Hammie at the stairs
Credit: Austin White / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

What Drove Me to Microchipping

I had indoor cats, so I didn't bother with microchipping until someone broke into my home and left the door open.

Before I was a home owner, I lived in an apartment in Toronto with my two cats. One day, I came home to discover my front door slightly open - my place had been burglarized. In my panic, all I cared about was finding my cats (anything else could be replaced)

Before I called the police, I searched frantically for ten minutes; a wave of relief swept over me when I found them huddled behind the TV stand.
Since that time, even though I keep my cats indoors, I knew microchipping was important. If they had ran out the door, I'm not sure I'd ever see them again.
I was lucky to find my two cats safe and sound especially since I lived on a main road in a busy city.
Yeah...that's the spot...right there
Credit: Angela Antunes (♡Blackangelツ on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic

Talked to my veterinarian and my local SPCA

Since I've always owned a rescue cat (or the cat has owned me), I asked my veterinarian and the OSPCA (Ontario Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) about microchipping. 

Here are the main points they stressed to me:

1) Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice - they are injected under the skin between the shoulder blades (there's no scalpel or stitches involved). It's just like getting a vaccine and should be carried out by a veterinarian.

2) Collars can be taken off or break. One of my cats somehow managed to get her collar off whenever she felt like it. I've heard of people tattooing their pets for identification purposes (though I can't imagine this is painless for an animal). And, as they do in humans, tattoos fade over time. Microchips last for about 25 years.

3) The chip emits a small radio frequency which a scanner displays as a registration number and registry phone number - not your phone number. It's equally important to fill out and keep up-to-date your registry information so you can be contacted if your pet is lost and found. (Universal scanners are now used at humane societies, pet shelters, and veterinarian practices which can read every type of microchip). 

4) When I asked which registry was most recommended, my friends at the Ontario SPCA recommended 24PetWatch Lost Pet Recovery Network. Why? They are the only lost pet service that covers all types of microchips used in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Plus registration for all brands of microchips is free. What's more, with one toll-free call, every scanned pet is checked for a match (and those coming in, 24 hours a day/7 days a week).

5) As you might have heard, by April 2016, all dogs in England will be required to be microchipped. Northern Ireland made it a requirement in 2012 and Israeli law requires dogs, over 3 month of age, be microchipped.

New Zealand was one of the first countries to mandate microchipping of dogs in 2006. In New South Wales, Australia microchipping is required. In Japan, imported dogs and cats require ISO-compliant microchips (or a compatible reader).

6) In Canada, pets are not required to be microchipped. However, there is an exception: dogs or cats that have been seized by Toronto Animal Services or dogs with a "notice to muzzle," must be microchipped.

Although not required by law everywhere, I feel there is a good chance microchipping will continue to become a requirement of responsible pet ownership in Canada and the United States.

What about other pets, besides dogs and cats?

Look at me
Credit: Jannes Pockele (jpockele on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Where Can my Pet get Microchipped?

Other animals can be microchipped too, including (but not limited to): rabbits, horses, birds, pigs, snakes, and even rare fish. There are externally attached microchips available (often in the form of ear tags) for larger farm or wild animals which are read with the same scanner. Just be warned, only veterinarians should inject microchips or a technician under the supervision of a veterinarian.

As you can imagine, animals of varying sizes have skin of different thicknesses - so it's essential that a veterinarian or trained technician inject the microchip so that it is safely implanted in the appropriate place. On horses, the microchip is implanted on the left side of the neck; in birds it's implanted within their breast muscles.

Wonder where microchips are implanted on fish? I did too. In endangered sturgeon, PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags are implanted in 1 year old fish (on the side near the tail region). The sturgeon shown next was born at Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery in North Dakota. 

PIT Tagging
Credit: Spencer Neuharth (USFWS Mountain Prairie on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Dr. Melissa Feltes, on behalf of the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) demonstrates how easily dogs are microchipped next. She explains the advantages of microchipping and provides statistical evidence of how effective this form of pet identification is for finding lost pets.

Watch These Two Dogs get Microchipped

Dr. Feltes explains the advantages of microchipping:

Up next, an Adorable Puppy gets Microchipped

Scrappy lets out a wee yelp but is happy otherwise

What are the costs?

The CFHS (Canadian Federation of Humane Societies) states that it "usually costs less than $60." I paid $50 per cat and $10 to register their (my) information. Since the '90s, Canada has maintained a standardized system for microchipped pets which has resulted in a quick return of lost pets to their owners.

In the United States, prices are similar. Anywhere from $30 - $50 for the injection of the microchip and around $15 - $20 to register your contact information in a national database.

In the UK, the microchip costs between 20 and 30 pounds. Veterinarians charge a nominal fee for injecting it into your pet. Purportedly, some charities will provide free microchipping, including the Dog's Trust, Battersea Dogs' and Cats' Home and Blue Cross. (These charities rely on public donations, so anything you can donate will help offset their costs).

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