6:48 am   

Microchip IDs

Today s tip focuses on microchips as an identification approach. In a future tip, we ll look at tattoos, another good way to identify and protect dogs. This tip includes information from the Veterinary Information Network (www.vetinfonet.com).

A frightening number of pets die at shelters because they weren t wearing an I.D. tag, so they could not be reunited in time with their owners. No matter how careful you are, there is always a chance of an animal getting loose from a home or yard...being let out accidentally by a visitor...or escaping someone watching your pet in your absence. All pets should wear a collar with I.D. tag at all times, but sometimes when a pet is running loose, the tag or collar can come off.

Many pet owners are opting for microchipping as an alternative method of identification. The procedure involves a miniature, computerized implant injected beneath the skin over the shoulder using a hypodermic needle. The typical location is between the shoulder blades. Safe, non-toxic, permanent, painless and effective if properly placed, chips are a great tool used along with (not as a substitute for) traditional collar I.D. tags.

When a companion animal is found, many shelters or vets now use a hand-held scanner to check to see if the pet has a chip. If the pet is microchipped, a unique I.D. number registers on the reader. This number is usually traceable to the veterinarian who injected the microchip, and/or to a central database accessible via a 24-hour toll-free phone number. Information about the owner is given so the pet can be reunited with the owner. More and more shelters across the country are obtaining the scanners; more than 12,000 have them currently. Y2K compliance is not considered an issue.

The manufacturer of Home Again claims more than 20,000 successful recoveries have been made due to the implanted microchips.

Considerations:
* While universal scanners are being used in more locations, standardization is still a problem, since the pet microchip manufacturers used different technology and distributed proprietary readers. It is difficult for shelters to check an incoming animal with more than one scanner. Standardization is underway, and recently, universal scanners have been distributed that detect chips from the leading pet-chip manufacturers. Some of the manufacturers are expected to drop out of the market; the market leaders are Home Again (Schering-Plough) and AVID.

* In some cases, microchips have migrated from their original location in the animal, making detection difficult or impossible. This problem is fairly rare now, and new designs are ensuring that the chip will remain in the same location.

* Not all shelters have scanners since they cost $500 apiece. However, some manufacturers are donating them to shelters.

* If someone steals the dog or the organization finding the animal does not have a scanner, the microchipped animal won t be identified.

Cost:
* When done by a veterinarian, implanting the chip runs $30 to $50. Registering the chip -- a must -- costs about $12.50. Be sure to send in the registration paper and fee. If you don t register the chip, it can be traced only to the vet that implanted it. Some shelters in other parts of the country offer microchip clinics, so you might want to call your local shelter.

Tips:
* Remember to update the microchip registry if your address or phone changes.

* If you have an animal that appeals to animal thieves, it is recommended to both microchip and tattoo the animal, since a tattoo offers a visible deterrent. (Tattoos should be registered as well.)

* Always keep a buckle collar with I.D. tag on your dog.

Contacts:
* Home Again Companion Animal Retrieval System, Schering-Plough Animal Health Corporation, Kenilworth, NJ, 07033. Call 800-252-7894

* AVID. Call 800-336-2843

If your pet gets lost:
The Missing Pet Network (www.missingpet.net) is a vital resource. The MPN is a group of volunteers sponsored by the USDA Animal Care Office who help people find missing pet animals. Owners of missing pets would send a listing noting the area where the animal was lost.