RHONDA SAYLE, RVT
We have all seen those flyers around our neighborhoods before. Big bold letters cry “LOST PET” followed by a photo and details about Fluffy, and a phone number to call if the animal is found.
According to the American Humane Association, only about 17% of lost dogs and 2% of cats ever find their way back from shelters to their original owners. Close to 9.6 million pets are euthanized every year because their owners can’t be found. But, there are ways to beat these odds.
Give your pet the best chance to be identified, no matter how far she roams. Have her microchipped, and make sure she’s always wearing a collar with an updated name tag.
A microchip is an identifying integrated circuit implanted underneath the pet’s skin by injection. Based on a passive radiofrequency identification technology, the chips are about the size of a large grain of rice and will last for the lifetime of your pet.
Each microchip has a unique numbering sequence like a license plate for a car. When a microchip is issued, a registration/enrollment form is completed to include the microchip number, the pet owner’s contact information, the name and description of the pet, the shelter’s and/or veterinary hospital’s contact information and an alternate emergency contact designated by the pet owner. The form is then sent to a registry keeper and entered into a database.
Oftentimes, people think microchips work like global positioning systems; however, this isn’t true. Microchips do not emit signals allowing a lost pet to be tracked; rather, when a pet is found, it may be scanned. If you find a lost pet, you should take it to the nearest veterinary hospital or shelter to be scanned for a microchip. A scanner will be waved slowly over the pet’s shoulders (the common area of microchip implantation in a cat or dog) and will “read” the number and display the unique code.
Once the number/code is determined, the registry can be contacted to obtain the owner’s information. Sometimes, even with a microchip number, identifying the correct pet recovery registry to contact can be challenging. To alleviate the guesswork, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) created the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool, a free, Internet-based resource that assists with microchip identification, helping to reunite pets and owners by checking participating pet recovery services’ registries to determine which registry should be contacted.
The actual microchip implantation is just one step to ensure the return of your pet. Be sure you have the registration forms completed and registered with the company of the database keeper so that you will know what number to call in case your pet is lost. Your veterinarian will provide you with all the information required to complete the process of registration. In many cases, your veterinarian may take care of the entire process for you. It’s important to remember to contact the company that issued your microchip when changes need to be made to the information on your registration form. You will need your microchip number to do this, so be sure to save it in a safe place.
The costs involved in microchipping are minimal compared with the value of protection this device offers your pet. In cases of extreme weather conditions, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, the chances of your pet getting lost increase drastically. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of pets were displaced and separated from their owners. Many could have been reunited if they had been microchipped.
The microchip is convenient, safe and reliable. Although many veterinarians and animal shelters are actively working to inform their clients about the benefits of microchipping a pet, there are still a number of myths keeping pet owners from doing so. If you have not had your pet microchipped, please discuss this important topic with your veterinarian soon.
Click here to view a video about how microchipping works.
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter September / October 2010, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2010 AAHA. Find out more.