Updated: Feb 16, 2021
According to the OSPCA, thousands of lost animals are taken in by animal shelters and humane societies across North America each year.
A large percentage of whom will never be reunited with their owners - simply because their owners are unknown.
This results in a lot of animals being taken into care of local animal shelters.
This also increases the amount of re-homing that animal rescues must do to keep up with with their local shelter populations.
What Is Microchipping?
A microchip is a small chip about the size of a rice grain.
According to the Calgary Humane Society "A microchip is also called an “identifying integrated circuit” – it is a small chip (about the size of a rain of rice) that will bring up a specific number when scanned by the proper type of scanner."
"Microchips use radio frequency identification technology to communicate with microchip scanners. The ‘chip’ of the microchip is surrounded by glass so your animal is never in contact with the actual ‘chip’."
"Vet clinics, animal shelters and municipal animal control facilities usually have scanners capable of reading microchips. When the chip is scanned, the number is matched in a database to determine the owner’s contact information so the pet can be returned."
Unlike dog tags, microchips cannot be lost!
Here's how microchips help reunite lost animals with their owners!
When an animal is found – the person who finds them will usually take the animal to a local animal shelter or veterinary clinic.
Both of those organizations will then perform a full-body microchip scan to determine if the animal is micro-chipped.
If the animal is micro-chipped, then the organization will determine which company the microchip belongs to. They will then contact the microchip company directly to see if the company has any contact information for the animal's owner.
If the company has the correct information in their database, then the microchip company can instantly locate the animal's owner.
The microchip company will then proceed to contact the animal's owners. If their contact information is up to date then they'll be given the opportunity to pick their pet up from either the animal shelter or veterinary clinic.
Here's why your animal rescue needs to microchip animals in your care!
1. Microchips have the power to help lost pets return to their loving homes.
A recent study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters showed statistical proof that microchips help reunite lost pets with their owners.
Dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2% of the time.
Cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time.
In instances where microchipped pets were not returned with their owners, most of the time it was due to incorrect owner information (or no owner information) in the microchip registry database – so don't forget to register each companion animal's microchip.
See how important it is for your adoption team to encourage adopters to keep their contact information up to date!
2. Microchips have the power to reduce the stress levels of all parties involved.
A lost pet can struggle to find a food source outdoors. A lost animal can be injured or killed while attempting to cross the street. In some instances, they can even be preyed on by larger predators like coyotes.
In other words, terrible things can and do happen to lost pets. This can be very stressful for companion animals.
Luckily, this stress can subside relatively quickly if the animal is found by their owner opposed to having to be admitted to a local animal shelter.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of an animal being found by their owner initially is low in comparison to the chances of the animal being found by a stranger first.
When the stranger who finds the pet takes the animal to an animal shelter or veterinary provider then two scenarios can occur.
In scenario one, the animal has a microchip and can be reunited with their owner. This outcome has the power to end the stress that both the animal and their caregiver feel.
In scenario two, the animal does not have a microchip and needs to be taken into care. Being admitted into the care of an animal shelter is likely to increase the animal's stress levels.
The second scenario will also have a negative impact on the stress levels of the animal's caregiver who will probably be off somewhere searching frantically for their lost pet.
3. Microchips have the power to save animals from being unnecessarily exposed to infection or disease.
The shelter environment also increases the likelihood of an animal contracting an infection or disease. So much so that it's even mandatory for animal shelters to have infection and disease control policies.
Unfortunately, even with infection and disease protocols in place, many animal shelters still struggle to maintain an adequate level of infection and disease control.
An unfortunate example of this can be seen in the city of Miami. 72 kittens were euthanized in the Miami-Dade County Animal Services because of "cat plague" a.k.a. feline panleukopenia.
This viral disease is completely preventable by vaccination, but it’s a serious concern in shelters where there are often many cats who are either not vaccinated or inadequately-vaccinated.
Since microchipping an animal decreases the likelihood of the animal being admitted into the care of an animal shelter, it also decreases the likelihood of an animal being unnecessarily exposed to an infection or disease.
4. Microchips can save your community's resources.
Animal shelters are a vital part of the animal rescue community. It's important that we as a community do everything we can to help our local animal shelters.
That being said, we all know that there is a cost associated with housing your community's stray animals.
Microchips have the power to save your local shelters a lot of time, energy and money by decreasing the amount of lost pet's taken into their care.
According to the South East Missourian, "California taxpayers pay about $300 million every year to impound 1 million dogs and cats, house them and euthanize half of them, according to the Cities and Counties Annual Reports submitted to the state controller."
13% of lost pets entering shelters in California are reunited with owners, but studies show that number could grow to 75% with microchips.
How much money do you think the state of California would save if they could reunite 75% of lost pets with their owners?
5. Microchips will help your community reserve shelter spaces for animals who really need them.
Even if your community had enough animal shelters to combat animal homelessness in your community, you'd still have a moral obligation to help homeless animals in other communities by transporting them to your community's animal shelters.
If all of the animal rescues in your community made a commitment to microchip all of the animals in your care, then you would increase the likelihood of lost pets being reunited with their owners.
That would inevitably leave more shelter spaces available for animals who desperately need them.
6. Microchips can decrease an animal's risk of 'euthanasia.'
Sometimes animal shelters feel forced to 'euthanize' animals in their care due to lack of resources or space.
Microchipping animals in your community means you'll be helping local animal shelters reunite lost pets with their owners. That also means you'll be leaving shelter space for animals in need.
In the case of kill shelters, this additional shelter space can literally save lives.
Microchipping is an inexpensive, reliable, one-time service with the power to save millions of lives.
Microchipping animals in your care is the least your animal rescue can do to contribute to your community's efforts to:
Reunite lost pets with their owners
Avoid causing unnecessary stress to animals in need
Avoid exposing animals to infections and diseases
Save your community's resources
Increase shelter space
Decrease euthanasia rates
Microchipping animals is simply a part of operating a responsible animal rescue. You can subscribe to Rescue Corner for more information on how to create responsible animal rescue policies!