Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Much Ado about Microchips

If your dog was lost or ran away would he be returned to you?  Of course, there are no guarantees in life but you could always help your odds by getting your dog microchipped.  Don’t like the idea? That could be because you don’t fully understand what a microchip is or how it works.  Or maybe you are against the idea of tagging your pet.   Well, if you never plan to microchip your dog, you may want to keep a close watch on him because if he is picked up by animal control he may come back to you with a microchip, whether you like it or not. 
“When Gabriela Dorame of Fullerton, Calif., got a German shepherd puppy named Bolto last year, she and her kids decided to have a microchip implanted in the dog with an identification number that makes it easy to reunite lost pets with owners.  It paid off a day later when the rambunctious puppy bolted through an open door. Animal control officers found the dog, scanned him and knew immediately where he belonged, Dorame said.”

Sound like a topic and story you have heard lately?  That’s probably because this story and talk about microchips have been in the news this summer due to a bill introduced by State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance.  The bill would require all animal shelters to microchip every dog and cat adopted or claimed from an animal shelter.  According to the ASPCA, of dogs that end up in the animal shelter, only 15 - 20% are returned to their owners.  Most of those dogs were identified with tags, tattoos, or microchips.  According to Cities and Counties Annual Reports submitted to the California state controller, “California taxpayers pay about $300 million every year to impound 1 million dogs and cats, house them, and euthanize half of them.”  Lieu and other lawmakers believe this microchip law could save money by cutting costs at shelters and grossly increasing the return to owner percentage to 75%. 
Of course, California is not the only state making laws around pet microchips. Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn, signed a measure into law this month requiring shelters to scan for a microchip at least once within 24 hours of receiving a dog or cat.  The shelter must scan for a microchip again before an animal can be adopted, moved to another facility, or euthanized.  Workers are also required to do a physical inspection for tags, tattoos or any other identification that would help find the pet’s owners.  And while a few states like Illinois now require shelters to scan, no state has been able to require shelters to microchip.  Sharon Curtis Granskog, spokeswoman for the American Veterinary Medical Association says, “New York has introduced a bill every year, including this year, that would make microchipping dogs mandatory.” But every effort has failed so far.  Granskog says of the California bill, “If passed, the measure would be the first of its kind enacted in the U.S.” 
While microchips are very helpful in reuniting dogs with their owners they should not be mistaken for a GPS or tracking device.  Statistically, of the dogs that end up in the shelters with a microchip already, only 3 out of every 4 dogs have current owner information registered with their microchip.  In other words, you need to call the microchip company and register the microchip ID number under your name and address.  Otherwise, your dog’s microchip is useless. 

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