BY MIKE BOBER
Without a doubt, pets have become true members of the family—no longer just “man’s best friend,” but “fur babies” that we love, care for and protect. And this is especially true among millennials.
May was National “Chip Your Pet” Month. This important public awareness campaign has been an annual tradition frequently used to protect pets and pet owners alike from the scary circumstances surrounding a lost pet.
It is not known exactly how many animals are lost each year. According to the American Humane Association, one in three pets becomes lost in their lifetime. A 2012 American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) survey of pet owners found that about 15 percent of pet owners reported a lost dog or cat in the prior half-decade.
Microchipping is an affordable and safe way to keep track of most pets. It is also an important tool in the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council‘s (PIJAC) legislative and consumer education efforts to ensure the availability of pets.
PIJAC is currently backing bills in Massachusetts and Illinois that require stores, shelters and rescues to be aware of and record any relevant information about a cat or dog’s microchip (or lack thereof). Prospective pet owners must also be provided that information before taking the animal.
While PIJAC supports a pet owner’s right to make their own decision on microchipping, we also strongly encourage them to use this practice where appropriate. Microchipping enables rescues and shelters that have scanners to quickly return a companion animal to its owner. This allows rescues and shelters to focus on those animals that require greater care.
Microchipping is not appropriate for all species. For example, smaller companion animals face health risks due to the relative size of the chip. Rats, mice, bats and other animals have faced major health issues that researchers say were directly related to the presence of a microchip.
Nor are all technologies the same. Transponders and GPS devices are similar to microchips, but they are often larger and they send information to third parties in ways that may be discomforting for many Americans. Microchips do not actively transmit information; the information can only be accessed by scanner. This protection of pet owner privacy is a key reason why PIJAC prefers microchipping over some popular alternatives.
PIJAC opposes legislation requiring the use of transponder and GPS devices for privacy reasons. However, there are regularly pushes for these technologies, such as what we’ve recently seen in Maine and Florida. As an alternative, we encourage the industry—especially those who directly interact with pet owners—to promote microchipping as the responsible answer to the question of how to keep track of one’s pet.
We also believe lawmakers, rescues and shelters should encourage the use of universal microchip scanners. PIJAC is currently opposing a bill in New York that requires the use of a scanner that doesn’t work for all chips. Such a bill is a waste of valuable taxpayer and private dollars. Universal microchip scans, meanwhile, allow shelters and rescues to more quickly and easily reunite pets and owners without violating privacy rights.
The industry can also step up by making consumers aware of best handling practices through direct interaction onsite, as well as through community events, social media and more.
In addition to finding lost pets, microchipping helps ensure that only reputable breeders provide pets to stores. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires their use for identification purposes. It also shows that breeders are proud of the pets they raise and sell. Unethical breeders are unlikely to want to associate themselves with their ill or mistreated animals so permanently, and responsible veterinarians will not conduct microchipping for those who put profit before pets.
Microchipping isn’t a silver bullet for preventing lost pets or ensuring the health of companion animals, but under the right circumstances, it is a practice that allows industry professionals and pet owners to partner in pet care and protection.