November 01, 2009

 

 New online resources to help return animals to owners

 

Web sites match lost pets' microchip numbers with information registries

posted October 17, 2009 

  

As important as collars and tags are, microchips are a more permanent form of pet identification.
New online resources aim to simplify the process of finding the microchip registry containing
information about a lost pet's owner.

New online resources can help link a lost pet's microchip with the appropriate registry containing the owner's information.

The American Animal Hospital Association unveiled www.petmicrochiplookup.org in September, and a startup company launched a beta version of www.checkthechip.com in August. Both of these free Web sites match a microchip number with the microchip's manufacturer or distributor. In addition, the AAHA site searches several registries for more updated information.

Microchip providers in the United States offer about half a dozen major registries in which pet owners can enter information. For years, the AVMA has supported establishment of a single source for recovering information from microchip registries. The Association offered input during development of the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool.

"The AVMA absolutely supports the linking of companion animal microchip databases," said Dr. Larry R. Corry, AVMA president. "As veterinarians, we see the heartbreak of families posting 'lost pet' signs in our clinics. This new database has the potential to create a happy ending by quickly reuniting pets and their owners."  

AAHA tool

AAHA has been working with microchip providers and registries for the past year on development of the Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. The participants as of press time were the American Kennel Club's Companion Animal Recovery, Intervet/Schering-Plough's HomeAgain, Bayer's resQ, and Datamars' PetLink. Other companies, including AVID, have expressed interest in participating. 
 

"It is in the best interest of everyone in companion animal welfare to reunite lost pets with their owners," said Dr. Janice L. Trumpeter, AAHA deputy executive director. "We applaud the unprecedented collaboration by leaders in the microchipping and pet recovery industry that allowed this resource to become reality."

The AAHA microchip look-up tool works by accessing the databases of participating registries. A search returns a list of the registries with which a microchip has been enrolled and the enrollment dates, starting with the most recent, plus phone numbers for the registries. If a microchip is not enrolled in a participating registry, the Web site will still return the name of the manufacturer or distributor and a corresponding phone number.  

AVMA position

In July 2008, the AVMA House of Delegates resolved that the Association should "actively promote the implementation of linking companion animal microchip databases." 
 

"The need for it was tremendous," said Dr. James O. Cook, AVMA immediate past president, who has advocated better identification systems for companion and production animals. "Pet owners will feel more secure that if they do microchip their pet, then the likelihood of it being found will be increased."

The AVMA and AAHA are members of the Coalition for Reuniting Pets and Families, which seeks to improve microchipping as a form of pet identification. Other members of the coalition are the American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives and a number of humane organizations. The coalition's main goal has been development of truly universal scanners that can read all microchips.  

Another resource

Chloe Standard is the company behind ChecktheChip.com. Olivia Sadlowski founded the company in December 2008 after learning about the multiplicity of microchips, scanners, and registry databases. 
 

"We are not in the database business, nor are we funded by microchip companies, and we do not want to reinvent the wheel or require database regulation," Sadlowski said. "Our goal is to make the task of matching the microchip number to the database easier for everyone."

ChecktheChip.com matches a microchip with the manufacturer or distributor, which generally has a connection with the microchip's original registry. The Web site includes some third-party advertising.

Chloe Standard currently is seeking access to registry databases so its Web site can identify the registry with which a microchip has been enrolled most recently.

The company also aims to make microchip scanners more available to the public outside of animal shelters and veterinary clinics.  

Registry information

A limitation of the registry system is that many pet owners do not register microchips in their names, according to "Characterization of animals with microchips entering animal shelters" (see JAVMA, July 15, 2009, page 160). 
 

In that study, shelters contacted microchip registries regarding 1,943 animals but found registrations for only 58.1 percent. The registries were unable to find any information on the owner or on the person who implanted the microchip for 9.8 percent of the animals.

Among other recommendations, the study's authors suggested that veterinarians and shelter personnel should not only register pet microchips at the time of implantation but also remind the pets' owners to update information in the registry.

Jason Merrihew, AAHA spokesman, said educating pet owners is a key step to improve microchipping as a form of pet identification.

"Every time that they change their address or change phone numbers, then they need to update that microchip information," Merrihew said.

Aside from microchips, AAHA urges pet owners to keep a collar on animals with up-to-date tags.