Don’t let your animal companions be adopted by some other family after a disaster because no one knew they belonged to you. Microchip and register your pets. If your dog or cat is microchipped, make sure they’re registered. If they’re registered, make sure your contact information is up-to-date.
Why is a microchip, registration, and current contact information important to have?
The last thing you want to add to the stress of an emergency or a disaster is losing your pet. But if your dog or cat does run away or gets separated from you, you’ll want to get them back when they’re found. Of the 15,500 dogs that were rescued after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, less than 20% were reunited with their families. A microchip and up-to-date registration may have made a difference to the other 12,400+ families and dogs.
Between August 2007 and March 2008, a study was conducted at 53 animal shelters to find out if microchipping works to reunite pets with their pet parents. The good news is that 73% of the stray dogs that came in went home with their owners. Only 63% of lost cats that came to the shelters were reunited with their families, probably because cats are less likely to wear a collar and tag or be microchipped.
For those pets that were microchipped, only 58% were registered. And for those pets that were registered 35% were not recovered because of incorrect or missing contact information.
What is it and how much does it cost?
A microchip is an implantable radio-frequency identification (RFID) device about the size of a grain of rice. It is not a GPS tracker nor does it require batteries. A microchip scanner is used to energize the microchip and read the unique identification number. It should last the life of the pet and rarely migrates from where it is implanted.
A microchip is for all your pets — dogs, cats, birds, reptile, horses, exotics, even fish and cattle can get microchipped. The AVID Microchip is also used at zoos, aquariums (see it can be used on fish), and wildlife.
Implanting the microchip is similar to vaccinating your pet. The microchip is typically injected between the shoulder blades with a syringe. Of the handful of pets I've had microchipped over the years, none of them noticed the extra shot.
The cost of microchipping your pet varies. Your vet can implant the microchip during your next visit (or schedule one sooner just for microchipping). In addition, your local humane society may offer microchipping at a lower cost during special events or as a routine service.
Registering the microchip with a pet recovery service is usually an additional step. There may be a fee depending on the manufacturer. But it's important that if your pet is lost, and the microchip is read that the shelter or rescue facility be able to contact you to reunite you and your four-legged friend.
If you don't have your pet microchipped, then…
SCHEDULE an appointment with your vet or look for an event hosted by your local humane society. Either go to their website and look for events or call and ask.
MICROCHIP your pets.
ASK how the microchip will be registered. Will the vet or shelter register it or do you have to do it? This is the missing step for many owners, myself included. For years I thought my dogs and cats were registered. After all, I’d paid for the microchip, hadn’t I? It turns out I was wrong! Yes, my pets were registered, in Hawaii, because I had registered with the local humane society and their LOCAL database. During the move to Pennsylvania, I unknowingly risked the safe return of my dogs and cats because they were not registered in the manufacturer’s database or even a universal pet recovery database.
REGISTER your pet's microchip and provide your contact information to ensure a safe and timely return of your pet in the event they are lost. For a list of manufacturers and pet recovery systems keep scrolling to the bottom.
REVIEW and UPDATE your microchip registration annually.
If you already have your pet microchipped, then…
CONFIRM the microchip is registered. Did you previously register them with a pet recovery service? Check with the service. If you don’t know or can’t remember, use the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. They will direct you to the service that the microchip number is registered with or the manufacturer.
If the microchip is not registered, REGISTER it with the manufacturer.
If the microchip is registered, CONFIRM contact information is current.
ADD an annual REMINDER to your calendar. Enter a reminder a year from now or on August 15, which is Check the Chip Day. Check if your local humane society is holding an event that will check your pet's microchip. Or ask your vet to check the next time you take your Fido or Fluffy in for shots.
Microchip Manufacturers - the largest three
911PetChip™ — 911petchip.com
Pet Recovery Registration Service: FreePetChipRegistry™
Will enroll any brand with lifetime registration for free, no annual maintenance fees, no charge for address changes.
Enroll: online at www.FreePetChipRegistry.com
Update your contact online at www.FreePetChipRegistry.com.
Lost Pet: online at www.FreePetChipRegistry.com
Non-solicitation policy: stated policy that your contact information will not be sold.
Microchip is pre-registered with the clinic or shelter that implants it. This may help in recovery of your pet if you forget to register.
Avid® — avidid.com
Pet Recovery Registration Service: PETtrac™
24-hour hotline and support
Will enroll any brand of microchip with a lifetime enrollment and no annual fees. At the time of publication enrolling a single pet in the PETtrac Pet Recovery Network cost $19.95 and a package deal of three pets was $49.95. Active duty military personnel pay only $9.95 per pet.
Enroll: online at avidid.com/pettrac/enrollment or go to avidid.com/pettrac/forms to download the form to register by fax or mail
Update your contact information at 1.800.336.2843 and pay $6 for the information change.
Lost Pet: call 1.800.336.2843 if your pet is lost or complete an online report at avidid.com/lost
Microchip I.D. Solutions Inc — www.microchipidsolutions.com
Pet Recovery Registration Service: 1.855.373.8943 or www.microchipidsolutions.com/forms
Provides lifetime registration, no annual maintenance fees, no charge for address changes.
Enroll: go to www.microchipidsolutions.com/forms to download the form. You can either fax the form or call the number to register your pet’s microchip. Details are on the form.
Update your contact information by calling 1.855.373.8943.
Lost Pet: call 1.855.373.8943 if your pet is lost.
Though FreePetChipRegistry™ and PETtrac™ will register any brand of microchip, be aware that in the study of the animal shelters, 17.2% of the animals were not reunited because the pet had been registered in a database different from the manufacturer. I don’t know how they knew they were registered in a different database but were unable to get them back to their owners, but I don’t think it’s worth saving $20 dollars to never see your dog or cat again because of that mistake.
Pet Recovery Services
There are many Pet Recovery Services available. First start with the manufacturer of your microchip. That’s probably the first place an animal shelter or vet will search. If you want to register your pet with another service, then check out the services that participate with the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup.
Dhucks' Pet Emergency Kit List - download pdf for free - use the Promo Code FREE
My book on preparing for emergencies
31 Small Steps to Organize for Emergencies (and Disasters)