Microchipping Dogs


When Daisy the Jack Russell terrier went missing from her home in Danville, New Hampshire for almost a month, Karen Forcier, her owner, suspected the worst. According to Danville's Eagle Tribune, Karen had just returned home when Daisy darted out of the open kitchen door. At first, Karen wasn't concerned. Daisy often chased squirrels into the woods. But when her dog didn't return in a few minutes, Karen began to the worry. The following morning, Daisy was still missing, so Karen called Animal Control.

After a month of fruitless searching, Karen had all but given up hope of seeing Daisy again. That is when she received a call from an animal control officer in Bourne, Massachusetts, 106 miles away. Daisy had been spotted walking along the street, looking lost. Workers at the local shelter were able to identify Daisy by the microchip that was imbedded under the skin near her shoulder. This allowed officials to quickly trace Daisy back to her owner. Karen never learned how Daisy ended up so far away, but she was sure the microchip had saved her pet.

Microchips Help Lost Pets Return Home

Millions of lost dogs like Daisy find themselves at animal shelters every year. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), as few as 15 to 20% of lost dogs are ever reunited with their families. Those bearing some form of identification fare much better. Tags and collars work well but can easily break or slip off. Microchips, by contrast, are permanent. The ASPCA states that, when used with a visible tag or collar, a microchip provides the most reliable means of recovering a lost pet.

How Microchips Work

A microchip is a tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) device about the size of a grain of rice. The device has three parts: a tiny computer chip, some electronic circuitry, and a bio-compatible silicone capsule. It is implanted under the loose skin between a dog's shoulder blades. When it is activated by a specialized handheld scanner, the chip emits an alphanumeric code that uniquely identifies the dog.

As soon as the microchip is implanted, the owner can register the dog's code into a national registry maintained by the chip's manufacturer. This step is critical. If the pet is ever lost and taken to a veterinary hospital or animal shelter where she is scanned, the owner can easily be traced. When all goes well, a missing dog and owner can be reunited in a matter of hours. However, if the owner's information has not been registered with the microchip company or if it has changed and not been updated, there will be no way to identify the dog's owner.

Uses and Benefits of Microchips

Today, microchips are used around the world as an efficient and effective animal identification system. Countries and municipalities are moving toward laws that make electronic identification of companion animals mandatory. This is already the case in Canada, Switzerland, Israel, and Japan. In the United States, microchips have been slower to take hold. Still, they have made possible the recovery of hundreds of thousands of lost or stolen pets since their introduction to the States in the mid-nineties. Humane shelters across the country have begun implanting adoptees with microchips as a matter of course. Fewer unidentified dogs flooding shelters means more room for needy canines awaiting new homes. Microchips are an excellent means of identifying dogs in case of theft. They're also required along with proof of vaccination when importing companion animals to certain countries (for example, if you are moving with your dog to England).

Some Key Benefits of Microchips Include:

So What's the Catch?

Microchips are a powerful identification tool, but they aren't failsafe. Here are some of the drawbacks:

Stay tuned. As compatibility issues are resolved and new laws are enacted, microchip technology for pets is here to stay. For advice about microchips and your dog, including which, if any, chip format predominates in your area, it's always best to consult your veterinarian.

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