Anyone whos experienced the sadness of losing a pet can take heart: Microchip technology is making it easier to reunite owners with their family dog or cat.
These tiny chipsthe size of a grain of ricecontain a unique code that includes the owners and pets information and is injected under the animals skin. Unlike a collar, which can come off, the microchip remains in place. If a pet runs off, an animal control worker or veterinarian can use a handheld scanner to read the code and reunite the animal with its owner.
The microchips are being distributed to animal shelters and veterinary offices across the nation by manufacturers such as Avid (800-336-2843), HomeAgain (866-PET-ID24), and 24PetWatch (866-597-2424).
Juliet Freitag, of Crawford, Neb. (pop. 1,107), had a microchip implanted in her dog Cricket. The device became invaluable while Freitag was at her aunts home in New York, where Cricket wandered out of the yard and became lost.
I was frantic because we were leaving the next day to come home, Freitag says. Later that day we got a call from Avid that someone had found Cricket! We were elated and so grateful for that microchip.
Each manufacturer maintains its own national registry for pet ownership. The service is useful to travelers and homebodies alike. Locally, a lost pet often is traced back to its owner even if the pet isnt on the national registry, because distributors, veterinarians and animal shelters keep records as well.
Renee Jeffries, former dog warden for Butler County, Ohio, wishes more animals had the implants. She recalls how a microchip was used to identify Dexter. The dogs owner had spotted a black Labrador retriever in another yard, but three months had passed since the pup ran off.
Of course, he had grown since then, as puppies do, so the owner wasnt sure it was the same dog, Jeffries says.
Concern may prevent owners from having microchips implanted in their pets. Some fear the procedure is painful, though most veterinarians agree its no more painful than a rabies vaccination. Still others may balk at the one-time fee, which ranges from $20 to $40.
However, Dawn McBain, of Clifton Park, N.Y. (pop. 32,995), was glad she opted to have a microchip implanted in her dog Eli after he slipped through an open gate and bolted into the neighborhood.
McBain had moved to a new home without updating her pets ID tag, and the information on Elis tag was incorrect. Because the microchip registry had a second phone number listed, McBain and Eli were reunited that same day.
Eli was still in the neighborhood having a blast with another familys puppy. He actually looked bummed when I came to take him home, McBain says with a laugh. I wrecked his fun!