Don’t pay too much to microchip your pet

microchipI am shocked at how much some vets charge for microchipping pets. $49 seems to be fairly common, making these a high-margin add-on for clinics. Worse, some chip registries want pet parents to pay annually for ongoing registration and, perhaps, marginally useful lost pet notification services.

And I just lied: Microchips are not an “add-on” for vets to sell, but an essential tool for reuniting lost pets with their families. Every pet should be microchipped.

If overpriced microchips keep even one owner from chipping an animal that later becomes lost, that is a failure for both the rescue movement and veterinary movement. As an important humane tool, we want chips to be available as inexpensively and as widely as possible. Every pet that is spay/neutered should have a chip installed while under anesthesia. Older pets can be microchipped at any time.

Don’t pay more than $20 to have your pet microchipped and, ideally, pay a lot less. Purchased in 100-lots, microchips cost $5-apiece, plus shipping and sales tax. That makes $10 a very fair price for chipping a pet. A local shelter charges less than $20 for walk-in microchipping and the mobile vet clinic does the same.

While the physical chips cost money, chip registration doesn’t have to cost a thing. Yet some registries demand ongoing payment to keep your animal registered in their databases. You don’t have to pay: Free registration is available and your animal can be registered with more than one registry.

Found.org offers forever free registration for any brand of chip and, yes, you can register a chip with multiple registries to make sure your pet is always covered. The Michelson Found Animals Foundation is a remarkable not-for-profit that promotes microchipping by helping to make it affordable. They do an excellent job and microchipping is just a part of what they do. They also run stores called “adopt and shop” that offer animals for adoption and also sell pet food and supplies.

Is your microchip information current and correct?

The information provided when your pet was microchipped is stored in the chip provider’s microchip registry — but it often requires you to enter the data yourself.

Owner information is not stored in the chip itself. The chip provides only a registration number unique to the chip that is stored in the database and associated with ownership information. If you know your pet’s microchip number, you can call or login to the appropriate registry and update your information. This is worth doing every year to two and immediately when your contact information changes. If you lose a pet, immediately notify the registry and make sure your information is current.

If you do not know your pet’s chip number, ask any vet to scan the pet and provide the number to you. Then run the ID number through the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. The online service checks the databases of participating pet recovery services to determine which has registration information available for a microchip. Once a microchip identification number is entered into the tool, within seconds a list of all the registries with microchip registration information available, along with the registries’ contact information, will appear in chronological order; the registry with the most recent update appears first.

If the microchip has not been registered with any participating pet recovery service, the result returned will default to the microchip’s manufacturer or distributor. While the tool will not return the pet owner information contained in the registries’ databases, it will identify which registries should be contacted when a pet is scanned and a microchip is found.

Once you know what registry has your pet, update that listing immediately. Then, wait a few days and create a new, forever listing for free at found.org, as described earlier.

We need a rule or law: Every pet gets checked

Maybe your vet scans every new patient for a microchip, though I’ve never seen one that does it routinely. Or at all. Vet intake ought to include identification photographs and microchip scanning, intended to return lost or stolen pets to their owners. I feel sure the veterinary associations would oppose this rule, claiming it is either too much work or not their problem, but the extra time necessary to do the scan seems an excellent investment in the animal’s welfare. It would also increase a value of microchipping the pet in the first place.