We’ve seen them on street-side mailboxes and taped to utility poles; the infamous Lost Dog or Lost Cat poster. A runaway or missing pet can be an incredibly difficult time for any pet owner and their family. The primary method of reuniting separated pets and their owners is through microchipping. This inexpensive and universally recognized method of linking pets with their people has proven effective.
Low or Reduced Cost Microchip Implant
While there is most often an initial cost to having a microchip implanted in your pet, there are several organizations who will periodically offer free or reduced cost procedures. The Arizona Humane Society, Washoe County Regional Animal Services, and El Paso Animal Services, are all organizations that have established programs to provide free microchips for pet owners. Search Google for “free pet microchip” and include your home town to see if any ongoing or limited time programs are available near you.
Safe Procedure For Your Pet
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the process to implant a microchip is no more painful than a regular injection. The procedure does not require anesthesia or surgery. The chip sits just beneath the skin surface around the scruff of the neck. This is a universally known location, that veterinarians, animal control authorities, and pet shelters locate to scan for a chip.
No Personal Information Stored on the Chip
The only information stored on the chip is a unique string. It can be a 9-15 numeric or alphanumeric (containing letters and numbers). Each chip manufacturer sets their own length, but no two numbers are duplicated among manufacturers. In order for the information string on the chip to be linked to the owners address, this ‘link’ needs to be established in a Registry. HomeAgain is one such registry. Once an account is created and the chip string (ID) is linked to the owners address. Any time when the chip is scanned, the veterinarian (shelter, or animal control authority) will ask the registry for the contact information linked to that ID.
Linking the chip string (ID) to contact information with most registries is free. Often, the company operating the registry will offer additional services (like dog tags, certificates, magnets, or enhanced account services) for an additional fee. Be sure to read the process carefully as you create an account to ensure you don’t sign up for unneeded subscription services.
Chips Are Easy To Maintain
Thankfully, the chip itself is maintenance-free after being implanted. It does not have a power-source, so no batteries to replace. The chip does not need to be ‘updated’ when new technology comes out. It is dangerous to remove a chip which usually requires a surgical procedure.
The Registry information requires the most maintenance. If the owner moves, or the dog changes owners, the information in the registry must be updated to ensure proper unification.
There are discussions about the evolution of chip technology and manufacturers using different radio frequencies to transmit chip information. This may cause concern for some owners worried that old chips may not be read by new scanners. This is a valid concern. Veterinary offices, animal control agencies, and other groups who regularly scan animals are increasingly using forward- and backward-looking scanners that can read multiple frequencies.
If a pet were to move to a different region in the world, the technological standard may be completely different and a second chip implant may be required.
“Check The Chip” Day
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) joined together to create “Check the Chip Day” which is set for August 15th each year.
On this day pet owners are reminded of two things:
- Make an appointment to have your pet microchipped, if they are not.
- Check your Registry information to ensure it is up to date.
Phone numbers and addresses change over time, so it is important to ensure the Registry is up to date!
Check out this information for more information about microchipping:
American Animal Hospital Association
ASPCA Microchip Position Statement
Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals
The Humane Society of the United States