July 01, 2005
Get Chipped...Get Found
Sometimes pets get lost. We can take just about every precaution imaginable to prevent this from happening, but sometimes it just does. Most of us outfit our dogs with a collar and identification tag to help insure that if he ever becomes lost, someone will read the tag and deliver him back home. But what if your dog lost his collar or worse yet, what if he was stolen from you and later turned up in a shelter, would they know how to find you? In most cases, the sad truth is no. But, if your dog has a microchip, your chances of a happy reunion are much more possible.
For those who have never heard the word microchip used in conjunction with the family pet, visions of a bionic dog may begin to appear. The reality, however, is that identification microchips have been in use for quite some time and have become almost as commonplace as the traditional collar ID tag.
“Microchips are really great because when chipped dogs get lost, or run away and get picked up, they can be taken to just about any vet’s office to be scanned,” explains Kelly Riviera, a veterinary technician with Pewaukee Veterinary Service. “It’s nice to be able to see them reunited with their owners so quickly when that happens.”
Microchips, which are about the size of grain of rice, are inserted just beneath the skin usually in the area between the shoulder blades, says Dr. Jane Pohlman, veterinary manager at the Wisconsin Humane Society. The chips contain information that can be easily read by a hand-held scanner. In most cases, the information contains an identification number that is housed on a database containing the owner’s information. Owners, however, must remember to register their chip, or change the registration information if the dog ever receives a new owner. Without registration, a pet can still be located through the veterinarian or shelter who implanted the chip, but that may not always lead to the current owner.
“Registration is really important, but many pet owners forget to do that, or some chose not to because there’s a fee required with some microchip brands,” adds Pohlman. The Wisconsin Human Society, which has been implanting microchips since 1995, uses the 24PetWatch chip, which does not require a registration fee.
Some dog owners may be turned off by the microchip idea for fear the procedure may be painful; however, implanting the chip is virtually painless due to the small size of the chip. “It’s usually not anymore uncomfortable than a routine vaccination,” Pohlman adds.
Though it is possible for some chips to migrate, or move from their implanted location, in most cases this doesn’t occur since most chips are designed with the end of the transponder sheathed in a polypropylene shell to keep the chip in place. The cost of chip is also somewhat minimal. Most veterinarians or shelters can usually implant a chip for less than $40 depending on the brand of chip and additional veterinarian fees.
The bottom line with microchips is that they do work - the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) has seen many successful cases of chipped dogs being reunited with owners. One of the most memorable cases involved a dog that came into the shelter in September 2003. After scanning the dog for a microchip, MADACC officers discovered the dog was registered to the Anti-Cruelty Commission in Chicago. Learning that the dog had been reported stolen in March of 2003, the rightful owners were very happy to be reunited with their lost pet.
In general, MADACC sees more animals with microchips reunited with owners than not, but the process isn’t foolproof. Sometimes even chipped animals are not claimed and must be euthanized. Statistically speaking, however, microchips and collar ID tags are extremely helpful in reuniting lost pets with their owners. In 2004 MADACC saw some 11,096 dogs and cats come in to the facility according to Kent Castelein, IT specialist for the facility. Of those dogs and cats, 1,588 were reclaimed with an average stay of three days at the facility, 154 animals were found to have microchips and reclaimed within two days and only 20 microchipped animals were euthanized.
“I think what the stats fail to highlight is that when an animal comes in with identification (microchips or Milwaukee County tags) we have something to actively pursue in reuniting a pet with the owner,” explains Castelein. “We only cut the redemption time by one day, but essentially all animals with ID get redeemed or released by the owner instead of holding them for an average of nine days for strays with no ID. This is a huge cost savings to an animal control facility in materials and labor costs.”
Though it’s never a 100 percent guarantee, microchips can help solve an identity crisis if your dog ever becomes lost. If you need more reassurance, visit the following helpful websites:
24PetWatch - www.24petwatch.com/index.asp
AVID - www.avidmicrochip.com/
AKCCAR - www.akccar.org/
Home Again Pet Recovery Service - www.homeagainid.com