FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The number of stray animals found roaming the installation is rising, post officials report. With proper pet owner responsibility, however, fewer animals escape and more of those who do will find their ways back home.

On-post pet owners must register animals at the Veterinary Clinic within three days of arrival or after adopting a furry friend while stationed here, according to Maj. Jay Massey, Directorate of Public Safety operations officer. Registration must be completed annually thereafter.

Dogs and cats must also be microchipped within the three-day timeframe, or at 12 weeks of age if adopted as puppies or kittens. Microchips require contact information updates at the clinic if phone numbers or addresses change, Massey noted.

"If you live on post and you get a pet, remember what the policy is," Massey said.

Information regarding these rules is available in packets on-post residents receive when moving here and at monthly newcomers' welcome briefings held at The Landing.

Animals must wear ID and rabies tags on collars or harnesses if allowed outside, Massey said. This expedites the reunion process between meandering pets and their masters.

Animals must also be leashed when not on their owners' properties.

Veterinary Clinic Branch Officer-in-charge Capt. Kari Proper said about 75 percent of strays found here are returned home to their original owners. Following Massey's advice increases pets' reunion chances, she said.

Massey reminds community members to take extra precautions in caring for their pets during winter months.

Officials also encourage other pet safety tips. People must be vigilant to prevent escapes by keeping doors and fences closed. Owners should also establish animal care plans with neighbors or professionals before traveling. Outdoor pets should have warm shelters or be allowed inside on cold nights.

He also cautions the public against feral animal interaction. Whether animals appear wild or domesticated, he said people should never try to feed or take them in, but instead call Military Police at 255-2222.

Those who realize their furry companions are missing should call the MPs or Stray Facility at 255-0766 immediately.

For information on microchips or pet registration, call the Veterinary Clinic at 255-9061 or visit Bldg. 9402 on Dustoff Street.