The Problem with Microchips

Technology is usually a good thing.  From the beginning, microchips seems to be just that; a way to identify our pets without the worry of misplaced collars and tags.  But, at best, microchipping your pet is a poor secondary form of identification.  It is better than nothing, but not much better.  The fact that your pet is microchipped, is no excuse for failing to place  identification on your pet or to actually physically search for your dog..

From the beginning, microchip companies did not want to share their microchipping secrets.  One company even encrypted their microchips to prevent other microchip company scanners from being able to scan for their chips.  Then microchips began entering the United States from Canada and new microchip frequencies began to enter our market.  It became increasingly difficult for animal shelter to find the implanted chips due to the lack of universal scanners.  Even today, with universal scanners on the market, microchips remain unfound because of frequency issues.  The issue has become so great, that many animal shelters refuse to scan for microchips because of the difficulty of finding the chips.

Responsible animal shelters believe that if a pet owner is going to microchip their pet, then the shelter should, at least,  perform the scan.  Animal shelters should make every effort to return a pet back to its owner.  Because microchips are elusive to find, animal shelters will scan for the chip three times: upon intake of the animals, during the medical examination, and at disposition.  Microchips can migrate within the pet; I once found a microchip that had migrated from the injection site (in the shoulder blades) to the front paw, for this Great Dane, that was a migration of three feet.  It is so critical that every inch of the animal is scanned.   If you realized the number of microchips that are discovered just prior to euthanasia, you would understand why I state that the microchip is a poor secondary form of identification.

Animal shelter personnel get so very excited to find a microchip, only to find that few microchips are traceable.   The most common cause of an untraceable microchip is from microchips that are purchased from veterinarians, where the veterinarian expects the pet owner to register the microchip with a national registry.  Many veterinarians just sell and implant the chip, but fails to associate that chip with the owner and those that do, might purge the records of pet owners who fail to return for follow up medical examinations.

We are a mobile society.  Pet owners fail to keep current their pet’s microchip registration.  Some animal shelters have to go to great lengths to trace an owner through their microchip.  Originally, it had been the hope of our profession to find lost pets in the field and return them home before the owner even discovered the pet was missing.  That happens infrequently, but those occurrence are occurring even more rarely.

One of the most frustrating things that animal shelter personnel face is that pet owners with microchipped pets feel that it is not necessary for them to look for their lost pet because the microchip will guarantee the animal’s return.  With this mindset, the pet owners might have to wait a year or two to see their pet again.

Microchipping your pet is no excuse to be lazy.  Buy an ID tag, purchase your local pet license and be proactive in finding your lost pet.