Great job Jeanette Garlow of Lost Dogs Illinois on this article, Solutions for Dead-End Microchips, featured in the Spring 2022 issue of the NACA Animal Care & Control Today Magazine which discusses the fantastic work being done by Microchip Hunters! You can download a PDF of the magazine and read it on Page 8.
Lost Dogs Illinois has been helping Chicago Animal Care & Control (CACC) with dead end microchips, microchips that no long have current contact information. CACC staff do the best they can, but It is sometimes impossible to find an owner using the available information and given time constraints. However, Lost Dogs Illinois has volunteers who can dedicate hours to tracing disconnected phone numbers and researching online to find relatives of the owner. Sometimes this all comes together in a way that brings tears to your eyes.
A sweet old senior Boxer recently ended up at CACC. The microchip was not registered, but information showed the dog had been adopted out by Anti-Cruelty and they had owner information. It turned out the two owners had split and the girlfriend kept the dog. We reached the boyfriend. He discussed it with his ex and they decided their dog would be better off with him. Needless to say that senior Boxer is now safe at home. The Boxer did not need a home, the Boxer needed to go home! If you would like to learn sleuthing skills to get lost dogs home or if you know a shelter who would like this free service, contact this page.
BTW – the boxer’s name is Zoey!
UPDATE – Since we wrote this article, 24 Petwatch has now begun to participate in the AAHA database. AVID is now the only large microchip company that does not participate.
Your microchipped lost pet has been picked up and turned into a vet or shelter. He should be home quickly, correct? Well…. not so fast. In Part 1, we explained how the 900 prefix chips are very difficult to identify, thereby delaying or preventing a successful reunion. We also explained how sticking with one of the Big 5 microchip companies was the best chance your lost pet has to get home.
In this section, we’ll discuss the different microchip databases and how to navigate them. Each of the Big 5 microchip companies (PetLink, Home Again, AKC Reunite, 24 Petwatch and AVID) maintain their own databases. When a pet is microchipped and enrolled the information is stored in their database (a fee may be required). Each of these Big 5 companies also has a unique prefix making it fairly easy to identify the manufacturer of the chip if your vet or shelter has a “cheat sheet” like this handy.
No one will dispute that microchips can be a valuable tool in helping reunite lost dogs and cats with their owners. In our day-to-day work at Lost Dogs Illinois, we have seen many cases where microchips have resulted in wonderful homecoming stories and may have possibly even saved the dog’s life. But there are many cracks in the current microchip system and we would like to express some of our concerns in this next series of articles.
A microchip is a small chip (about the size of a grain of rice) inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades of the dog or cat. Microchips do not locate a missing pet(they are not GPS-enabled). If a missing pet is picked up and taken to a vet clinic or animal shelter that has a universal scanner and uses best practices for microchip scanning (click here) the data that corresponds to the microchip number can be used to help locate the owner.
One thing we know with absolute certainty. Time is of the essence. Impound fees can quickly rack up. A short stay in an animal shelter can easily set an owner back several hundred dollars. Plus, the longer the pet is in a crowded animal shelter, the more likely he/she is to get stressed and sick. A looming vet bill on top of the reclaim fees means that many pets will be abandoned at the shelter by the owner who simply cannot afford to pick them up.
The key to a successful reunion once a pet is at a shelter, stray holding facility or vet clinic is the speed with which the owner can be located. Unfortunately, several new microchip providers have entered the market that make it difficult, if not impossible to track down the owner. Illinois blogger, Steve Dale, first wrote about this problem a couple of weeks back in this article in Chicago Now and we would like to thank him for shedding light on the issue.
At Lost Dogs Illinois, we host microchip scanning events throughout the year. We have a universal scanner and can quickly scan owned dogs and provide the owner with their microchip number, the brand of their dog’s microchip and the toll-free number of that company. We can do this because the big 5 microchip companies (PetLink, Home Again, AKC, AVID and 24 Petwatch) all have unique identifying numbers . (eg. all PetLink chips begin with the prefix 981)
The big five microchip companies have been assigned a designated manufacturer’s source code by the International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR) based on the volume of their sales. When we can identify the microchip company by the prefix, the owner can then call the company or go online to their website and make sure their information is up to date and current. Some companies will charge a fee for this service.
The small microchip companies do not have a designated source code. They share the 900 prefix (shared by over 100 companies worldwide) So, at an event when our scanner pulls up a microchip number that begins with the numbers 900 – we’re left scratching our heads. There are at least six American companies who sell the 900 prefix microchips (made in China) at reduced prices to shelters, vet clinics and rescues. Without an identifying prefix we are not able to determine which brand of microchip is inserted in the pet.
Now consider the found pet brought into a shelter or vet clinic. With a designated prefix that is easily recognizable, shelter staff or vet clinic staff can identify which company the microchip is from and can hopefully make one simple phone call to retrieve the owner’s information. When the system works, a found pet can be home within a few hours of going missing.
When a pet implanted with a 900 prefix microchip is brought in, it is a different matter. Shelter staff, animal control officers and veterinarians and vet staff are busy people. They don’t have time to wade through the quagmire of microchip lookup tools and websites. They don’t have time to email each manufacturer or sit on hold waiting for a customer service representative that may or may not be able to help them. They may have to call all six companies before they get the right one and they may not even realize these companies exist! A couple of the 900-prefix microchip providers come with a collar tag. Kudos to them, but that only helps if the tag is on the collar and/or doesn’t fall off while the pet is missing.
Several of these companies are trying to start their own database; some free, some for a fee. Some have manned call centers, some don’t. One is a “google chip” but if you use any other search engine, it’s useless. Some only allow email contact. Some promise “lifetime registration” but what does that mean if they go out of business? Who has time to sort this all out? Remember, time is of the essence. A microchipped pet may go unclaimed because vet clinic and shelter staff don’t have time to sort through the maze.
This is truly a case of “penny wise and pound foolish”. A few dollars saved on the front end when purchasing microchips can cause heartbreak on the back end. Rescues, shelters and vet clinics trying to save money on their microchips are putting their clients at risk. Unfortunately, the unsuspecting owner who thought they were doing the right thing by microchipping their pet will be the one to suffer.
This troubling screen shot was captured from the website of one of the 900 companies, K9 Microchips. They actually admit that they won’t be responsible for keeping track of who they sold the microchips to. “K9Microchips.com & it’s representatives are in no way obligated to assist anyone in anyway that did not directly do business with K9Microchips.com. We make no promise to keep information on who purchases microchips, nor to document which microchips are shipped to which customers. ”
This same scenario is applicable to most 900 chips. The purchasing organization must do the microchip company’s job and track it back to themselves because they can not rely on the microchip company to keep these records.
U.S. microchip companies that sell the 900 shared manufacturer code (there are over 100 companies worldwide that use the shared code) include:
- Smart Tag (collar tag included)
- Save This Life (collar tag included)
- nanoCHIP (no collar tag)
- K9 Microchip (no collar tag)
- Homeward Bound (no collar tag)
- Petstablished (no collar tag)
Our advice to the microchip consumer and purchasing animal welfare organizations and vets – stick with one of the Big 5 below. Your pet (or your client’s pet) is depending on you to help bring them safely home.
- AKC Reunite
- 24 PetWatch
ONE universal system that everyone participates in is paramount. In our next article we will discuss the issue of the American Animal Hospital Association search engine. Which of the big 5 microchip companies participate? Which don’t? Stay tuned.
On April 29, 2015, the Anti-cruelty Society posted this blog What’s in a name…if you don’t have proper ID?
While we are thrilled that Anti-Cruelty is promoting microchipping and ID tags as a way to get lost pets home, we would have hoped that this campaign would have been promoted soon after the ordinance was passed. There was a window of four months before the ordinance was implemented that Chicago animal welfare organizations could have offered free and low cost microchip clinics in low income and under served areas. Also, a public campaign about the change of the stray hold should have been implemented.
It is stated in Anti-Cruelty’s blog that historically the return to owner (RTO) rate is 2% for lost pets without identification or microchips. Although this may be statistically true, in our opinion, reducing the stray hold was a knee jerk reaction that will result in the missed reunions of many family pets. Implementing more proactive procedures to return more lost pets home should have been the first approach. For your review, we have included our recommendations that were presented two years ago to the Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) Management team. These recommendations were never introduced.
Disclaimer-Lost Dogs Illinois believes all dogs should wear a collar with an up to date readable id tag and have a properly registered microchip.
We know microchips work in helping pets get home when all the pieces fall into place.
First, the animal is brought to a vet clinic, rescue/shelter or animal control facility that scans every animal entering the facility using AVMA standards and has a universal scanner with working batteries that reads all chip frequencies and then:
- Your microchip is registered to you
- Your information is up to date
- The chip is registered to the right animal
All too often we hear reports of found dogs that have chips but; they are not registered, not registered to the correct owner or the information is out of date. At events where we offer free scans to dogs many owners do not understand how microchips work and that they need to register the chip and always keep the information up to date.
So to help get the pieces into place we strongly urge you to make sure your pet’s microchip is registered to you and the proper animal and your information is always kept up to date.
–One of the best stories I was witness to was because of a mircochip. When I was working at my county animal control – a stray Golden Retriever came in. We scanned the dog, as was protocol, and found that his information led us to a woman in Florida – I live in IL.
We called the woman and she began sobbing uncontrollably. When she finally composed herself – we found out that she had lost her dog two years ago during a hurricane. Within 24 hours she was on a plane and meeting one of our officers at Ohare International Airport – taking her dog home for the first time in 2 years.
How the dog ever got to IL we may never know – but it is likely that he was rescued at the time of the hurricane and, perhaps, lost in the shuffle of confusion and never scanned or the scanner that the rescue used did not pick up his particular microchip.
Here are some facts about microchips: there are multiple manufacturers of them and the chips are not all set to the same frequency. There are 3 possible frequencies: 134.2 kHz, 125 kHz and 128 kHz. There are also two types of scanners: forward scanners which only detect 134.2 kHz and Universal (forward-backward) scanners which will detect all frequencies. Unfortunately, there is no regulation on what types of chips are used or what scanners are in operation so any scenario is possible.
The best thing to do is to get your pet an ISO standard chip, which is the 134.2 kHz, because that is readable by any of the scanners. If your pet is already chipped with one of the other types of chips – you can have them re-chipped: the two chips will not interfere with one another and you have twice the protection that your pet’s chip will be detected.
Statistics which demonstrate the effectiveness of chipping: Out of 7700 strays 21.9% of unchipped dogs were returned to their owners while 52.2% of chipped dogs were returned. Nearly double the percentages. For cats, the numbers are astonishing! 1.8% of non-chipped cats were returned and 38.5% of the chipped cats were returned.
I assume that the cats’ number is influenced by how few probably had ID tags/collars but still the numbers only reinforce the importance of microchipping. It truly can make the difference between getting your pet back or losing them forever.
In the study there were animals who were chipped but not returned to their owners and this was primarily because the information held by the chip company was inaccurate. Meaning that either the animal was registered to the wrong person or facility or the information on file was no longer accurate for the current owner, ie: wrong phone number.
It is important to understand how chipping works… If you get your dog from a shelter, rescue or breeder – it is likely that they will be chipped. However it is also likely that the information registered will be that of the rescue, shelter or breeder and not your own. Often you will be given a new registration form or phone number to contact and change the information to your contact info but many people do not follow through on this step.
If you are like me – you might not even recall if you followed through or if all of your pets are microchipped so what can we do?
1) Call and ask your vet or local shelter if they have a Universal scanner and then take your pet there to be scanned
2) Once they scan your pet, they can tell you what company your pet’s chip is from and you can find out the frequency
3) The ID number from the chip will allow you to check the accuracy of the information on file and if necessary you can make any changes
4) If you find your pet is not chipped, you should request that your pet be chipped with the ISO standard chip with a frequency of 134.2 kHz to ensure that any scanner will be able to identify it. You might have to shop around for this because vets, shelters and rescues all use different types of chips.
And while chipping is certainly a major factor in having your pet return home – the number one factor is having a collar with proper ID tags including your CURRENT contact information. A cell phone number is far better than a home number for a few reasons: if you are traveling with your pet when they become lost – you can be reached and if you are out looking for your dog that means you are not sitting by the home phone. It is also a good idea to have your pet’s CURRENT rabies tags on their collar. This puts people at ease that your pet is up to date with vaccines and there is a number on the rabies tag that also identifies them with the local animal control.
If only our pets could talk – none of this would matter. But, they can’t so it is our job to make sure people know who they are and where they live. If only we could stop them from chasing squirrels or cars or wandering off – but their curiosity and unbridled passion for life is why we loved them in the first place.
For more information on the study and other FAQ’s:
By Becky Monroe – Guest Blogger for Lost Dogs Illinois
Check out Becky’s blog: http://www.tailsandtruths.blogspot.com/