When Microchipping Matters Most

I just read a story about a dog named Hanah who was displaced from her family during the recent tornado that terrorized Joplin, Missouri. There have been a couple of post-tornado Hanah sightings, but to date, she’s yet to be reunited with her anxious and devastated family.   The Good Samaritan photos taken of Hanah show this adorable looking dog without a collar, and her owners report that she has not been microchipped.   My heart sank when I read this.  As far as I’m concerned, a microchip would have increased the likelihood of a happy ending to this story more than anything else.

Let this be a wake-up call to all of us about the importance of microchipping our pets.  Far and away a microchip is the best insurance policy possible for reuniting lost pets with their families.  Bear in mind that implanting the microchip is the easy part. The more difficult part is making sure that you and the professional who places the microchip get it registered properly.  What good is the microchip if its number is not associated with accurate owner contact information?  And when you move or change telephone numbers, remember to update the microchip registry.  As I reported in a previous blog, the microchip failure rate has everything to do with inadequate updating of registry information.

I hope you will read Hanah’s story and share it with all the dog lovers you know with hopes that she will be returned to the people who love her.   If I receive any Hanah updates I will certainly let you know.  If your pets are not microchipped, please call your veterinarian or local shelter right away to set up an appointment to do so. If your pet is microchipped, contact the registry to ensure that your contact information is up to date.  One never knows what life has in store for us and our pets!

Do you know of a story where a microchip saved the day?  If so, I’d love to hear it.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.


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15 Comments on “When Microchipping Matters Most

  1. Great post and reading the comments added to the post, too. Thanks to Erich for the link for the look up. I have registered all my cats (began doing that after Hurricane Katrina as it really ‘brought home’ the fact that my indoor only cats could be in a similar natural disaster) I followed the link Erich provided and did a look up just to verify info.

    As a side note, when I bred Cornish Rex cats, I began registering all the kittens after I lost track of one due to divorce and being unable to contact either person. How I do it is to leave the cat in my name, so I am the first person they contact, but I put the owners name and contact info in the box that says ‘Other Pet Medical Information’.

    I also work at a feline veterinary hospital and stress to owners to follow through on the registration and know at some practices, the staff does the registering for the owner so it doesn’t get missed, but we make a followup call and an email in 10 days to remind the owner to complete the registration.

  2. I was told by the rescue that I got my dog from that the dog was chipped to the rescue place and they would not let me change that. I would prefer my info be associated with my dog.

  3. I continously tell people to microchip their animals. One day while I was visiting my vet’s office a woman was ask if she wanted her dog microchipped. She said no, my dog is friendly and loves everyone. I am not sure what that had to do with it but I did put my 2 cents in on why she should microchip and register her dog. I found a lovely old Golden this past weekend, no microchip, no name tag. Thank goodness he had a rabies tag and we were able to trace his owner through that.

  4. I have rescued two dogs in our little town and both were microchipped. I also usually go to the vet nearest to the site where the dog was found. Usually it is a backyard escapee.
    The pix of Hannah broke my heart!
    Thank you for this important reminder. I also just got a good tip..put names and telephone numbers on all crates and carriers.

    Thanks Dr. Nancy

  5. I was recently ordered by management at my apartment building to stop feeding the feral/stray cats. Never mind that for years I fed maybe 2-3 and they were all fixed. Up until about last November, I had a very manageable number of mouths to feed: Maybe 2-3 “regulars.” Suddenly, in early November THREE more showed up.

    Mind you, I feed in front of my car below my storage unit. It’s private. It’s not as though I feed in an open field and people were dumping their cats here, knowing there was an established colony or something. One of the newcomers was an orange kitty whom I thought was on the older side, because of temperament and appearance. This cat never liked me. It baffled me. I fed him daily. I was nice to him. He had a collar with a bell but no tag. I had meant to trap him and get him checked for a microchip, but hadn’t gotten around to it until management made it an urgent matter. (up until then, i’d posted signs and posted online at craigslist/recycler/pennysaver/petfinder/kijii and had put “found” ads in all the local papers, etc.). So I trapped him back in March, and well, lo & behold, he had a chip! (Which wasn’t a surprise to me).

    I called AVID, the chip company, but they only had the info for the shelter from which he’d been adopted, which they showed in LB, CA. The owner had never registered the cat with AVID with himself as his owner. I called the shelter and they gave me the owner’s name & phone #. The shelter worker told me the cat was about 5 years old, which is what the vet had estimated.

    I called and called the registered owner, but could never reach him; the phone just rang and rang. I posted on CL looking for the owner (I had been given his full name by the shelter) and eventually Googled him and found an address about 1.5 miles away, to the north. I went there on the day I was taking the kitty to a foster in corona and got no answer at the door. I left a note with my name & number.

    Fast forward about a week and a half later and the guy called me! He’d moved from that condo in late October/early November and now lived in an apartment about 1 mile south of me. He told me that the kitty had escaped/been let out (not sure which), but never came back. I met with him and had pics the foster had taken and the vet bill (for combo testing & shots). He gave me a $150 TARGET gift card to reimburse the vet expenses (he’d already been neutered at the shelter), which was really kind of him. He explained that as much as he loved his kitty (named LUCKY), he was in no position to take him back, as he was now unemployed and basically couch-surfing.

    OK, so it wasn’t a reunion, per se. But this guy got the good fortune of knowing that his kitty was safe. He told me that if we could find him a good home, that would be best for Lucky. Sometimes, the most loving thing to do is to let someone/something go.

    This is a great example of why/how it’s so important to not only get your critters microchipped, but to update their info if you adopt/rescue or move. HAPPY ENDING! Lucky was adopted a couple of weeks ago by a professor and his family in Orange County. Lucky is indeed LUCKY!

  6. Our vet lost her yellow lab (escape artist) when he was approx. 12 wks old. about 3 wks later she was at a friend’s house and noticed a dog across the street in a fenced yard that looked an awful lot like her pup! So she went over to talk to the people and sure enough, the dog was picked up by one of their friends and brought to them (they hadn’t had time to take him down to the animal shelter yet to see if he had a chip, but they wanted to find his owner) She explained her story and said this dog looks nearly identical to her pup but it had been 3 weeks so maybe it wasn’t him? She then asked them if they would mind if she went and got the wand from her clinic to come scan the dog for his chip. Of course they didn’t mind as they wanted to find the owner! Sure enough, the wand confirmed that this was indeed her pup and it was a happy ending for everyone involved!! :-)

  7. Dr. Kay, Thank you for Hanah’s story. We pray that Hanah finds her lost parents. Let us know.
    I own a The Family Puppy and we chip all our puppies and as of a year ago began electronically registering the new owners with AKC CAR. (the largest NOT FOR PROFIT registry) because the new owners wouldn’t even fax in their info to the registry.

    We believe in microchipping so much that we pay for both the chip and the lifetime registry for all puppies we sell.

    We have gotten better in the US with universal readers and the AHHA LOOKUP!
    Thanks again for your help in getting the message out!

  8. I am a super responsible owner, but I fell victim to improper microchip registration. In 2005 I adopted a puppy from a normally well-regarded Bay Area shelter. The adoption counselor explained I did not need to do anything, my dog’s microchip was “automatically” registered. I was told the chip was registered with the humane society’s contact information, and that most people liked to leave it that way. If a pet is lost and an owner is out of town or unreachable, they would be safe because the shelter would be advised the pet was found, and it would be brought in to the shelter.

    SIX YEARS passed, and it was only by chance I had a veterinarian test my dog’s chip. It scanned properly, i.e. a number displayed, but there was NO information on file with the company who manufactured the chip! They did not even have the chip number on file, let alone ANY data!!

    For six years my dog was essentially un-chipped. When I wrote to inform the animal agency of this failure to register my dog’s chip, I received a curt letter back within days with excuses about how they “did not or could not” register the chip at the time it was implanted. I was not even sure what that meant!

    I suspected I was not the only one this had happened to, or the only guardian who notified them of their failure, based on the form letter. It lacked any admission of responsibility, and was written in a way that made me think they might be worried about legal action. The whole experience was somewhat demoralizing. It’s like finding out a vaccine never was any good. Thank goodness my boy never got lost, or we were not in the path of a natural disaster.

    If your dog is chipped, ask to SEE a scan performed and then ask to see the registered data IN the computer system, even if you have to go back to the adoption agency or veterinarian who implants the chip a few days later to allow time for the data to be downloaded. Verify! It can save your pets’ lives.

  9. A family member had gone outside for a moment and hadn’t noticed that Sophie our whippet had followed her out. The human went back in and shut the door not knowing the dog had wandered out. Unlike other sighthounds, Sophie does not bolt the door or take off once she is outside. She did not have a collar on. She apparently wandered around and a neighbor found her and called animal control. They took her to the shelter and checked her for a micro chip. She had one and we received a phone call to come pick her up. Happy ending. Oh, yeah, there was a fine for no collar and tags!

  10. I am an animal lover. I have even made my focus in my ministry (I am an ordained minister) Animal Ministry. animals have often entered my life at crucial times:birth, death, lost. Because of this I always carry a leash in my car, as it seems at least twice a year I find a lost dog.

    A few years ago after visiting my horse at his ranch near the California coast, I saw a little white dog wandering far from any homes. It seemed very confused. I parked my car and went out with my leash. Luckily, this dog really wanted human help and came right up to me. i put her in my car, gave her some water. As I entered the nearest town I stopped at the P.O. and the local store. No one knew her.

    On the way to the nearest vet I was having a silent interview with her. I got a sense that she was a Hurricane Katrina dog-no rhyme or reason for me to think that, it was just a gut feeling. Brought her into the vet. Vet waved the wand over her and to our delight it beeped.

    Oddly I was right- she had been chipped in Houston Texas after the storm. She was registered as being owned by a lady who lived about 3 miles west of where I found her-way out on the Pt. Reyes Peninsula. We called the lady who was beside herself with joy. The dog indeed was a Katrina survivor.

    The reunion was a very happy one. It also was a clear example of how microchips can nearly guarantee a happy ending-at least in this case!

  11. No success stories – like you am frustrated. In the past 4 weeks various neighbors have found 3 dogs (and of course they come to me). We’ve done everything we can to find their owners – no collar or microchips. It’s possible they were just dumped. So they’ve been placed in loving homes.

    I hope that Hanah is reunited with her family. I’d be devastated if I lost my 2 dogs. All of mine have been microchipped since the technology was made available.

  12. We had our six Clumber Spaniel puppies (born March 26th ) microchipped last Wednesday. As Dr. Kay strongly urges people to have their pet’s microchip registered with their pet’s name, telephone number and address, I will will do the same for our pups’ family!! If the families fail to register the pup’s microchip number then I have wasted both my time and money is trying to keep our puppies safe for the future!

  13. A few facts from the AVMA:

    “The U.S. is the only country in which microchip implantation and microchip registration are often separate processes.29 The lack of a centralized database in the U.S. has led to concerns of poor efficiency in reuniting lost pets with their owners.53 Lord et al29 determined that only 58.1% of microchipped animals were registered when animal shelters attempted to locate the animal’s owner. In addition, the major reason animal shelters were unable to locate animal owners was incorrect owner information.”


    It is a real shame that what shoud be a quick, easy, cheap way of protecting pets has turned into such a tedious process.

    Two quick questions for those who think it is an easy process.

    What type of chips are in your pets?
    How many chip registries are there in the US?

  14. Years ago on a Labrador email list, one of the members who lived in GA reported that her two dogs were stolen from her fenced yard. Fortunately, one of the dogs had a micro-chip which saved both their lives.

    The dogs were taken by a batcher to a research facility. The facility checked for micro-chips on the two dog, found one and called the owner. The batcher was apprehended and both dogs were returned to the worried owner.

    What a case for having dogs micro-chipped!