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Waco Animal Coalition redoubles push for microchips as shelter remains closed

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Pet owners and volunteers gather Sunday at North Waco Heritage Park for free microchipping provided by the Waco Animal Coalition.

Waco-area animal welfare groups are teaming up to get more pets identified with microchips, part of a strategy to protect animals and keep them out of shelter kennels.

The Waco Animal Coalition on Saturday launched the community outreach program this past weekend, with a free microchip clinic Sunday, and officials hope to offer future clinics on a monthly basis.

Julie Morriss, president of Waco Pets Alive! and coalition member, said the project emerged after a Texas Unites for Animals conference in October where Morriss said many coalition members and local welfare advocates “learned the importance of connecting with the community and sharing free resources such as microchips.”

Microchipping has been required under city ordinances for more than a decade, but the need for it has become more acute since late October, when the Waco Animal Shelter suspended intake and adoptions because of an outbreak of deadly canine distemper.

When a stray animal is microchipped, an animal welfare officer can scan it and attempt to return it directly to the owner rather than having to take it to the shelter. The chips can also be scanned at vet clinics and any Waco fire station.

Morriss said any pet, even those kept indoors, may find an opportunity to escape from home. Microchipping only takes two or three minutes, she noted. The chips are about the size of a grain of rice and are injected into the collar area.

“We’re starting out with microchips because that’s an easy way to communicate with the pet parent,” she said. “We want animals to get microchips so they can get right back home.”

About 10 animals were chipped Sunday, Morriss said, and the event also offered free pet essentials, including bowls, collars, leashes and toys.

Morriss said she hopes the event will grow in coming months and offer avenues for the animal welfare community to stay connected with pet owners.

The event’s North Waco location was intentional, Morriss said, targeting 76708 as the ZIP code where the most animal intake is occurring based on animal control and city intake data. She said the park will be the target area for the next couple of months.

“We really wanted to focus on dipping into those communities and providing free resources,” Morriss said.

As the president of a local, animal-centered nonprofit, Morriss said one of the most important aspects of events like this is the opportunity to connect with and support the public, which ultimately supports animal wellness. In the future, she said the coalition is looking to offer vaccination events as well.

The city of Waco also works with the Animal Birth Control Clinic to provide free and low-cost microchip services along with spay-neuter procedures. In fiscal year 2021, the partnership provided 1,072 pets with microchips. The program also provided 1,715 spay-neuter surgeries.

Spay and neuter procedures are important to talk about in keeping stray animals off the street and out of shelters, but Morriss said the topic can be intimidating to pet owners. Instead of focusing on lengthy and costly surgeries, Morriss said the coalition recognizes the need to encourage and empower pet parents.

“We want people to get their pet microchipped without feeling pressured,” she said. “We want to come at people where they are and not surround them with prejudice and judgement, and that is a really heartfelt way to look at this.”

Making essential resources accessible in high-intake neighborhoods is a priority of the Waco Animal Coalition, Morriss said, rather than creating more stress for pet owners. The coalition includes the Humane Society of Central Texas, Animal Birth Control Clinic, Fuzzy Friends Rescue and several other partners.

Morriss also said not only does the Waco Animal Coalition help pet owners, but it also offers local animal welfare agencies an opportunity to connect with and support one another. When the conversation is normally centered around pets rather than people, it can be easy to forget the human aspect, Morriss said.

She said McLennan County is fortunate to have an abundance of organizations and businesses focused on animal welfare, and the coalition is an opportunity for stakeholders to develop camaraderie, identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses, talk about important issues and socialize.

“We can all be independently successful ... but when we all come together we can empower pet parents in a bigger way,” Morriss said.

For more information about the Waco Animal Coalition, visit The site offers information about the coalition as well as what to do with stray animals, community cats, pet-friendly facilities and other resources.

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Kourtney David is a Baylor University graduate from Springfield, Missouri. She joined the Tribune-Herald staff in July 2022.

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