Opinion: Microchipping pets to save their lives

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It can be tough to get any new law regarding pets through the California legislature. Animal welfare advocates have tried unsuccessfully for years to get a statewide mandatory spay and neuter bill passed.

But here comes one that seems promising. Senate Bill 702 would require a tiny identifying microchip to be implanted in dogs and cats adopted out of municipal shelters or reclaimed at the shelters by owners who lost them. The bill -- written by Sen. Ted Lieu, a Torrance Democrat whose district includes the South Bay -- was approved by the Assembly on Thursday and could go to Gov. Jerry Brown as early as Friday.


According to Lieu’s office, about 1 million dogs and cats are impounded each year in California’s municipal shelters and nearly half of those are euthanized because of overcrowding. A lost pet landing in a shelter has a much better chance of getting out and reunited with its owner if the pet is microchipped with the owner’s contact information.

“Our hope is to get more animals home right away instead of filling up cage space,” said Judie Mancuso whose animal welfare organization, Social Compassion in Legislation, sponsored the bill. Mancuso says there’s no cost to the state for this. “The people reclaiming the dog or cat pay for the microchip -- which is about $5 to $25,” she said. If you’re adopting the animal, the chip will be part of the adoption fee.

On the other hand, impounding and euthanizing animals can cost hundreds per animal, Mancuso noted -- and the taxpayer is paying that as part of the cost of running municipal shelters. Obviously not all those animals in the shelters are lost pets, but some are.

Many cities and counties already have microchipping regulations for their municipal shelters, but not all of them do.

And they all should. In fact, pet owners in general should consider microchipping their cats and dogs even if they’re not required to by a shelter.

This bill is one straightforward, easy way to help insure that if your pet gets lost -- or lost again -- the two of you stand a good chance of being reunited if it turns up at a shelter.


Assemblyman Ben Hueso from San Diego told a story about his microchipped dog being lost for weeks -- until the canine turned up at a shelter where staffers scanned the chip and called Hueso. The shelter was in Fresno, 350 miles away.

“Dogs don’t know boundaries,” said Mancuso. “People will pick up an animal and drop it anywhere.”


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