Spread the word: “Check the Chip” to ensure pets get reunited with families

Infographic: Microchip Your Pet
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Gidget, a dog from Pittsburgh, was found more than 2,500 miles away in Portland, Ore. – and returned home!

George, a cat in California, was reunited with his family 13 years after he went missing!

Family reunions made possible by microchips happen every day, making the rounds on social media, and in local and sometimes national news reports.  What’s less likely to make the news, though, is the heart-wrenching story of a microchipped pet that can’t be returned to its family because its microchip isn’t registered with accurate contact information for its owners.

It’s a sad situation, but unfortunately not an uncommon one. As important as microchipping is, a microchip is only as good as the contact information registered along with it. And six out of 10 microchips aren’t registered. That means 60 percent of families who are counting on a microchip to bring their pet safely back home will be sadly, devastatingly disappointed if their pet gets lost.

Check the chip – here’s how

It’s critically important to register every pet’s microchip – and equally important to make sure you keep the registration information up-to-date. If you move or change phone numbers, your pet’s microchip information needs to be updated to reflect your new contact information.

August 15 is Check the Chip Day, an observance created by the AVMA and the American Animal Hospital Association to remind pet owners to keep their pets’ microchip information up-to-date. Regardless whether you believe your pets’ chips have current information, take a few minutes to doublecheck. It’s not hard, and it might save you endless heartache someday.

You’ll need your pet’s microchip number, which your veterinarian can easily get by scanning the chip if you don’t already have it on file. (Tip: Ask your vet to scan the microchip during your pet’s regular wellness exam, or at least once a year, to make sure everything’s working as it should.) Then, just look up the chip’s registration information using the Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool to see if it pulls up accurate contact information for you. If it does, your pet’s chip is up-to-date. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to update the registration with the chip’s manufacturer; the Check the Chip web page has links to connect you to those manufacturers.

Microchip now if you haven’t already

Having a microchip doubles the chance of your lost dog being returned home and increases your cat’s chance of making it home more than 20-fold. If your pet isn’t microchipped already, take this opportunity to get that done. Make an appointment with your veterinarian for microchipping, and then make sure that you immediately register your pet’s chip.

Help spread the word

Please join us in spreading the word about Check the Chip Day and the importance of having up-to-date contact information registered with your pet’s microchip. Share this blog post and the video below with your friends and colleagues; embed this infographic onto your website (we’ve made it easy with copy-and-paste code); and when you read about amazing microchip reunions, remind all of your pet-owning friends and family members that microchips need to be properly registered with their manufacturers in order to help bring pets home.

Just for veterinarians

If you’re an AVMA member veterinarian, our handy Check the Chip Day toolkit will make it easy for you to observe Check the Chip Day in your clinic and on your social media feeds. Check it out today, and let us know if there are additional tools you’d like to see us add.

Check the Chip Day video and promotional campaign made possible by a grant from Home Again.

2 thoughts on “Spread the word: “Check the Chip” to ensure pets get reunited with families

    • September 6, 2016

      It has come to my attention that in our profession a loop hole of hypocrisy has developed. While we advocate the purchase and benefits of microchipping pets, as veterinarians we fail to follow through on the practice end in order to achieve the full advantage of a microchipped animal. In fact, the veterinarian steers clear of confrontation of a stolen pet. In my humble opinion, I believe that as professionals who strive to improve on every level, the veterinary practitioner needs to step up their game.

      Having recently lost my own pet to cancer, I empathize with others who spend thousands on their pet to prolong their lives. I fully understand the anguish one suffers when their beloved family member is no longer around. But I cannot imagine the upset and turmoil that befalls the owner of a stolen pet. Far worse, I was dismayed to hear that even though an investment was made in microchipping their dog, that veterinarians would begrudge the responsibility of scanning patients in order to secure and return a lost / stolen pet to their rightful owner for fear of confrontation with a client. Even worse, to be told it is the client/ thief responsibility to return the dog/ cat “if they “WANT” to do so is absurd.

      I believe a change is in order wherein a protocol designed to fall under mandatory standards of practice would be routinely implemented. With the help of microchipping companies, a collaborative database could be established and streamlined to which veterinarians could easily reference and operate. With today’s technology, much could be done to fine-tune the scanning process and signal an alert.

      If an owner has informed the respective microchipping manufacturer that their pet has been stolen and is flagged as such, upon discovery via scanning: 1) the owner should be contacted; 2) the dog should be retained; 3) the client who brought the pet in should be informed that the dog is on the “Breaker Alert List” and the owner has been contacted; and finally, 4) the police should be called to file a report and escort the client out of the building, if necessary. In order to hopefully discover these missing dogs and cats, all animals entering a clinic, referral hospital, emergency practice, veterinary teaching hospital, shelter or lab should be thoroughly scanned by a trained technician for every new, unfamiliar, and previously un-scanned animal that enters their building.

      “Breaker” is a 6-year old intact male Red Merle Australian Shepherd who was stolen inside of 15 minutes when the owner’s head was turned while caring for their horse. A public Facebook page was launched, “Come Home Breaker”, where videos and photos with a vivid description of Breaker is described. I have shared these videos and photos with other veterinarians in hopes of spreading awareness to their network of veterinarians and friends – but it seems slow and futile. The owners continue to search after 3 years, exhausting every potential avenue and lead; Breaker is their child and priceless companion and they need our help finding him – as do so many other families who have lost their pets.

      As with children, there is the remote possibility that the child will be recovered after many months or years. Often times, the perpetrator slips up and lets his/ her guard down and the family member is discovered. The same scenario could be a possibility for our loyal companions if permitted.

      With all due respect, I am requesting that a protocol of Discovery and Return of lost and stolen pets be established and mandated for all practicing veterinarians to follow.

      Thank you so much for your attention to this matter. Steps taken forward to address this issue will be greatly appreciated by so many and will help to remove the loophole.

      Best regards,

      Terry E. Ahern, MS, DVM
      Ahern Life Science and Medical Writing, LLC

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