I can easily say that the most traumatic thing that ever happened to me was when my dog escaped from a boarding facility when I was across the country (I did find her but it was a horrible experience).
Microchip Hell. What is all this stuff?
The pain lost pet owners feel is indescribable. So when I see the dark patterns and deception employed by companies who are supposed to enable lost pets to be returned to their worried owners, ooooo it really makes me mad. Let me share some things about pet microchips with you that will hopefully help your sense of security and your pocketbook.
Microchips are awesome
When you adopt a pet, microchips, vaccines, and sterilization are great free services that you (should) get. If you didn?t, do that on your own. Microchips are tiny ? only the size of a grain of rice ? and your pet will barely notice the chip being placed just under the skin between their shoulder blades. The chip will hold a unique number which can be retrieved with a microchip scanner, which animal shelters and vets (and even some lost pet finders) have. The number should be registered in a database and have your contact information attached to it. This is where it gets tricky.
Microchips are all registered
The facility (vet or shelter) that placed the microchip in your pet should have registered the number to themselves, or even to you. They should also give you paperwork that sends you to the company that created the microchip to register your information and keep it up to date. This is where it gets annoying.
Microchip registration is FREE. I repeat, FREE.
Microchip registration is FREE. All the paperwork and all the information on the microchip company web sites says you have to pay about $20 a year to register and keep the information up to date. This is not true. You can pay them if you want, and supposedly you get extra services from them like ?professional help? if your pet goes missing, but most customer accounts of such help paint a very different picture than the one the companies portray. The companies also try to upsell you pet health insurance. I get it ? they need to make money. But misleading people into thinking their pet is not safe unless they pay up is trickery and places undue burden on pet owners. It also leads owners to not update their information at all, which leads to more unclaimed pets. It?s a sad situation and I hope microchip companies get better about this.
How to register for free
You can register your information for free at 24PetWatch. It says you have to pay them but you can get through the flow if you don?t pay them. Most microchip makers like HomeAway and AKCPetReunite (and there are about 100 of them) say you have to pay them to register. Period. And they hound you until the end of time with emails and even phone calls. So rude! Know that even if they made your microchip, you don?t have to register it through them. Register it at 24PetWatch ? they have a dropdown of all the different Microchip makers and you can just pick yours from the list.
There is also a non-profit called FoundAnimals.org which claims to be the first totally free microchip registry. They even have a clever hashtag, #bullchip, where they dispel myths about microchips (like they work like GPS, are tracking devices, store your information in them, and cost money!). You can register all of your pets there for free, and they only have one pet insurance upsell which is easy to skip. Thanks, FoundAnimals!
How to confirm you are registered
There is a site called AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup where you can verify that your microchip number is registered. While it doesn?t show the contact information associated with your chip, it does show where it is registered (24PetWatch, etc) and the date when the information was last changed. So for example, I just checked my four dogs and saw that for two of my dogs the information was last changed after I adopted them so they were good, but one?s information was not in a database at all, and one?s was last updated six years before I adopted her. I went to 24PetWatch and FoundAnimalsRegistry and added them and can already see they are in there now. I?m assuming if my data is here, that if my pets go missing that my information will be found.
What if you move
If you move, there are several things you need to do. First of all, when you initially register, be sure to put a good cell phone number in there in case you move. Some chip manufacturers say you can?t change your contact information unless you pay them (grrrrr) so if you move your address could be out of date but your phone number would hopefully still be good. If you moved and really want to update your information or you change your phone number, just pay them for a year and then quit again ? but watch out, they?ll autodraft your payment and I think you have to call them to cancel.
After you figure out whether you need to pay to update your information with the chip manufacturer, you should definitely go to FoundAnimals.org and update your information with them for free.
And finally, contact the organization where you got your pet from. That could be a shelter, a private rescue, a breeder (but do we need to have a talk about this? Adopt don?t shop!), or maybe you found your pet or adopted it from a friend and got it chipped at your vet. All of these places will want to have your updated contact information and you should contact them. Even if your pet wears tags, their collar could come off and they could be found with no identification visible. If their chip isn?t even registered at all, the chip manufacturer should have a record of who they sold the chip to, so they should be able to contact that shelter or vet and give them the number and the shelter or vet should be able to look up who the owner of the pet is. But if they don?t have your updated information, they could reach a dead end.
Check the chip
Another thing to do periodically is to have your vet check the chip to make sure it is still working. Sometimes the chip can move and become hard to detect or can just stop working. It doesn?t happen very often, but a quick check can alleviate this concern. Your vet should be happy to do this when you come in for a regular exam.
Just do it
So just take a little time and do this ? I actually put all my animals into a Google Spreadsheet with their microchip number, birthday, gotcha date, and registration status and it was easy to cut and paste and get it all done. Don?t wait until you are in the middle of a crisis to wonder if your microchips are registered. Just do it!
And share this so your friends can get on it as well. Thanks and leave feedback in the comments.