What happens when a City funded animal control (City of Chicago Animal Care and Control), notfor profit organization (Lost Dogs Illinois) and a professional hockey team (Chicago Wolves) join together? They put on a Free Health Fair! Over 300 residents dogs and cats received FREE microchips, vaccines and ID engraved tags. Working together keeps families together!
Microchips are a wonderful tool in lost pet recovery, resulting in thousands of successful reunions each year. But since many microchip companies compete in the same marketplace, it can be difficult to quickly identify the microchip brand.
- If you do have internet access, a useful tool is the AAHA Microchip Look up tool.
- If you don’t have internet access, keep this microchip guide from Petlink nearby. It shows the unique identifying format of the top microchip companies with the corresponding toll-free number to call.
Print and keep this guide handy with your scanner so that you can quickly get a lost pet back to his/her family.
The reverse side shows the Keys to Effect Scanning. Follow these directions to make sure you don’t miss a microchip!
Thank you to Petlink for this useful guide to help more lost pets get home!
Here is the pdf file of the guide: PetLink Microchip Guide_New_2016
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.
We would like to thank Marilyn Knapp Litt, the Director of Lost Dogs of Texas for the information in this article. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Marilyn formed a group of volunteers which successfully reunited animals that had been displaced by the storm with their families.
If you could spend ten minutes researching a disconnected phone number and get a shelter animal back home – would you do it? Here are quick and easy instructions for shelter staff or volunteers to do free searches and find the lost families of shelter animals. This small investment in time will get more animals home, free up kennel space, save money and spread good karma!
Scenario 1: Animal’s contact information from either a tag or a microchip leads to a dead end.
As of 07/2014, these are sources for free phone numbers and reverse look – up. This will only take a few minutes. Search on a person’s name to find any contact information. If you do not have the name, search on the address (reverse lookup tab) or phone number to find out the person’s name and then search the name. A good rule of thumb is if you to click to see additional information, you will have to pay to see the information.
Google: Search on the name.
2. Second Sources for Names: ZabaSearch
This is a name search only. If the name search fails, you get a service charging a fee. Reverse phone is a fee service only.
3. Third Sources for Names: Social Networks, Etc. These are for the persistent searcher!
Pipl: Can search for name, email, user name and phone. This is a very interesting resource. At the bottom of the page, suggested Facebook profiles are pulled up.
Spokeo: Can search for name, phone, email, username, friends. If name search fails, you get a service charging a fee. You can use a username found on Pipl in the Spokeo search. People often reuse their username.
Facebook: Facebook is a good resource, but I would not use it until the last, unless you are searching an unusual name. If the first name search does not work, try adding a city. You can also search Facebook for a phone number! This can be very effective. A message goes to the “other” folder unless you are Facebook friends with the person. Send a message, but don’t count on it to go through. Sometimes you have the option to pay $1.00 to Facebook to make sure they receive it – but the person still has to look at the page to see they have a message, so this does not mean your message will be seen. Look to see if there is a place of employment listed on their profile and call their work. Look through their friends list for people with the same last name and try to call their relatives at work or send a message. You can also try to research their relatives for contact information. Never assume you have made contact until you are messaging or talking with the owner!
Veromi: Use the “People Search”. this is a name search, but like ZabaSearch, will show possible relatives. It may show congregations and organizations.
Dex Pages: Photocopy of a physical phone book – not in all areas.
Comprehensive list of people databases: For those who don’t want to give up!
- The very best resource you can use is Lexis. It is an expensive data service. Many law offices have access to make background reports.
- A reverse phone number or address search will give you the name of a person.
- A neighbor search on an address gives you the names of people who live nearby and who should be called as they many know where the family has moved.
- Do not stop with leaving one message. The person may not be home and might be reading Facebook. Or someone might not use Facebook, but might answer the phone. The trick is to leave many messages at different places.
- If you have to make an extra click to see the info you searched on, a screen will pop up to charge you. This is without exception. The pay service may or may not give you the information needed. Sometimes they will give you a refund and sometimes you will end up with monthly charges or even be scammed. You need to be vigilant if you pay, but of course you might get exactly what you were looking for. This is meant to be a resource to quickly try and break through a dead end. The many creative ways to find an animal’s lost family are beyond the scope of these instructions. For additional help finding someone contact Marilyn at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you think the owner is in the military, you can always “guess” at the address.
For years, the primary format for Army email looked like this: email@example.com
Of course, soldiers with common names would get an address like: firstname.lastname@example.org but perhaps your email might get redirected to the right person.
Now, the Army has created a new format that looks like this:
That’s what a soldier’s email address would look like. An Army civilian employee or contractor would have an email address like this: email@example.com
Both formats are used. You may guess at an address if you have a soldier’s name. The other branches have their own format.
If you know the base, you may be able to contact HR. They will not tell you how to contact someone in the military, but they may pass on a message about a missing dog if you are polite. You may also find support groups on Facebook for the base that could be helpful.
Scenario 2: You have determined the brand of microchip (via AAHA microchip lookup) but the microchip has not been enrolled to an owner.
When you call the microchip company, always be friendly. State that you are calling trying to find the family of an animal. If you are working or volunteering for a rescue or shelter, be sure to state that right away. You want to know every bit of information they have and ask for that. Double check all spelling and numbers.
If the microchip was not registered, ask if they can tell who implanted the chip and if not, who bought the chip. In the U.S., microchips are sold in bulk by number range to the shelter or vet who does the implanting. The microchip company can usually tell which organization received a chip for implant. When a chip is not registered to an individual, the organization may have that information. Try calling late at night when the staff will not be as busy and may have more time to help and talk.
Our follow-up to our blog To Hold or Not To Hold – Is it the law? – That is our question
The topic generated a great discussion on our Facebook page. It inspired one of our fans to write an email to the Department of Agriculture. Copy of her email:
“Hi, I was wondering if you could tell me what the legal responsibility is if one finds a lost dog. I have heard you have to do our due diligence in finding the owners before keeping it as a pet or finding it a good home. Specifically, if the dog has a microchip, does the vet or animal control who reads the microchip legally bound to keep the dog while the owners are contacted. Can the finder of the dog, keep it until the owners are contacted. I searched through legislation and your website and could not find information on this. If you can cite any laws or regulations, that would be great. Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated.”
The response to her email:
“Lost” or stray dogs should be turned over to Animal Control. The Illinois Animal Control Act requires them to scan for a microchip and search for any other identification and then notify the owner. Once the dog is identified, the animal control is then required to allow the owner 7 days to pick up the dog. Keep in mind that people who lose their pet will check with animal control to see if it has been picked up or turned in. If you keep the dog, the owner may never be reunited with their pet.
Mark J. Ernst, D.V.M.
State Veterinarian / Bureau Chief
Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare
Illinois Department of Agriculture
The response to our fan’s email really didn’t answer the question. We would still like to see the law in writing.
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.