GARY HAINES: Microchip mess? Understanding benefits and risks
Garry Haines & his dog, Savannah ThDN, CGCA (therapy dog)
By: Garry Haines
November 12, 2015 www.gosanangelo.com
You plan to comply with the new ordinance, have your dog (and cat) microchipped and be done with it. Simple, right?
Not so fast. There are four things to consider: the microchip product itself, the unique ID number, the enrollment process and the reputation of the database. After all, if your dog (or cat) gets lost, you want to make sure it comes back home.
With the growing trend to microchip household pets, there are many companies springing up. One can only hope that they don’t go out of business before their “lifetime” program ends. Not all microchips are manufactured the same. Since you are allowing a foreign object in the body of your pet, do a little research first.
Some brands of microchips are made with different plastic parts that are melted together and run the risk of leaking. Moisture or any leakage can lead to the microchip failing in the future. Clear glass microchip capsules are laser-sealed and heated during the sealing process that might affect the longevity of the chip’s transponder. There’s also the likelihood that clear glass contains lead.
Some of these products are made in China. Some providers are offering a smaller implant needle with the “mini chip” that can be difficult to read by a scanner. If these “mini chips” are implanted in thick-skinned, heavily coated or overweight pets, the scanner may not be able to detect the chip.
You might consider bioglass microchips that contain no plastic parts. Bioglass can be laser-sealed, allowing for a seamless design. It also is a medical-grade material approved for use inside the body and sterilized in a medical certified facility — the same process used for human medical devices.
Unique ID Code
Is the microchip ISO-compliant or ISO-compatible? The International Standards Organization sets the global standard for microchips and is intended to create an identification system that is consistent worldwide.
ISO-compliant has stringent manufacturing guidelines that have unique ID numbers for their microchips. These manufacturers follow the code of conduct stating that they will not duplicate ID code numbers.
ISO-compatible microchips are not required to follow stringent manufacturing standards or unique ID numbers and are often manufactured in China. Even though the chip transponder can be read by most universal scanners or readers, the coding can include anything from a phone number, a nonunique ID number or even the pet owner’s Social Security number.
ISO-compliant microchips always contain 15 numbers. They always start with the No. 9. They cannot contain any letters, spaces, dashes or symbols.
There is controversy with the “900 chips” in that they may be cheaper, but are not ISO-compliant and the manufacturer source cannot be easily identified. Therefore you might consider a product that follows the correct standards and is certified by the International Committee for Animal Recording. ICAR is an industry organization that assigns the numbers and assists in preventing duplication of identification numbers, but is voluntary by manufacturers.
Some claim that more pets are returned to their owners due to ID tags than microchips because people fail to maintain an enrollment service. It does your pet no good if you get it microchipped (per city ordinance), yet you fail to enroll them in a program or keep your information updated with that service.
Each enrollment company is different. Some of the newer companies have gimmicks. You may get your pet microchipped at a low price, but the enrollment service is separate. Some enrollment programs are free, but are not accessible by phone if your pet gets lost.
You might get the microchip and the enrollment together, yet you have to pay an annual fee thereafter for maintenance. So don’t be surprised if you receive a bill at the end of the year. These fees can cost $17.95 or more per year and some even charge a fee for updating your information.
Understand that if you fail to submit your annual payment, your pet’s information may be taken off the database, leaving your pet untraceable. The more self-serving type programs might offer a lifetime fee for $69 or more so you can avoid their yearly fee.
You might consider a program that offers the microchipping, lifetime enrollment, is accredited by ICAR and is accessible by phone or Internet 24 hours a day. You will want your enrollment service that participates in the American Animal Hospital Association Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool, petmicrochiplookup.org. Those who find your lost pet can reunite you and your pet more easily.
Now, as if all of this is not already complicated enough, you have a growing number of new microchip companies. There are five companies that the industry considers them to be the “Big 5” with 20 years of established service. Each of these reputable companies provide its own database and 24-hour hotline. This enables a quicker reunion with your pet, provided that your contact information is current.
More importantly, reputable companies maintain chip lot number records that can be used to identify the organization that originally purchased the microchips. So if there is no response to the contact information, the microchip company can identify the vet hospital, animal shelter, rescue organization or the kennel club that purchased the chip, thus helping to provide a lead in the search for the owner.
Some of the newer, nonestablished companies do not keep a database or 24-hour service.
In addition to spaying and neutering, microchipping demonstrates responsible pet ownership. Many animals have been returned to their home because of microchipping, so it is important to consider microchipping all your pets.
Ask important questions. Ask about the product and its quality. Ask about the products’ compliancy with ICAR. Ask about the enrollment fee structure. Make sure the recovery service provider participates in the AAHA program and can be found in a reputable database.
Choose a provider that will give you peace of mind in the horrible event that your pet is separated from you. Most importantly, keep your contact information current.
Garry Haines is vice president of the Concho Kennel Club. firstname.lastname@example.org