Aguilera visits, her mother said.

Aguilera's three dogs -- a bull mastiff named KoKo and papillons named Chui and Stinky -- previously had microchips injected at Bradford Hills Veterinary Hospital.

"Christina and her family were very interested in the technology" and wanted to help other animals, said James B. Krewatch, the veterinarian who owns the hospital.

The scanners purchased by Aguilera are AVID Identification Systems Inc. MiniTrackers. A California veterinarian founded the American Veterinary Identification Devices company 20 years ago after his dog was lost when a gate was left open. AVID now has more than 10 million microchips in circulation.

AVID gave Aguilera a reduced rate on the 40 scanners and matched her gift by donating free chips to local shelters.

AVID gets more than 500 telephone calls a day from shelters and veterinarians who have scanned lost pets that have the microchips implanted. On dogs and cats, the chips are generally implanted between the shoulder blades.

Bowser, 3, accompanied Kearns to the press conference because he has a microchip. He wagged his tail and seemed happy to visit with those in attendance.

He was somewhat upstaged, however, by a 1-year-old pug.

Two days earlier, the puppy was running loose in North Park when he was picked up by a person who was walking dogs there. The pug was wearing a collar but had no tags. The person brought him to Krewatch's clinic last Thursday because he apparently knew the hospital has scanners to check chips.

The hospital also has a reputation for keeping stray animals for several days while trying to find the owners. Clients contribute to a stray animal fund to help care for lost animals, said Dorothy Wagner, practice manager at Bradford Hills Veterinary Hospital.

The hospital staff called AVID and was thrilled to find that the pug had a chip. His name is Busta, and he is owned by Anthony and Jeana Novick, of Pine. Their daughter, Jessie, a junior at Pine-Richland High School, picked up Busta during the news conference.

Jessie said it was her idea to implant a microchip into Busta last year.

The family said Busta and their husky-mix, Nellie, were let out the back door the night of May 18 for just a few minutes. The dogs did something they had never done before -- they ran off and did not come back when called. Nellie returned a short time later, but Busta did not. The family is grateful to the dog walker who picked up Busta and took him to the veterinary hospital. The good Samaritan wishes to remain anonymous.

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