By: Sarah A. Neikam, Operations Manager

Christmas is over and so begins the season of returns. Gift returns, mostly. If you venture into any popular departments stores this week, you’ll see the long and winding line of giftees waiting to exchange or return items so they can purchase the gift they would rather have.

Also though, it’s a time of returning home. Many people left town for the holiday, to visit family in other parts of the country or the world. They’ll make their way back this week, to their homes, their jobs, their routines, and if they’re lucky, to anxiously awaiting and welcoming pets.

Imagine though, returning home after a trip or even after a typical day’s work, to find that your pet had gone missing. Perhaps a gate was left unlatched, or a door was left ajar. Would your cat or dog be able to find its way back home? If not, how would your beloved companion be returned to you? What are your options for finding them?

The long-standing “Lost Pet” poster is one method of pet recovery that is surprisingly still in use today. Usually you’ll see them posted within neighborhoods, but sometimes also at grocery stores or busy intersections, which is really the last place you’d hope for your pet to be.

More often today, pet owners turn to social media for help. Personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages, in addition to private community pages are a quick, easy way to get word out and share a photo of your missing pet.

Locally, there is also the Aiken Pets Reunited website and Facebook page. It’s well known as one of the first places to look for your missing pet, post a lost notice with a photo, or post a found notice if a lost pet makes its way across your path.

Animal shelters should always be on your list of places to check for a missing pet. Here in Aiken, if a pet is picked up by City of Aiken Animal Control, it will make its way into our Willow Run facility as a stray. If found outside of city limits, it will be routed to the Aiken County Animal Shelter on Wire Road. I suggest always checking with both shelters.

Once in the hands of animal control, or a shelter, a pet can be easily returned to its owner if wearing an ID tag with contact information. Many pets though, especially cats, go missing without wearing any kind of tags or even a collar. This is where the absolute best method of lost pet recovery proves it’s worth: Microchips.

When a pet is microchipped, they can still be traced back to an owner, even if a collar or tag slips off or isn’t worn. Microchips are tiny (about the size of a grain of rice) transponders that can be implanted just under your pet’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades, by a veterinarian. The procedure is quick, affordable, virtually painless, and usually only needs to be done once in a pet’s lifetime.

Each microchip contains a unique registration number that can be read by a special scanner that most veterinarian offices and shelters possess. This registration number is then provided to the indicated microchip company (there are several) who in turn can provide the owner’s contact information.

Pets adopted from the SPCA Albrecht Center are conveniently already microchipped. Adopters just need to make sure their contact information is updated with the microchip company after adoption, and if they ever move, in case their pet ever does stray from home.

If you have a pet that is not microchipped, I urge you to make it a priority. The SPCA Albrecht Center’s Veterinary Care Center offers the service for just $25, and you don’t even have to make an appointment. Call 803-648-6863 or visit for hours.

In the event of your pet’s separation from home, help make sure they have a quick and happy return!

Sarah Neikam is the Communications & Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the SPCA since 2012. Sarah lives in Graniteville with her husband, Tom, mother, Cheryl and three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady, who are all microchipped.

The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare is a private, nonprofit, no kill animal shelter in Aiken, SC.  The SPCA also operates a local Thrift Store (“Where Shopping Saves Lives”),  a public, affordable Veterinary Care Center & a Dog Park.  It is our mission to improve the lives of companion animals by rehoming abused, abandoned, and neglected pets while fighting for their well-being through vigorous legislative efforts, humane education, and by offering affordable veterinary care for all.