How do you feel about child leashes? I’m slightly ashamed to admit this, but I bought one a little less than a year ago. I remember bringing the leash with me to the zoo, only to have the people I was with point and laugh at another toddler that was being walked along on a leash. I discreetly shoved the leash into the diaper bag and…it hasn’t surfaced since.
Leash or no leash, we do a lot of things to keep our kids safe. And it’s the same way with our pets. We pet-proof. We install electric fences. We even buy pet baby monitors! But there’s one pet-safety device that seems to be kind of controversial: Microchips. Microchips are touted as a fail-safe method for keeping track of your pet. On the other hand, there’s a hot internet debate as to whether these chips really are as effective as they seem. So what’s the deal? Should you get your pet a microchip?
When everything goes right, microchips can be a godsend. Have you ever heard the story of Willow the cat, for instance? Five years after Willow went missing from her Colorado home, she turned up 1800 miles away on the streets of Manhattan. A quick scan of her microchip – implanted when she was a kitten – revealed the contact information of her owners. Her happy ending included a return home, straight into the arms of the children that had been missing her for years.
Microchips can undoubtedly work wonders in reuniting pets with their owners. According to Microchip ID Systems, microchips can be implanted in just about any kind of pet, be it a dog, cat, ferret, snake or gerbil. If you’re worried about the pain, don’t be. Microchips are really small (about the size of a grain of rice), so the implantation is similar to that of any routine vaccination. The microchip is inserted just under the skin, and once it’s there, it’s there for life.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that this procedure is super cheap. Petfinder says that most vets will handle the procedure for about $45. One of my pet-owner friends tells me that many animal rescues and human societies hold events so that you can get your pet implanted with a microchip at a low cost; her dogs were implanted with microchips for $10 and $25, respectively.
That being said, human error sometimes prevents microchips from being as effective as they can be. The story of Zoey is a sad example of this. When Zoey’s family purchased her from a pet store, they were told that she already had a microchip. The store failed to tell the owners that their new pet’s microchip would need to be registered. When Zoey got loose, she was picked up by an animal shelter, but the shelter was unable to locate the owners since the chip wasn’t registered. Zoey’s ending is not a happy one; after trying and failing to contact the owners, Zoey was euthanized by the shelter.
This story is heartbreaking because it could have been prevented. Many owners aren’t aware that they need to register their pet’s microchip. If your pet is already implanted with a microchip, you will need to contact the microchip company to register it. If you don’t know who the manufacturer is, you can visit the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup, a database that’ll help you figure out who to contact for further information.
And the process doesn’t end there. Whenever you move or change your phone number, the microchip information will need to be updated. A microchip that doesn’t have current contact information is 100% useless. Updating your pet’s microchip is as easy as giving the microchip company a quick call to sort things out. It could be the difference between life and death for your pet, as illustrated by Zoey’s story.
All issues aside, microchips have reunited a lot of happy owners with their furry children. As dog owner Lauren O’Hara of Brownstown, MI says, the decision to get her dog a microchip “was a no-brainer.” As long as you are diligent about keeping the information updated, your chances of having your pet returned to you are quite good. And most pet owners will agree with Lauren that the “peace of mind” that comes from knowing that your pet is just a scan away is the best part. The fact of the matter is, the number of pets who enter shelters every year is astronomical – and you don’t want your pet to become another shelter statistic. For $50 or less per microchip, why wouldn’t you do everything you can to keep your pet safe?