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Borough animal center offers ID tags that stick

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Maria Gutierrez knows her dog has wanderlust, so when she heard that the Center for Animal Care Control in Rego Park would be placing microchips in cats and dogs for a low cost, she took advantage of the opportunity.

"I know that she wanders if you let her off the leash," said Gutierrez, while her one-year-old dog Lucky, a mix of boxer and American staff terrier, chewed on a lollipop stick in the waiting room of the CACC, a private, non-profit organization that runs three full-service shelters and two animal receiving facilities in the city.

The pet microchip, which is injected between the shoulder blades of dogs and cats, contains information that can be read by a scanner linked to a computer. It is the method of identification that veterinarians most prefer because pets never leave home without it.

The microchip implantation was offered to pet owners Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. as part of the CACC's outreach program. In addition, vaccinations for diseases such as rabies and kennel cough were offered.

"People were telling me how expensive it is to get the vaccinations," said Melissa Amos, who brought a two-month-old golden shepherd mix into the facility to get three vaccinations and the microchip implantation. "It was by the grace of God that we got the dog Thursday and I saw the ad for this in the paper on Friday."

The CACC's suggested donations of $10 for each vaccination and $20 for each microchip are considerably lower than the amount it would cost for the same services at a private veterinary clinic, said pet owners.

"At the vet, it's generally $40 to $50 per shot," said Esperanza Meza, the owner of a six-month-old chocolate American staff terrier.

The CACC receiving facility in Rego Park is generally open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It accepts all animals, from pets that have been abandoned to animals that belong to drug dealers who were arrested.

At the end of the day, the animals are transported to one of the CACC's full-service shelters in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Staten Island, where they are given medical attention and put up for adoption.

The CACC is funded for the most part by the city. Other funds come from fees charged for services and from donations and grants.

Julian Prager, the acting executive director for the CACC, said Saturday's vaccination and microchip clinic was the kick-off to what he expected to become a regular event.

"We're going to be doing this on a regularly scheduled basis throughout the city, starting now," he said.

Gutierrez said she suspects Lucky ended up in a bakery in Jackson Heights, where her husband found her on a cold day in February, after she wandered off from her previous owners. She hopes that with a microchip implanted, Lucky would be identified and returned to her if she were to go exploring again.

"Losing a pet, I don't know how I would handle that. I don't want that," said Gutierrez.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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