By encouraging customers to have their animals microchipped, retailers and service providers can promote responsible pet ownership and help cast our industry in a positive light.
We in the pet industry take pride in our role as partners in responsible pet care. We work with prospective pet owners to help them find their ideal companion animals. We offer expertise, products and services to ensure that pets receive the best care possible. And, when a pet goes missing, we do what we can to help restore the human-animal bond as quickly as possible.
One way to help reunite owners and lost pets is through the use of microchip technology. These tiny transponders can be implanted into everything from dogs and cats to ferrets and rabbits, even many birds and snakes. While there are some smaller species and breeds for which microchip procedures warrant more careful consideration, these chips are widely utilized with very few recorded health incidents. With the development of universal scanning technology that looks for multiple companies’ chips, it is easier than ever for veterinarians and shelters to identify animals and begin the return process.
The use of microchips—especially by breeders and pet retailers—is also helpful in our efforts to educate lawmakers about the true sources of dogs entering shelters and rescues. When a scan for microchips comes up empty, it’s a pretty safe bet the dog wasn’t sold by a pet store. When scans do reveal microchips, registries can rapidly alert the chip registrants that their pets have been found.
With all of this in mind, it’s no surprise that jurisdictions across the country and around the world are considering legislation to require the use of microchips. For example, New York City requires any dog or cat sold in a pet store to be implanted with a microchip prior to sale. In Illinois, shelters and animal-control facilities must microchip all cats and dogs before they can be adopted out. Los Angeles County Code requires all dogs be microchipped, period.
But microchips are only part of the equation, and legislation that mandates their use without educating consumers about the necessary follow-through misses the mark. Pet owners need to take the next step and register their microchips as soon as possible. Failure to do so undermines the effectiveness of microchips as a tool for reuniting pet owners and their lost loved ones.
Last month, it became mandatory for dog owners in the United Kingdom to microchip their canine companions. Dogs over eight weeks of age are required by law to be microchipped, with the law stating that the first registered keeper of a dog should be the breeder. More than 80 percent of the roughly nine million dogs in the country were already microchipped, so for most people the effects will be minimal.
Is this a sign of things to come for American pet owners? Probably not for the foreseeable future; our national attitude toward privacy and federal registries in general tends to argue against it.
This creates an opportunity and a challenge for those of us in the responsible pet industry. We have the ability to take the lead on education and engagement without legislative compulsion to do so. We can encourage the use of microchips and independent registries without raising the specter of Big Brother. This applies to almost every sector of the industry.
First and foremost are chip manufacturers and registries. The absence of standardized technology was initially a cause for frustration, but developments in universal scanning allow all players to unite in promoting the value of microchipping and educating consumers on best practices.
Retailers, whether they sell pets directly or focus exclusively on products, have the strongest direct relationships with pet owners. By sharing information and success stories, they can help to illustrate the peace of mind provided by passive identification technology.
Service providers like groomers and boarding facilities can make it a point to inquire as to whether or not a pet is microchipped as part of their intake procedures. This reinforces the importance and demonstrates a commitment to working with the pet owner to protect their pet.
Veterinarians are in a unique position to assist. As many have access to scanners, they can make it a point to include microchip scans as part of their health maintenance regimen. These regular scans have the added benefit of regularly verifying that chips are in good working order.
Working together, we in the pet industry can demonstrate our proactive commitment to responsible pet ownership and the application of our experience and expertise. We should always be looking for opportunities like these as we seek to tell our story as people who don’t just care about animals, but care for them on a daily basis.
For more ideas and ways to get involved in industry-wide efforts, please contact us at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).
Mike Bober is president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. For more information on ways to engage the public and your elected officials, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.