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For Dogs, Having a Chip on the Shoulder Is a Good Thing

A microchip the size of a grain of rice and costing $25 to $40 is all that concerned dog owners need to keep tabs on their pets, according to the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Veterinarians implant the microchip under the dog’s skin at the nape of the neck. There is no anesthesia required for the painless procedure, which does not place pets in any danger, said Doug Buck, the agency’s director of shelter services. The procedure is not available for cats.

Most pounds and shelters in California are equipped with hand-held scanning devices, Buck said. Animal control officers scan each dog that comes into the pounds in search of microchips. The chips are 100% accurate, Buck said, and they are guaranteed for the life of the dog.

“This is foolproof--the dog becomes theft-proof,” Buck said.

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If the scanner detects a chip on a dog, a number code appears and animal control officers call a toll-free number and report the code to one of the two companies that manufacture the chips. The manufacturers, who keep the codes on file, contact the dog’s owner, Buck said.

But despite the chip’s accuracy and low cost, the high-tech devices so far have not caught on among most dog owners, Buck said. The agency has discovered only a few dogs with the microchips since the device was introduced about five years ago, and most other dogs fail to have conventional identification such as tags.

“It’s amazing--only 10% of the animals we get into the shelter have any kind of identification on them,” Buck said. “Sometimes we have people running in here to claim their dogs, and they’re carrying the dog’s tags with them.”

The consequences can be harsh. Last year the agency destroyed half of the estimated 3,000 dogs it rescued because the animals were not claimed.

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