Pepper was about a year old when Carol Wedman of Medford and her 12-year-old son Dylan chose him from C.A.T.S. (Committed Alliance To Strays). "He's the coolest cat we ever had, he's a dog-cat," she says with a laugh. "Pepper comes when you call him, he'll put his paws around you and hug you, a real friendly cat." Pepper tagged along after Dylan when he walked the dog, and one day, an older boy picked up Pepper and walked off. "Dylan was kind of bummed to tell me, he didn't want to tell me," remembers Carol. "We walked all around the neighborhood and back, looking, hoping he'd come home."
Three days later Best Friends Animal Hospital of East Medford called to let Carol know Pepper had been found. "Somehow Pepper was registered with C.A.T.S. and C.A.T.S. had him registered to us. Dylan was way excited and relieved," Carol says.
It costs $30 to $60 at local veterinary clinics to have a chip placed in your pet. Ask whether the price includes the cost of the chip, the implant procedure, and your first year registration. A low microchip implant cost could mean that the microchip is priced separately, and that chip registration and renewal costs are higher. Find out how you'll keep your registration current and whether the service charges extra for updates.
While animal care agencies are working towards a universal chip, there are some chips that use proprietary technologies. This could mean that even if you do chip your pet, the local shelter may not be able to detect the chip unless they have specialized equipment. Make sure that the microchip used by your veterinarian can be detected by the animal organizations where you live and travel.
Pepper was found because C.A.T.S. (as does the Southern Oregon Humane Society and many other shelters) places a rice-sized microchip in all the animals that are adopted out. This passive, radio frequency device carries a unique number that is registered to the animal and to its owner.
Jan Whetstone, C.A.T.S. executive director says that microchipping is critical. "I believe that more than 80 percent of cats who are lost or become missing are never returned to their owners because they don't have proper identification," she says. "Microchipping has greatly reduced the number of animals that remain lost."
"We put the chip under the skin with a needle, just like giving them a shot," explains Dr. Steve Bernard with Medford Animal Hospital. "Typically the chips are placed between the shoulder blades along the back where the skin is a lot looser and you can lift it up, just like you and me. Probably fewer nerve endings and it's an easy place to get to and easy to scan."
"Most of the time when people get their pet chipped it's because they're afraid their pet will get lost and get picked up," reports Dr. Bernard. "And with the chip they can be notified pretty darn quick." Any animal, including fish, birds and horses, can be chipped, with unneutered male dogs and cats most likely to wander off. Chips won't get lost like collars or tags. Dr. Bernard's found three lost dogs in just the last couple of months, returning one to the owner in just 30 minutes.
At Best Friends Animal Hospital of East Medford, about 10 percent of the animals that Dr. Steve Poet sees are chipped. "That's the first thing that we do — we scan every pet that comes in the door. If they have a chip, then we confirm that the chip is registered," notes Dr. Poet. "And if it's not registered, then we get it in there. We follow through with that." Failure to register a chip, or not updating registration information for new phone numbers or addresses mean that even though an animal may be microchipped, their owners won't be located.
"Every shelter, the pound, the Humane Society, every veterinary clinic has scanners, and [in Jackson County] they're all universal scanners now so they'll pick up any chip," says Dr. Poet. "It says that this pet has somebody. What you worry about is unintended euthanasia while the chip automatically puts the animal into the adoptable category."
Carol's changed her mind about microchips: "I thought it was silly to chip an animal, but it works. When you love your pet, it's not silly at all," says Carol. "I hope other people take advantage of it."