Chip, Check, Change

MICROCHIPS! REUNITING LOST AND STOLEN PETS…OR ARE THEY?

One of our favourite jobs at Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care is microchipping litters of puppies. We strongly support UK law, which requires all puppies to be microchipped by 8 weeks of age (12weeks for legally docked puppies) and before they are sold.

Microchips can be implanted by Vets, Vet Nurses, and by other pet professionals who have received appropriate training (a practical course before 2015, and a LANTRA regulated course since 2015). We offer the additional benefit of a basic health check for all puppies we chip.

Microchips are a very safe and reliable way to permanently identify a dog, they also provide a way of identifying the keeper of that dog. Since April 2015 the first registered keeper must be the breeder of the puppy, and the breeder must provide the buyer with paperwork which allows the buyer to register themselves as the new keeper. If a dog is given away or sold the ‘old’ owner must get a transfer code from their microchip registration company and give this to the ‘new’ owner. It is easiest to think of the microchip registration scheme as being very similar to the car logbook system which we are all familiar with.

Just like a car log book, being named as the keeper of a dog with a microchip registration database is not considered proof of ownership. There is no single document which proves ownership of a dog, though in disputes a receipt from the purchase, evidence of paying the food and vet bills, and Kennel Club registration papers will all be considered.

When buying a puppy, or an adult dog, you should ask for a transfer code or paperwork which shows that the dog is chipped and to allow your to transfer the dog into your keepership.

WHY DON’T MICROCHIPS ALWAYS GET PETS HOME?

CHIP

Don’t assume your pet is chipped! Although all puppies should be chipped before sale we still see a lot of pups where this hasn’t been done. Visit your vet soon after buying any pet to check if it is microchipped.

CHECK

Pet microchips are very simple, and therefore very reliable. But a few do fail or move (especially after trauma to the implant area). Movement should not prevent a pet being returned to its owner as pet professionals scanning a stray pet should ensure they scan the whole animal all over, and should use two different types of scanner if a chip isn’t found. Failed chips are obviously a disaster in terms of reuniting lost or stolen pets. Microchip companies monitor reports of failed microchips and several years ago one company discovered a faulty batch had been implanted with a high risk of failure. Keepers were advised to have their pet’s chips checked and a new chip inserted if necessary. Although a chip could fail at any time, it is sensible to get it checked at least once a year (perhaps at your pet’s Annual Health Check).

Remember that your dog must still wear a collar and tag when out in public, which must have your surname and address on. A mobile phone number is also very useful for a quick reunification.

We also recommend ear tattooing as a back up to tags and microchips. Both puppies and adult dogs can be tattooed in a quick and only briefly painful procedure. Tattoos can become harder to read over time, but even a faded tattoo can help reunite a dog.

CHANGE

The main reason it can be difficult to reunite lost pets with their keepers is that the keeper registration details are not kept up to date. If you buy a pet, or if you move house, or change your telephone number one of the first things you should do is to change the contact details held by the chip registration company. You should be given a transfer code/form by the seller, if you move you will be able to change the details online or by post. Some databases make a small charge for changing details, in other cases it may be free.

VETS (AND RESCUES, AND DOG WARDENS, AND GROOMERS) GET SCANNING!

It can be hard for very invested dog owners to understand why lost and stolen dogs aren’t scanned and returned to their owners really quickly. Whilst we know that not all veterinary practices are as diligent about scanning new patients for chips as they should be, the sad truth is, that many dogs go for years without visiting a vet. Lots of people don’t take their dogs for Annual Health Checks and only visit the vet if their dog is ill. We have been involved in cases where dogs have been bought from homeless people, a man in a pub, or from classified adverts and many months or years (9 years in one case!) passed before the dogs were taken to a vet. In these cases vets scanned the dogs, found a microchip, and checked the database for registration details. This has been made much easier in recent years with the introduction of Scanner Angel for Halo scanners which alerts us to pets reported lost or stolen. Buyers should be asking to see chip registration paperwork, and should be suspicious if this is not available. It is our hope that compulsory microchipping will make more dog buyers ask about chips and make it harder for theives to move stolen dogs on (reducing their value and therefore reducing theft).

CAN REGISTRATION DETAILS BE CHANGED WITHOUT PERMISSION? CAN DOGS BE RECHIPPED? CAN DOGS BE REHOMED WITHOUT SCANNING? CAN CHIPS BE REMOVED?

The answer to all of these questions should be ‘No!’. But incidents do happen, and recently some distressing cases have been shared on social media.

Microchip databases won’t change the registered keeper details without the transfer code, or other proof of change of keepership. This can make changing keepership difficult if the transfer code wasn’t provided or for strays where the previous keeper can’t be traced. In these cases the microchip databases will consider other evidence, including whether the original keeper reported a pet as lost or stolen, and will ask that efforts are made to contact the previous keeper before changing keepership. If the original owner decides to contest ownership in the future it is important to keep as much evidence as possible of the efforts made to find them, or proof that they sold the pet.

Pets will not be implanted with a microchip by a Vet, Vet Nurse, or trained implanter without being checked for a pre-exisiting chip. In rare cases pets may have two chips if one has failed. Sometimes these failed chips ‘come back to life’ which means either number can come up on scanning. If a second chip is implanted where one is known to have failed the keeper details should be kept up to date on both numbers. As previously discussed, anyone scanning strays, new patients, or implanting microchips should scan very thoroughly to try and identify pre-existing chips. We sadly do know of stories where pets have not been scanned properly when picked up as strays or handed in to rescue, leading to complicated situations later on. Only robust and easy to follow protocols for rescuers and animal wardens can avoid these mistakes.

Microchips are not as easy to locate and remove as social media might suggest. We are only aware of one confirmed case of a dog having its chip removed by theives. A shaved dog and a scar, not to mention the requirement for anaesthetic mean removal is quite unlikely.

Ultimately, microchips DO work. They do identify dogs positively for breeding health checks, vaccinations, and competition. They do help reunite lost or stolen pets with their owners. But we advise our clients to CHIP, CHECK, and CHANGE!

 

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