by Kimberly Wade
Recently, a senior Chihuahua named Dash was reunited with his family—after eight years—all thanks to a microchip. He had gone missing as a pup from his own backyard, apparently spent time with another family in between, then once again wound up lost. He did have a microchip, but his person had moved out of state and reaching her took longer than anticipated. When Washoe County Regional Animal Services didn’t hear back, everyone assumed Dash had no one and he was transferred to us, Nevada Humane Society, to be put up for adoption.
A couple weeks after Dash had arrived, we got a phone call from Dash’s person. She had given up hope he was still even around, and thought the letter was junk mail so it had gone untouched for weeks. When she finally opened it she called us. Lucky for Dash, he had required some veterinary care, so he was still here. Long story short, everything checked out and Dash was on a plane back to his family within a few days—all thanks to his microchip.
So what is a microchip? It’s a tiny device, the size of a grain of rice, encoded with a unique ID number that is assigned to your pet. It’s placed between the pet’s shoulder blades and is quick, easy and virtually painless. It’s important because collars and leashes can break or fall off, and even the most well-behaved pets can disappear—trust me. My fence blew down and all three of my dogs had a 30 minute unsupervised adventure—not to mention that I had to call Animal Services—I, a Nevada Humane Society employee. It was unpleasant to say the least, but thankfully everyone was fine and eventually came running to my incessant yelling of their names as I walked the streets.
The American Humane Association estimates over 10 million dogs and cats are lost (or stolen) in the U.S. every year. A study they conducted revealed that when a pet is microchipped, and that microchip registered, their chance of being reunited with their family is increasingly higher:
- Only about 22% of lost dogs that entered animal shelters were reunited with their families. However, the return to owner rate for dogs with a microchip was over 52%.
- Less than 2% of lost cats who entered a shelter went home, but for those with microchips, over 38% went home.
It’s important to know that a microchip is not a tracking device—it must be read with a special scanner. When an animal is scanned, the number comes up; the finder contacts the microchip company and receives the owner’s information. Any vet or shelter can scan a pet for you—to find out the owner’s info if you found the pet, or, on your own pet, if you misplaced your microchip number and need to know it.
Here’s the other vital piece to microchipping—the chip must be registered (with current info) to the pet owner. You can do that for free, very easily, through the Found Animals Registry. Another great tool is Finding Rover, a website that uses photos of your dog as facial recognition to help find your dog. Finally, if you need a microchip, Washoe County Regional Animal Services offers free microchips. Take advantage of it!
All dogs and cats that are adopted from Nevada Humane Society are microchipped (and spayed or neutered, as well as vaccinated) but let’s face it, some of us acquire pets from friends, or maybe they wander into your yard. The next time you find a pet, take him or her to a nearby shelter or veterinarian to have him scanned for a microchip. It could lead to his return home—and you’ll reap the reward of being a part of that. And if you keep him, well, get him microchipped.