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Published: Monday, 2/13/2006

Tracking tabby: Imbedded microchips make it easier to locate lost pets

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Danielle Adamski inserts a microchip into Eddie, a 2-year-old cat available for adoption, at the Toledo Area Humane Society. Danielle Adamski inserts a microchip into Eddie, a 2-year-old cat available for adoption, at the Toledo Area Humane Society.
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Holding the scruff of his neck firmly in her hand, Danielle Adamski swiftly injected Eddie the cat with a microchip without prompting even one squirm.

It s as small as a grain of rice and appears to not bother the 2-year-old cat as it is injected under his skin. Ms. Adamski, an animal care technician at the Toledo Area Humane Society, hopes that the Radio Frequency Identification Device will forever play an important role in keeping tabs on the orange tabby.

On the market for more than a decade, microchips have been implanted in millions of animals and used as identification tags for lost pets. But although the companies that sell the devices boast successful return-to-owner stories and animal rescue organizations laud the technology, the vast majority of the country s 74 million dogs and 91 million cats remain without implanted microchips.

That will no longer be the case for cats like Eddie, who are available for adoption at the local Humane Society. Starting this month, the Toledo Area Humane Society will microchip every cat adopted out of the facility, said Executive Director Greg Bloomfield.

Less than 2 percent of lost cats are returned to their owner, primarily due to the fact that they don t wear identification, said Mr. Bloomfield, adding that the Humane Society will be holding a microchip clinic at its Walk and Run for the Animals event on May 20.

Since there is no [cat] licensing requirement in the county, we feel this is a way to ensure that the cats are identified, he said.

First introduced about 14 years ago, microchips carry an identification number that read all American-made devices.

Microchips last for the lifetime of the pet and can be bought from most veterinarians, shelters, and rescue centers. Vets will usually charge about $30 or $40 to insert the chip, which includes the cost of the chip, and the owner will pay an additional $10 or $15 to register the microchip.

And with the ID number comes access to the owner s name and contact information. Each company, including Avid and HomeAgain, maintains its own databases. So does the American Kennel Club.

The microchip, center, is about the size of a dime. At left is the injector. The microchip, center, is about the size of a dime. At left is the injector.
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Independent of the microchip companies, the AKC holds identification information on more than 3 million animals, including horses, rabbits, and a pot bellied pig. There s even a two-toed sloth on the list, said AKC spokesman Lisa Peterson.

It s another tool that animal shelters and animal control officers can use to reunite owners with their animals, she said. The majority [registered] are dogs but you can microchip anything that can run away.

Locally, the Lucas County and Fulton County dog pounds do not use scanners to check for microchips. Chip-carrying canines will fare better in Wood and Monroe counties, where the animal control agencies have been using the scanners for years.

Tom Skeldon, Lucas County dog warden, said that all dogs with the required county license will be returned to their owners. He added that the technology is not always reliable and that it is the owner s responsibility to confine and license a dog. Lucas County requires a $20 license for all dogs older than 3 months.

I don t see it becoming more popular, Mr. Skeldon said. It hasn t become the thing to do.

That concerns Cindy Laws, president and founder of northwest Ohio s Golden Retriever Rescue Resource, who has had microchips implanted in every Golden Retriever puppy she s ever bred in the past as well as her own animals now.

After taking note of the thousands of animals separated from their owners during hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Ms. Laws group decided to plan a May 6 and 7 clinic at PetCo on Monroe Street to give pet owners a chance to learn more about the technology and to have their beloved pet microchipped.

We would never have a hurricane in our area, but you never know what disaster could occur, she said, adding that preregistration is required for the $30 clinic. More information will be available at www.gr-rescue.org.

Dr. Jennifer Croce, a vet at the South Suburban Animal Hospital in Perrysburg, said her clinic implants about 20 microchips a month. She said she encourages her pet owners to microchip their animals when they are still puppies and kittens.

Dr. Croce, who has volunteered at the Golden Retriever Rescue clinic, said people don t often realize how far a dog can travel. Even those animals that tend not to run can end up miles from their homes, she said.

I ve returned dogs. It does work, she said.

Dr. Croce admitted that the microchips can migrate in the animal s body, making it sometimes difficult to find with the scanner. And in rare occasions, fatty tissue encases the chip, creating a bump, although nothing that will harm the pet.

The microchip is encased in a glass product that is sterile and completely compatible with animal tissue, said Mr. Bridge of HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service, who trained the Toledo Area Humane Society staff.

Ninety-nine times out of 100, the animal won t react, Mr. Bridge said of the injection, adding that new technology has been created to keep the chips in place.

But although the animals tend to cooperate, it is the responsibility of the owner to ensure microchipping is a success, he said. Only by registering the animal in a national database will animal control officers know who to call when they pick up a microchipped animal.

And keep the information current, Mr. Bridge warned. There is no charge to update, including changing owners if the animal is given away or sold.

Statistically, one in four animals will eventually get lost, Mr. Bridge said. We have about 3 million animals microchipped, and [of those lost] have reunited about 295,000 of them with their owners. So, it works.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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