A Parks Township woman is turning to technology to help local law enforcement identify lost animals in the Alle-Kiski Valley.
Amber Phillips, owner and director of the nonprofit Champion’s Crusaders Rescue, hopes to donate at least 28 digital animal microchip scanners to the Parks Township, Apollo, Leechburg, Southern Armstrong Regional, Kiski Township and Lower Burrell police departments and the Armstrong County Sheriff’s Office.
Operation Microchip Scanner aims to raise about $8,000 to supply each police cruiser in those departments with a scanner, Phillips said.
Phillips said most Armstrong County police departments lack scanners or only have one, which is the case with the Leechburg Police Department.
“It is my mission to equip every police car in my five surrounding communities with a microchip scanner and two custom leather slip leads,” Phillips said.
“Often, people criticize these departments for not being able to unite lost animals and utilizing places like Hoffman Kennels (the area’s animal control company). Without the proper equipment, they can’t reunite. Now, we can help them help our community by getting them the equipment they so desperately need.”
A tiny microchip — no bigger than a grain of rice — is inserted using a large needle into a pet between the shoulder bones. It contains information about the animal’s owner.
Animal microchips have grown in popularity.
According to a study by the Ohio University College of Veterinary Medicine, microchipped dogs were returned to their owners more than 52% of the time, while dogs without microchips were reunited with their families just 21% of the time.
Joyce Hanz | Tribune-Review
Champion’s Crusaders Rescue is raising money to donate 28 digital animal microchip scanners to several police departments in Armstrong and Westmoreland counties.
To date, Phillips has received enough money to deliver three scanners — one each to Kiski Township police, Apollo police and the Armstrong County Sheriff’s Office.
The DATAMARS Compact Max Petlink scanner is pocket-sized and can read any companion animal microchip.
A typical scanner costs about $300. Phillips secured a special pricing of $235 through a partnership with the Kiski Valley Animal Clinic.
“They have reached out to their distributors in order to get them a little cheaper for us,” she said.
Phillips, an Armstrong County humane officer, works closely with police departments.
“They reach out to me constantly on lost dogs. But by them having the scanner equipment, they don’t have to resource me as frequently,” she said. “Having widespread scanners in the county, it can reduce the likelihood of an animal going to animal control. (It can) be reunited with its owner faster.”
Kiski Township has an animal dumping problem, according to Police Chief Lee Bartolicius.
In spring and summer, he said, his department sees an uptick in abandoned and lost dogs and cats along the township’s rural roads.
Phillips presented Bartolicius with his department’s first scanner April 28. If donations continue, Kiski Township will receive four more.
“It’s awesome she’s doing this,” Bartolicius said. “We work hand-in-hand with Phillips, and we have tried our new scanner out on a personal pet and it works great.”
Parks Township police Chief John Arce received a scanner May 3.
“It’s a big benefit for us. We do pick up a lot of animals,” Arce said. “And there’s many a time when we don’t have these (scanners), and the township has a contract with Hoffman Kennels and we have to give the animals to them.”
“If a dog or cat is chipped, then we can return it to the owner. It’s a big asset to the department,” Arce said. “The way money is anymore, for me to go and ask our supervisors for a $500 pet scanner, they’d probably laugh at me. It’s a great resource for us to have.
“We’re very appreciative of Amber and her efforts. She’s a big supporter of the police. She runs on Mountain Dew — she’s so busy.”
The Southern Armstrong Regional Police Department doesn’t use a third-party organization for animal control issues, Chief Chris Fabec said.
“The chip reader will be a great tool for our department,” he said. “We greatly appreciate the generosity.”
Armstrong County Sheriff Frank Pitzer said his hearing department was receiving a scanner was a pleasant surprise.
Pitzer said the scanner could have come in handy a few weeks ago in a lost dog case.
“As an animal lover, this is huge for us,” Pitzer said. “We can track down the animal’s owner.
“This is pretty huge for law enforcement. The cost of buying eight scanners was a deterrent to us. We struggle yearly with buying equipment our deputies need. I commend her for what she’s doing, and it’s heartfelt for all of us to get this help.”
Joyce Hanz | Tribune-Review
Amber Phillips, director of the nonprofit Champion’s Crusaders Rescue, demonstrates how a digital microchip scanner works.
When Phillips heard the Lower Burrell Police Department didn’t have a microchip scanner, she added that department as a recipient.
Phillips said she is grateful for everyone who is helping to support the effort.