Since they were introduced about 2 decades ago, pet microchips have proven to be an invaluable tool to reunite lost dogs with their people.
In case you aren’t familiar with them, pet microchips are are used to identify pets who have wandered away from home. Each on is about the size of a grain of rice and is embedded between a dog’s shoulder blades.
Microchips contain information about the dog as well as the contact information for its family. Each microchip has a unique number which matches the owner’s information in a central database.
Veterinarians, shelters, and rescues use a universal wand/scanner to access this information and identify the dog’s owner.
According to the website Lost Dogs of Wisconsin, the International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR) assigned each of the big five microchip companies a designated 3 digit manufacturer’s source code.
This means that even if someone forgets to enter their contact information on their dog’s chip, the person that scanned the chip can use the 3 digit number to find out which company made the chip. They can then contact the company and provide the chip’s unique number to find out the contact information for the dog’s owner.
Pet microchips cost between $25-$50. You may have to pay an additional fee to register it with the manufacturer’s database.
However, in order to capture a slice of the burgeoning pet microchip market, dozens of smaller companies began making chips without a designated 3 digit manufacturer’s source code. Instead, they share the prefix “900.”
Microchipidsystems.com notes that since dozens of companies now use the 900 prefix, “it is virtually impossible to track these chips to their overseas and out-of-reach manufacturers.”
Lost Dogs of Wisconsin explains how this can prevent shelters, rescues, and vets from locating a dog’s owner:
“With a designated prefix that is easily recognizable, shelter staff or vet clinic staff can identify which company the microchip is from and can hopefully make one simple phone call to retrieve the owner’s information. When the system works, a found pet can be home within a few hours of going missing.
When a pet implanted with a 900 prefix microchip is brought in, it is a different matter. Shelter staff, animal control officers and veterinarians and vet staff are busy people. They don’t have time to wade through the quagmire of microchip lookup tools and websites. They don’t have time to email each manufacturer or sit on hold waiting for a customer service representative that may or may not be able to help them.”
John Bowman, supervisor Norman, OK Animal Welfare, told dog blogger Steve Dale that, “Municipal shelter systems only have so much space. If an animal can’t be identified, then there’s a cost associated for an animal to be housed in a shelter. And if the pet isn’t claimed by the owner, the reality is that not all pets get adopted.”
And Meghan Conti, Virginia Beach, VA Animal Enforcement Officer told Dale that, “We’ve called these companies when lost pets have a 900-only chip prefix number, if there’s a phone number to even call. Of course, we leave a message, and to date, not ever a single phone call back. We sure don’t get pets back to owners this way. Who are these people?”
The bottom line is that, at the very least, cut rate microchips with 900 as the manufacturer source code don’t offer the same level of protection as microchips with designated 3-digit source codes. This warning on K9 Microchips’ packaging readily admits this:
If, like me, your eyes are too old to read the fine print, here’s what it says:
“K9Microchips.com & it’s representatives are in no way obligated to assist anyone in anyway that did not directly do business with K9Microchips.com. We make no promise to keep information on who purchases microchips, nor to document which microchips are shipped to which customers.”
While you may save a few bucks by buying a cheap microchip, you also get an inferior level of protection for your dog that does not improve your chances of finding it if it’s lost.
I do recommend that you microchip your dog (both of ours are chipped). ID tags and collars are great, but if a dog slips/loses its collar they can’t help you find it.
Microchips give you the best chance for finding your lost dog, but only if you buy them companies that have unique manufacture source codes.
If you plan to buy a microchip for your dog, Lost Dogs of Wisconsin recommends that you buy it from one of these companies: