Microchips & Identification Tags

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White dog laying in green grassThe American Humane Society estimates over 10 million dogs or cats are reported lost each year. Without proper ID, 90% won't return home and many pets end up in shelters or are kept by the people who find them. There could be a number of reasons for the failure to reunite, but top of the list is the inability to identify and contact the owner.

One way to ensure pets can be identified and reunited with their pet owners is to have the animal microchipped. Microchipping is a permanent way to identify your pet if it is lost or stolen. Microchips are tiny computer chips, about the size of a grain of rice. They are implanted under your pet’s skin by a veterinarian using a large bore needle without anesthesia, similar to a simple vaccination. Each microchip carries a registration number that is associated with the owner’s name and contact information. This information is added to a pet registry service offered by the chip manufacturer.

The registry information on the chips can be read using a handheld reader that displays the information so that the owner can be identified. Most shelters and veterinarians have these readers and can scan the pet and contact the owner if the pet is lost.

The Animal Safety, Services & Protection Division (ASSP) is committed to reuniting animals with their owners if at all possible prior to impounding the animal to the Humane Society of St. Lucie County. If an Animal Safety Officer (ASO) picks up a stray animal, they will attempt to scan for a microchip if it is safe to do so depending on the animal’s behavior. If a microchip is found, the ASO will attempt to contact the registered owner to reunite them with their pet prior to impoundment. Unfortunately, one of the most common roadblocks that are encountered with microchips is owners who do not keep their contact information up to date and current with the microchip company. It is important to periodically check with the microchip company to ensure all of the contact information and alternate emergency contact information is accurate to better ensure your pet can be reunited with you in the event they are lost or stolen. 

Benefits of Microchipping

  • Most pet owners buy their dogs and cats collars and add a name tag with the pet’s name and their phone number. These are great, but outdated. They can easily break, fall off, or even the name or phone number can wear off of the tag over time. The microchip is permanent and can’t be separated from the pet.

  • If your dog or cat is lost or stolen, the chip and its registration is definitive proof of ownership. This is particularly helpful in the case of stolen pets when ownership might be in dispute.

  • A chip greatly increases the likelihood that your pet will be returned to you if they are lost. Several recent studies show that cats with microchips are 20 times more likely to be returned to their owner and chipped dogs are returned 2.5 more than unchipped dogs. That’s a pretty significant difference and with over 10 million pets being lost each year, you want to do everything you can to ensure your pet finds its way back to your home.

  • Finally, microchips last a lifetime. Once implanted, you don’t have to worry about them, although it is a good idea to have your vet scan your pet each year to guard against any malfunction. 

While microchips serve as permanent identification for pets, it is also a good idea to make sure your pet has some type of ID tag attached to their collar. Private citizens are likely to attempt to contact the owner on the tag to attempt to reunite the pet with their owners prior to contacting ASSP to pick up stray animal that has been found. The ASO’s will also attempt to contact the owners listed on ID tags in order to reunite them with their pet prior to impoundment. As with microchips, tag information should be kept up to date and current in order to be effective in reuniting you with your pet. 

Since microchips are implanted under the skin, some people do not think to have a found animal scanned for a microchip and may assume the animal was abandoned if they are not wearing a collar or tags. In some instances, finders may end of keeping the animal for months or years before realizing the animal was microchipped.