What are Microchips?
A microchip is a tiny, totally inert electronic transponder about the size of a grain of rice. The chip is implanted into an animal using a simple procedure similar to a routine vaccination. For most animals (dogs, cats) the chip is implanted in the scruff of the neck (the loose skin over the pet's shoulder blades).
Once implanted into the animal, the microchip remains inactive until read with a scanner. Scanners send a low-radio-frequency-signal to the chip, providing the power needed by the microchip to send its unique code back to the scanner with the animal's ID number. After implantation, the device remains with the animal for life.
How It Works
- A pet owner either brings it to a veterinarian that provides the service or adopts a pet at a shelter that microchips some or all adoptee animals.
- A veterinarian or shelter selects a microchip from their stock, makes a note of that chip's unique ID, and then inserts the chip into the animal with a syringe. The injection requires no anesthetic.
- Before sending the animal home, the veterinarian or shelter performs a test scan on the animal. This helps ensure that the chip will be picked up by a scanner, and that its unique identifying number will be read correctly.
- An enrollment form is completed with the chip number, the pet owner's contact information, the name and description of the pet, the veterinarian’s and/or shelter’s contact information, and an alternate emergency contact designated by the pet owner. (Some shelters, however, choose to designate themselves as the primary contact, and take the responsibility of contacting the owner directly. This allows them to be kept informed about possible problems with the animals they place.) The form is then sent to a registry keeper to be entered into its database. Depending on regional custom, selected chip brand, and the pet owner's preference, this registry keeper might be the chip's manufacturer or distributor, or an independent provider.
- The pet owner is also provided the chip ID and the contact information of the recovery service. This is often in the form of a collar tag imprinted with the chip ID and the recovery service's toll-free number, to be worn by the animal.
- If the pet is lost or stolen, and is found by local authorities or taken to a shelter, it is scanned during intake to see if a chip exists. If one is detected, authorities call the recovery service and provide them the ID number, the pet's description, and the location of the animal. If the pet is wearing the collar tag, anyone who finds the pet can call the toll-free number, making it unnecessary to involve the authorities. (The owner can also preemptively notify the recovery service directly if a pet disappears. This is useful if the pet is stolen, and is taken to a veterinarian who scans it and checks with the recovery service.)
- The recovery service notifies the owner that the pet has been found, and where to go to recover the animal.
- The microchip has no power supply, battery, or moving parts. It is designed with an operating life of over 25 years and is guaranteed for the life of the animal. Once injected, the microchip is anchored in place as a thin layer of connective tissue forms around it. The chip requires no care. It does not pass through or out of the body.
- Visual tags often become lost, misplaced or obsolete. The best strategy is to use a microchip as the primary, permanent identification and to use a collar-tag as a visual, secondary back up. This will make it possible for anyone to identify a lost pet at a glance yet protect the pet when its tag has been lost. Permanent microchip identification will also make it possible to reclaim stolen pets and prevent animals from being inadvertently seized and killed (especially cats).
- More pets die each year as a result of being lost than from all diseases combined. The sad truth is that 90 percent of lost pets are never identified and recovered. A microchip is with your pet for life and can greatly increase the chance of recovery if a pet becomes lost.
- Electronic identification products are widely used in Europe, where permanent companion animal identification (such as microchipping) is mandatory.
- Did you know!? If your dog is microchipped he/she is eligible for a Pennsylvania lifetime license. Rather than getting a license annually, you pay a one time fee for the life time of your dog.