Foolproof Pet Identification

From tags and Internet sites, to tiny computer chips and GPS, being able to identify your pet is extremely important – and now very high tech.

Maria Gonzalez returned from a quick trip to the grocery store to find that her new Rottweiler puppy, Tina, had been stolen from her backyard. “I was only gone for thirty minutes, but Rottweillers are really popular here. I was sick with worry.” Fortunately, the Las Vegas native and her puppy were re-united because Ms. Gonzalez had Tina microchipped by her veterinarian during her puppy’s routine vaccination series and that was the key to a happy ending.

A microchip is a tiny computer chip which has an identification number programmed into it. The chip is the size of a grain of rice, and it is easily and safely implanted into the skin of an animal with a hypodermic needle. Once the animal is “chipped” he can be identified throughout his life by this unique number.

The chips have a 25 year lifespan, require no care, and cannot pass through or out of the body. Microchips are read by a scanning device which recognizes a unique identification number. Through registration of the animal with a national database, the owner can be contacted and this is an important step many pet owners forget.

The primary benefit of microchipping is reuniting lost pets with their families, and with good results. One microchip manufacturer says that 262,344 pets with their system have been returned to happy owners. Another manufacturer says they receive 800 calls daily. Both major chip manufacturers report this technology was instrumental in re-uniting pets with their owners after hurricane Katrina. Chips made in the United States are similar in that they transmit information to the scanner on a radio frequency of 125 kHz.

Recently, there has been a new chip on the block – the ISO (International Standards Organization) chip technology which transmits on a frequency of 134.2 kHz. These “ISO” chips are currently in use in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Canada. Unfortunately, not all scanners in animal shelters and veterinary hospitals are capable of reading the two different types of microchips creating a problem and even this ISO standard is changing which will cause more problems in the future.

Because there are currently no standards for animal identification, owners are cautioned to use the microchip system most common in their area, and to be aware that the system is not foolproof.

Recently the veterinary profession has called for worldwide standardization in animal identification technology. Although the new ISO chips are currently being implanted in pets in many countries, there has not been widespread publicity concerning the controversy and potential problems.

The primary issue is the availability of “universal” scanners that will read or detect all of the different chips that are now implanted in animals. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that every shelter and veterinary clinic even has microchip scanners available. For example, of 27 animal shelters contacted in the Houston, Texas area, approximately half are using scanner technology.

Even as the microchip debate continues, more new technology is on the horizon. Global Positioning System microchips and retinal identification systems are also evolving.

We all want to jump on the bandwagon of technology, but let’s face it, when your pet is lost it’s very simple to have a physical pet ID tag on your pet, so the finder can call the owner.

By going to you can register your own ID number along with your personal information. If a person finds your pet, they can go online and type in the ID number and the information you have given will be shown.

Another benefit of is if you move, you can update your information on-line and there is no need to get a new tag, and it’s free.

If you want to use a microchip, contact your local humane societies and veterinary associations to find out which brand is most commonly used in your area. You can also talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of tattooing your pet for identification purposes.

How important is foolproof identification?
30-60% of lost pets in shelters are euthanized because they cannot be properly identified and returned to their owner.

Only 14% of dogs and 4% of cats who end up in shelters are returned to their rightful owners.

Less than 25% of all animals that enter shelters are adopted by new owners.

Approximately 2 million pets that are reported missing each year may be victims of theft.

Even with their imperfections and current lack of standards, the microchip systems may provide a valuable service considering several hundred thousand happy owners who have been reunited with their pets. Just ask Maria and Tina.

Check your pet now to ensure an ID tag is on your pet. Microchipping, GPS and retinal scanning are interesting new technologies, but sometimes extra protection with a foolproof standard like a physical ID tag is a good idea.

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