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home>>family>>pets>>technology to the rescue

Finding Fido - Technology to the Rescue

by: Louise Louis - www.toybreeds.com

What happens if one morning you open your front door to retrieve the newspaper and Fido dashes through the door in pursuit of a squirrel, or cyclist, or even a butterfly? What if you're out walking and a loud noise scares him so badly, he takes off. Could you get him back?

Of course, most cities and states have laws that require dogs to have tags and Fido's address, at least his telephone number, should be on the tag.

In California, a state with strict laws and serious enforcement, however, state officials estimate only one out of three dogs is licensed.

Even if Fido has a license and tags, he may not wear his collar around the house, or his collar may get pulled off as he runs through the bushes or thieves may deliberately remove his collar. What then?

If you're among the most technologically advanced, Fido and you have a back-up position - a microchip. It's an inert electronic transponder, the size of a grain of rice.

A veterinarian can easily implant it, usually in the scruff of the neck (the loose skin between the shoulder blades). Once inserted, it can only be removed surgically. Being under the skin, it is safe from weather, erosion, alternation and theft and cannot be seen by human eye. It has no battery.

More and more animal shelters are searching for microchips in the stray animals they take in and installing microchips in the animals they put up for adoption. For example, Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis already use microchips on the strays they put up for adoption.

With a microchip in place, a handheld reader can be run over the dog's neck and an unique ID number identified. The ID number is called in to a national clearinghouse that provides 24-hour/7-day service and will identify the owner who then can be contacted.

That's why it's important to report your address or phone changes to the clearinghouse so its data is always current and accurate.

If you think this scenario is unlikely, please note that in 1999 only 14% of the dogs taken to American animal shelters were returned to owners. This compares to 51% of the dogs returned to owners in England where mandatory identification systems exist.

Because of the large population of unwanted dogs, most shelters cannot keep strays, especially adult dogs, for very long. In the city I live in, adult dogs are either adopted or destroyed after THREE days in the shelter.

Many foreign countries require microchips if you want to take your dog with you as your travel. Under the Pet Travel Scheme in the European Union countries as well as Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, dogs must have a microchip, as well as vaccinations and other medical records, to avoid quarantine and travel as freely between countries as their owners.

Even if you never plan to take Fido aboard, make sure your veterinarian uses an ISO (International Standards Organization) standard microchip that is accepted in Europe. Just in case.

As of this writing, there are two brands of microchips sold in the United States - Avid and Schering-Plough. Both companies provide animal shelters with scanners that can read any of their microchips. Veterinarian fees usually range from $25 to $60.

There also are several clearinghouses for ID numbers. Your veterinarian will tell you which one he uses. Some clearinghouses charge a one-time fee and some charge an annual fee. If your veterinarian doesn't have a recommendation, call the animal shelter in the nearest large city to you and see what they use.

I use the registration service through the American Kennel Club {www.akc.org/love/car/index.cfm} which charges (at the time this is written) a $12.50 enrollment fee. You do not have to be an AKC member to use this service. AKC recommends using the Schering-Plough microchip.

As with any newer technology, some people, even veterinarians, are reluctant to be among the first users. There is no reason to hold back with microchips. It won't hurt Fido and if he's ever missing in action, it may save his life.

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