A lost pet is every owner’s worst nightmare. The uncertainty of what to do or where to turn in such a situation makes it especially scary. Fortunately there have been some great advances in technology that can aid people in finding lost pets, most notably microchipping.
Despite some of the Big Brother implications the word conjures up, microchipping is a fairly painless and innocuous process. The microchip implant, about the size of a grain of rice, is injected into the fatty area between your pet’s shoulder blades. Your pet might feel a slight pinch, but many pets don’t notice anything at all. Microchips operate by radio frequency and can be read by hand-held scanners at the animal shelters or veterinary clinics. The scanner finds the registration number of the chip and the phone number of the chip’s maker. The shelter can then check the microchip’s ID number against the national database to get your name and phone number, along with your pet’s medical history. With a microchip, the shelter is still able to contact you even if your pet isn’t wearing a collar or ID tags. The microchip fuses with your pet’s fatty tissue, so it doesn’t hurt your pet or get lost inside your pet’s body. It is an extra level of protection should your pet become lost.
There have been a few concerns with the microchipping process, not the least of which is privacy. Some people may not like the idea of their names and phone numbers appearing in a national database. The registration fee can also be a bit pricey, usually between $40 and $50, though some rescues and veterinary offices occasionally run specials on these fees. It is important to remember that just having the microchip isn’t enough. You must actually register your pet with the manufacturer so your information will show up in the database. This usually involves paying the fee, which can either be a one-time fee or an annual fee depending on the brand, and filling out the paperwork that comes with the chip.
In addition to cost, there have been issues with different brands of chips not showing up in competitor’s databases. This was a common problem in the early days of the technology, and many pet owners complained that they had an incredibly difficult time finding their lost pets even with a microchip. Fortunately, several of the companies are starting to work together to provide a more comprehensive database. Many of the manufacturers are also starting to provide universal scanners to the shelters that are capable of reading many different types of microchips. Although the technology isn’t perfect, there have been great strides in recent years to make the chips more reliable.
Microchipping offers many benefits, but it’s also important to remember that microchips should not be a substitute for the traditional methods of finding lost pets, such as putting up posters and searching the neighborhood. Many times your pet can be found with these steps! You should also still make sure your pet is always wearing a collar with identification. If your pet does have a microchip, it’s very important to keep the registration information up-to-date, especially if you have recently moved. The microchip is only as good as the information tied to it! In the chaos that ensues during and after a move, it can be very easy to forget this step, but keeping your information current could make the difference between life and death for your pet! – Lee Gruver