Microchips a reliable way to ID pets


Editor’s note: Shelter Scoop is a column by the Huntingdon County Humane Society, which serves Mifflin as well as Huntingdon counties. It appears monthly on The Sentinel’s Friday Lifestyles page.

Despite a caregiver’s best intentions, sometimes a dog or cat will get outside by accident. This can be as frightening for the pet as it is for the owner. Animal shelters recommend that pets wear collars with tags that include the owner’s name, address, and telephone number, along with the pet’s name.

Many rescue organizations suggest that even indoor-only cats be tagged because they could slip through an open door and become lost. A safety collar with a short piece of elastic sewn into it will allow a cat to escape if it gets caught on window blinds, furniture, fencing, or other objects. Seeing a cat outside that is wearing a collar helps to make people aware that it is owned and possibly lost, not stray or feral.

Every dog or cat adopted from Huntingdon County Humane Society (HCHS) has a 24PetWatch microchip that lasts for the pet’s lifetime. A microchip provides permanent identification that cannot fall off, be removed, or become impossible to read. The 24PetWatch company provides lost pet recovery service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If your pet does not have a microchip, you can have one implanted at a veterinary clinic. In addition, HCHS offers 24PetWatch microchipping for $20 at low-cost microchip and rabies clinics held several times each year.

How microchips work

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a microchip is a small, electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder that is about the size of a grain of rice. It is injected using a hypodermic needle under the loose skin between the shoulder blades. No anesthesia is needed, as it is no more painful than other types of injections.

The chip itself contains identification numbers, and passing a hand-held scanner over the microchip transmits the numbers to the scanner’s display. The chip uses radio frequency identification, which does not require a battery and will not wear out. Note, however, that a pet’s microchip does not contain a tracking device and cannot be used to determine the location of an animal.

Benefits of microchipping

Most rescue organizations and veterinary clinics have microchip scanners. When an apparently lost pet is found and taken to such a facility, the animal will be scanned for a microchip. If one is detected, and if the microchip registry information is up to date, the pet and its caregiver can be reunited.

Over 10 million dogs and cats are estimated to be lost or stolen each year in the United States. A study published in the Journal of the AVMA underscored the importance of microchip registration.

For dogs

≤ Only about 22 percent of non-microchipped dogs entering animal shelters were reunited with their families.

≤ The return-to-owner rate for microchipped dogs was over 52 percent or nearly 2.5 times better than for non-microchipped canines.

For cats

≤ Less than 2 percent of non-microchipped cats entering animal shelters were reunited with their families.

≤The return-to-owner rate for microchipped cats was dramatically higher at over 38 percent, nearly 20 times better than for non-microchipped felines.

Not all found pets are necessarily surrendered to animal shelters. Some have legible tags and are returned directly to their owners. Others are taken to veterinary offices, scanned, and reunited with their families. An Ohio State University research project reported that owners were found for 72.7 percent of microchipped animals.

Pet owner responsibilities

Caregivers have responsibilities beyond simply having pets microchipped. The AVMA study cited above also revealed that only 58 percent of the microchipped animals’ chips were registered with the pet owner’s current contact information. This means that a whopping 42 percent of microchip animals have out-of-date owner contact information, which won’t help them get returned home.

Keep in mind that having an animal microchipped is just the first step. In addition, every caregiver should:

≤ Create an account with the microchip manufacturer.

≤ Enter key information such as the owner’s name, address, and telephone number(s),

≤ Update information with the registry each time his/her address or phone number changes.

≤ Ask a veterinarian to scan the pet’s microchip at each yearly check-up to make sure the microchip is still functioning and can be detected.

The AVMA and the American Animal Hospital Association have designated Aug. 15 as “Check the Chip Day” to remind pet caregivers to keep registration data current. You can increase the likelihood that a lost pet will be returned to you by using a collar and tags, even for indoor-only pets, as well as by making sure that the contact information associated with your pet’s microchip is up to date.