Why Microchip Your Pet

August 23, 2011

Everyone loves the amazing stories of dogs and cats who travel long distances to find their way back home.  Unfortunately, these happy tales are the rare exception to the rule.  For every pet that makes it back after leaving, there are tens of thousands who never live to see home again.

I know, I know.  You are thinking: “Roxy couldn’t possibly get lost or disappear.  She is with me all the time.”  But, then how does it happen that more than 5 million pets will be lost by the end of this year?    In fact, one pet in every three will be lost at some point in his or her lifetime!

When California Assemblyman Ben Hueso came home from a family holiday to find that his pet Coco, who had been left at a boarding facility, was simply “gone”, he set out to do something about the lost pet problem in the USA.  Coco was recovered 350 miles away because he had been implanted with an identifying microchip.  Without that microchip Hueso knows for certain that Coco would have never been found.  That is why he is now supporting legislation in California to require that all shelter pets are microchipped and he would make it mandatory for owners to agree to implantation of a microchip before their lost pets are returned to them from shelters.

According to the American Humane Association, of those pets that roam away from home, less than 17% of dogs and only 2% of cats ever make it back to their owners!  Sadly, most of the rest will be euthanized in over-crowded animal shelters.  Hueso’s legislation would be the first microchip law of its kind in the nation, but many feel that it is a way to reduce the unnecessary killing animals.

Here, on our barrier islands, we run a higher than average risk of losing our pets.  This is entirely due to hurricane evacuations.  During such evacuations, pets become disoriented, they bolt when allowed out of the car to relieve themselves, or, God forbid, they are left behind and escape through broken windows or fences.  Collar ID tags, although very, very important, are often lost during these disasters. This is why it is so important that our pets bear permanent identification like an implanted microchip.

A microchip is a small computer chip about the size of a grain of rice.  They have unique ID numbers that can be read by electronic scanners.  These chips can be injected under your pet’s skin.  It is kind of like getting a “big” vaccination.  We do it to awake pets all the time, but I really like to do it while they are under anesthesia for any reason, ideally when the pet is being spayed or neutered.

There are four different frequencies of microchips in use in the US today and not all scanners can read all chips, which can lead to some confusion.  Fortunately, South Carolina has been at the forefront of scanning for lost pets . All of our shelters have universal scanners (can read all chips), and the shelters in the state of South Carolina are required to scan all lost pets.   So, if your pet has a chip of any kind and somehow winds up in our shelter system, he can easily be returned to you. That is, if you keep your information up to date.

So, do three simple things for your pet this hurricane season.  1) Get your pet microchipped by your veterinarian and 2) REGISTER your pet with the online database provided when your pet is chipped.  A chip that has not been registered with your name and contact information is virtually worthless.  3)Finally, keep your contact information up to date for the life of your pet.   You’ll rest easier for it.

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