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Microchipping improves odds of pet’s return

PetmicrochipA recent study by Ohio State University confirms what would seem to be pretty obvious — microchipped pets have a better chance of being reunited with their owners than those without microchips.

Microchipped pets find their way back home about 75 percent of the time; in the case of dogs, that’s about 2.5 times more often than those without microchips, according to the study.

Less than 2 percent of all stray dogs and cats taken to shelters participating in the study had microchips implanted in their bodies. Nationally, experts estimate about 5 percent of pets are microchipped.

Microchips have yet to become widely popular — and they aren’t foolproof, the study notes. That one of every four microchiped pets isn’t reunited with its owner is a function of the number of different microchip companies and registries, and owners who fail to keep those registries updated on address changes.

Still, the study suggest that pet owners should give strong consideration to microchipping their companion animals — a conclusion that isn’t that surprising, either, considering one of the authors is a consultant for a company that, through one of its subsidairies, manufactures microchips.

The study notes that identification tags, with the pet’s name, owner’s name and phone number, are still the most effective way to ensure a lost pet is returned.

For the study, 53 shelters in 23 states kept records about microchipped animals brought to their facilities between August 2007 and March 2008, according to an Ohio State University press release

“In the study, the biggest reason owners couldn’t be found was because of an incorrect or disconnected phone number in the registration database,” said Linda Lord, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at Ohio State University. “The chip is only as good as my ability as a pet owner to keep my information up to date in the registry.”

“Is there room for improvement? Absolutely,” she added. “We really need to focus on not separating the microchip implantation process from registration. Veterinarians have a great opportunity at an annual wellness exam to scan a microchip and remind the owner of the need to keep information up to date in the registry. Likewise, when shelters implant microchips, they need to tell an adopter how it works and make sure information is in the registry before the animal leaves the building.”

In cases in the study in which owners were not found, the reasons included incorrect or disconnected phone numbers (35.4 percent), owners’ failure to return phone calls or respond to letters (24.3 percent), unregistered microchips (9.8 percent) or microchips registered in a database that differed from the manufacturer (17.2 percent).

Because of these multiple registration options, Lord said a new website developed by the American Animal Hospital Association, petmicrochiplookup.org, is likely to further improve the chances that owners of lost animals with microchips will be found. The site, launched in late September, performs a real-time lookup of a microchip number and determines which company has a registry for that microchip.

She said that three of the six major registries in the United States are working with the organization, and additional participation is expected soon.

Lord conducted the study with co-authors Walter Ingwersen of the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim Canada’s Vetmedica Division; Janet Gray, a Redmond, Wash., veterinarian; and David Wintz of the Larimer Humane Society in Fort Collins, Colo. Ingwersen is a consultant for PetHealth Inc., the parent company of a microchip manufacturer.