Microchip Problems Spur Pet Owner Concerns
The following story, broadcast on WFAA-TV, points out the fallibility of microchipping your pet. Microchips are often invaluable in returning lost pets, even years later, but human error and technology limits can result in false negative readings.
In other words, your microchipped cat could be turned into a local shelter, but if improper scanning results in the chip not being detected, Fluffy could be euthanized at the end of a 72-hr holding period, just as nearly happened in the following story.
Chip problems spur pet owner, Humane Society concerns
01:38 AM CDT on Tuesday, July 21, 2009
By JONATHAN BETZ / WFAA-TV
MORE: Pet and animal reports
GARLAND - When Rick Rush lost his dog "Sammy" (right) over a week ago, he said he took comfort knowing his black Labrador had been micro-chipped.
I know the chip works, he said. "The vet checked the chip in the last checkup and it works.
But, something went wrong when Sammy was picked up by animal control in Garland. Shelter employees found the dog within hours, but they never found his implanted microchip. While Rush spent days searching for his beloved pet, Sammy sat in the citys shelter.
I rely on that chip, he said. "This case, it did not work and thats pretty upsetting with me right now.
Millions have put the tiny glass microchips in their pets. Companies promise owners the technology helps reunite them with their dogs or cats if they become lost.
When a found animal shows up at a clinic or shelter, workers scan the animal with a wand. The small chip emits a radio signal with the owners information.
The city of Garland insists it scans every animal - dead or alive - that enters its facility. However, directors admit its easy to miss the chips.
While the chip did register when the dog became lost last year, shelter workers said they are unsure why it didn't this time.
Any type you have a mechanical device, there's no surefire measure to make sure its going to work every time, 100 percent of the time, said Jason Chessher, Garlands deputy health director.
To show off the technology, shelter workers took News 8 to a display in the lobby. Initially, workers had trouble getting the wand to work.
Its not picking it up, said Diana Oats, the shelter's manager, as she repeatedly waved the wand over the chip.
It took several swipes before the chip registered.
You have to be almost on top of it, Oats said. It has to be very close to the animal, if not touching the animal, to pick up on the chip.
The chipmakers defend the technology, insisting it has returned hundreds of thousands of lost pets.
Still, the Humane Society of the United States said more needs to be done.
There are variables and there is still cause for concern, said John Snyder, Humane Society.
Different companies use different radio frequencies and not all scanners can read the competition. Many shelters, including Garland, do have a global scanner that can read all frequencies.
To clear any possible confusion, the Humane Society said companies should agree on one frequency.
Advocates also worry shelter or clinic workers may not be properly trained with the wands and that many chipped pets are slipping through.
The burden to make it work falls on the staff of the animal shelters, Snyder said. Its not a two-second process.
Still, directors at Garlands animal shelter stand behind the chips. In the past 100 days, workers said theyve found 96 chipped animals.
I think they're fairly reliable, Chessher said. I think we are fairly efficient at picking up the microchips of animals that come through the shelter.
After five days, Rush eventually found his dog at the city shelter, but he said he worries what would have happened, if he hadn't found Sammy when he did.
Hes my dog and I cant imagine him being put down because somebody couldnt read a chip, he said.
You should never rely solely upon a microchip to recover your lost pet. ID tags ensure a quick reunion, and don't require a scanner to reveal your contact information. Pet recovery services like Together Tag not only display your phone number on the tag, but also store extensive info online, including your pet's medical history and vet's contact info, ensuring that when Fluffy is found, she'll get the medical attention she needs even if you can't be reached right away.
Pairing a microchip with an ID tag is the only effective means of ensuring that if your cat is recovered she'll be returned to you.
[PHOTOS: SiouxCityJournal.com, WFAA-TV]