According to the Humane Society of the United States, approximately 8 to 12 million pets are taken to shelters every year. 25% to 35% of these pets are adopted by a new owner. 30% to 60% are euthanized or "put to sleep". Only 14% of dogs and 4% of cats in shelters are returned to their original owners.
These statistics are certainly grim, but can be improved by the newest advance in permanent pet identification - the implantable microchip.
Collars and tags are often lost, or unreadable. Tattoos may also become unreadable, can be altered, or accidentally duplicated, and the large number of possible databases can make a search difficult and time-consuming.
It is easy, permanent and successful. Since the beginning of the microchip and the AKC Companion Animal Recovery program, over 60,000 lost pets have been reunited with their owners. Every found pet in its system has been successfully identified - a 100% success rate.
Microchip technology has existed for some time, and has become increasingly popular over the last decade. It consists of a chip, or transponder, which can be briefly energized to emit a signal when activated by a scanner - much like a bar code at a grocery store. The signal consists of a unique alpha-numeric code, 10 spaces long. These scanners are supplied to all veterinary clinics and shelters nationwide.
Won't the batteries run out?
The chip itself has no energy source or batteries; once implanted, it does not need to be replaced. The chip is coated with bio-compatible glass, so that the animal's body will not reject or react to it, and has a non-migrating design - it stays where it was initially placed.
Veterinarians place the microchip just under the skin, in the neck/shoulderblade area of an animal's body. This is done by a simple injection, no more painful than an annual vaccination. No sedation is needed. Often, it may be done at the time of a spay or neuter surgery, although it can be done at any time in an animal's life.
As a pet is microchipped, information is collected and sent to a database managed by the American Kennel Club. This information includes the owner's name, address and phone number, the information from the pet's current veterinary clinic, and the name and phone number of some third party who could help if the owner and vet were unavailable. This information can (and should) be updated whenever necessary.
All lost pets coming to Westgate Pet Clinic are scanned for a microchip. If one is found, we search our database first, to see if the pet visits our clinic. If not, there is an internet search tool at American Animal Hospital Association Pet Microchip Lookup Tool to help us find the owner.
Microchipping is certainly on the rise; all pets adopted from the Hennepin County Humane Society have a microchip already in place. Some municipalities, including St. Paul, Minnesota, offer a lifetime license for microchipped dogs. In fact, the Twin Cities area has one of the highest rates of microchipped pets nationwide.
The identification system features a microchip about the size of a grain of rice, which is implanted into a pet using a single-use syringe. Each microchip contains a code that is unique and readable by scanners based on an ISO-standard 134.2 kHz frequency. Through resQ's PetLinkTM registry database, resQ pet owners are granted free registration and a lifetime of free updates. The database also offers 24-hour support, seven days a week, including contact numbers for non-resQ microchip manufacturers and protection for pets regardless of their country of origin.
"Big Brother" tracking in our future?
Next-generation microchip technology is on the way. The hand-held scanner will soon be augmented by a walk-through or pass-through scanner similar to metal detectors in airports; this would be most practical for large shelters. Large dogs could simply be walked through; small pets in carriers could be slid through without the need to remove them from their protective shelters.
Work is being done to develop microchips that could monitor a pet's body temperature, heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure and blood glucose. Imagine being able to monitor a diabetic pet's status at home at any time, without needing to bring the pet to the clinic for a blood sample.
Farthest away in development is the microchip which uses global positioning technology. No prototype exists yet, but theoretically these would be inactive until the pet is lost. At that time, the pet owner could request that it be activated so that the signal could be traced by satellite - a true tracking device.
With the best care in the world, it is still virtually impossible to guarantee that a pet will never escape or be lost. Westgate/Park Pet recommends microchipping of all pets, whenever possible. We routinely offer this service in conjunction with all surgeries; it can also be done at a routine vaccination visit.
Additional Pet Identification
Many lost pets will find their way home because of external identification tags placed on neck collars.
- We provide an identification tag for all dogs with a rabies vaccination. The unique rabies tag number is linked by our computer to the pet's owner. The dog's name and phone number are also engraved on the back of each tag.
- Small rabies tags are provided for cats when requested, but should be worn with a break-away collar to prevent entanglement on outdoor objects.
- If your lost pet is located, we will enthusiastically keep your pet at no charge until you can be contacted.