"He's microchipped," says the owner in a relaxed, confident tone. He's OK, he's safe, all's well. He's microchipped, which is one way to fulfill the AKC
registration requirement for permanent identification. His microchip deters theft and guarantees a happy reunion. Right?
Microchipping is not fool-proof. But no fool owns a Kerry Blue! Understand microchipping and how you can manage the microchip process makes this technology
work for you and your dog.
It's A Business
Microchip manufacturers, scanner manufacturers, veterinarians who insert microchips, and registries who keep microchip information on file are businesses.
As businesses, they are interested in profit and they are in competition with each other. Nothing wrong with that -- the people who make leashes, collars
and tag makers are in competitive business, too. Just keep in mind they are not regulated service organizations or public agencies.
Actually, two businesses are involved: (1) Microchip and scanner makers and distributors. (2) Registries that track the microchip number and the information
about that pet and his owners. Often, these businesses work together; for example, HomeAgain® chips are associated with AKC CAR.
A microchip is a tiny computer chip programmed with a unique ID number. It's inserted by a hypodermic; no more painful to your dog than any other injection.
Microchips are inert, with no battery or moving parts. It cannot harm your dog. He does not feel it, nor would he feel the scanner reading the chip.
Microchips do not track the dog.
Microchips operate by sending radio wave signals at a particular frequency (for most pet chips, 125 kHz). When a microchip scanner is passed over the pet,
it picks up the radio wave signal and displays the ID number of that chip. The number itself indicates the associated registry, where the pet's contact
information is on file. For example, AVID 220*609*321 is an Avid chip, registered with PetTrac.
The shelter that scanned the pet contacts the registry, which check their database for the information related to that chip number, and calls the owner
-- their pet has been found! That is, if the owner has registered the microchip number and provided contact information. This is the crucial -- and most often neglected -- step in successfully microchipping a pet.
The Upside of Microchips
- Can't get lost, unlike a collar.
- Can't be worn off or removed, unlike a tattoo.
- You register info with the database and can update it easily, and can add details such as secondary contact info, medications, preferred food.
- The microchip continues to emit microwaves for about 25 years.
- Chips can be scanned quickly, accurately and with "hands off" --that's why shelter staff prefers them. (Staff takes a risk in checking flank tattoos of frightened dogs.)
The Downside of Microchips
- Invisible. No one knows the pet is chipped until and unless it is scanned.
- The animal has to be found and turned into animal control before being scanned.
- Correct data needs to be registered. If not registered, or the information is not current, the owner cannot be contacted.
- Cannot be detected or read without a scanner. Not all pounds, shelters, dog control officers or vets have scanners.
- Some scanners do not read chips from other manufacturers. (However, some scanners will at least detect the presence of another chip.) Fortunately, universal scanners are becoming more common.
- Theoretically, chips can be removed -- however, if someone steals a dog, they won't need to remove the chip, they'll avoid having the dog scanned for one. Microchips do not prevent outright theft.
- Chips cannot be inserted in small dogs until 10 weeks old. This limits some breeders from chipping their own pups; they must rely on the new family to get the pup chipped.
The Successful Microchip
As important as a microchip is in pet identification, it is your last line of defense. For it to "work"
- Your Kerry has to be "captured" by someone and taken to a shelter or vet.
- The shelter has to scan the dog.
- The chip database has to have your correct information.
Once in the shelter,
- Your dog must wait his turn for processing. He might not be scanned immediately. Granted, he is now sheltered from the dangers of the outside world. But he might need medication and you certainly need peace of mind.
- If he is turned into your local shelter, they should not need to scan him because they already recognize them, because of the perfect pest you?ve made of yourself, calling and visiting and letting them know your dog is lost!
- When the shelter contacts the chip registry, all your data needs to be correct.
ID, ID, ID
" Redundant systems" is the high-tech term, but great grandma used to say: "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." Your KBT needs multiple forms of ID.
1. Collar tags are the most common means whereby lost pets are reunited with their people. See Tag Tips below.
2. Your own campaign is the next most vital recovery tool -- phoning shelters, vets, and neighbors; posting Lost Dog flyers; visiting shelters; hunting for your dog.
- Give the shelters your dog?s microchip number. They can call you back if they scan it.
- Phone the microchip registry when your dog goes missing. Double check that your info is up-to-date. Alert them to be on the look-out for a call about your dog.
3. Lastly, the microchip comes into play. The dog arrives at a shelter? or, if injured, at a vet's ? and is scanned for microchipping info. See Chip Tips below.
The most important device for a speedy reunion with a lost pet is a collar ID tag.
- Tag Data (aside from a phone number)
- Street address is not essential, since people who find your dog will probably call anyway before driving over.
- However, consider including the city, or the particular neighborhood in a large city (?Greenwich Village?). This might motivate people to call if you live nearby, or at least they might turn the dog into animal shelter near you.
- Words such as "Reward" or "Requires Medication" can motivate people to give the dog back to you, and not keep him themselves or leave him roaming.
- Use Temporary Tags.
- If Fido is staying with friends while you?re out of town, add a tag with their phone number and the date (Fido, July 2004, 925-555-6177).
- Keep an "In Disaster" tag on hand. It should list an out-of-area contact, such as your sister in Seattle. Put this on the dog's collar when you know a hurricane is coming, or after an earthquake has hit. (In Disaster: J Brown, Seattle, (206) 555-2898)
- Add a Microchip Tag. If his tags stay on dog?s collar, the shelter can contact you right away, or can call the microchip manufacturer if you are not available (such as after a disaster.)
- Control the Bling: If all these tags leave your dog jingle-jangling, get a tag pouch.
- Ask you local animal shelter what kinds of chips their scanners can read. Get that kind of chip for your pet. If you move, call that area?s shelter
? if they read a different chip, consider re-chipping your pets.
--If the shelter has no scanner, or an antiquated one, ask how you can assist in fund-raising to get up-to-date equipment.
- Register your pet once he's chipped. When I had my new puppy chipped this month, the vet?s office kept my filled-in form so they could mail it in. They told me almost 50% of the people who take the form home -- with their newly chipped pet! -- don't mail it in.
- Contact the registry annually to verify that they have your information listed correctly. Make this an annual birthday present to your dog. Don?t forget these registries are for-profit business, so keep tabs that they are still in business, and that you understand any changes they have made to their procedures.
- Contact the registry at any time if you need to change your information. Don't forget to notify them of changes to the information for back-up contact person or vet.
- Never stop up-dating your info -- microchipped pets have been found months and years after lost or stolen. The AKC CAR web site has a story of a dog reunited with a family four years after going missing ? and after the family had moved to a different state. They kept their information current with the registry, and got their dog back.
- Keep your pet's microchip number and registry phone number on hand. If you pet goes missing, your mind will be churning, so make it easy on yourself and keep put this info someplace incredibly obvious and easy to access.
While we're talking IDs, let's consider...
Upside of Tattoo
- It's visible. Even if the tattoo is hard to read (either through fading or lack of cooperation by the dog), it's evidence that the dog belongs to someone.
- Obviously, no scanner or technology is needed to read the tattoo.
- In addition to registries specifically for pet tattoos, some microchip registries will log contact information for tattoo numbers.
Downside of Tattoos
- There is no formal numbering system. Some people use either their SSN or Driver's License Number, as both are unique and recognizable for what they are.
- Do not expect the DMV or Social Security Admin to serve as a rescue resource for your dog. Government agencies are not going to give even animal shelter information about you, nor are they likely to give you a call to say the country shelter just phoned to say come get your dog.
- Wherever your tattoo your dog -- most people opt for the inner thigh -- you need to keep the area trimmed sufficiently that the tattoo can be read. If a pet has been lost for some time (or even inadvertently neglected, such as in a disaster situation), the tattoo can become overgrown to the point of being undetectable.
- Tattoos can be altered.
- Shelter staffs might delay examining larger, agitated dogs-- which a KBT might be under the stress of the situation.
I had my puppy microchipped this week. Not only is permanent ID a requirement for AKC registration, microchipping was a requirement in his breeder's contract with me. I respect that. I'll do what it takes to keep him safe -- obviously, everything in my power to keep him from getting lost at all! Yet accidents happen. Disasters happen. If we have to fight that battle, we?ll have his microchip as a important weapon in our arsenal.
Avid Microchip and PETtrac system
HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service
Other Resources of Interest
AKC Companion Animal Recovery
This is a "recovery service" in which you can register microchip number, tattoo number or AKC registration number.
National Dog Registry
A tattoo service and registry, but will register microchip numbers.
American Humane Society
April 1, 2006 is "Every Day is Tag Day"