Action Alert: Shelters Must Check for Microchips & Contact Owners of Lost Pets
January 18, 2012
In response to the killing of two microchipped pets at Jackson Co AC in Oregon, I am asking readers to contact the following groups for a response. I have a included a sample letter below, which anyone is free to copy. Please share with your fellow animal advocates and let me know if you receive any responses.
Jackson Co Board of Commissioners:
John Rachor – Commissioner – firstname.lastname@example.org
Don Skundrick – Commissioner - email@example.com
Dennis C.W. Smith – Commissioner – firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Veterinary Medical Association indicates on its website that a shelter has only ever killed a microchipped pet once, and that was due to the facility’s scanner being unable to read the dog’s chip. The AVMA states “the likelihood that this will happen again is very low”. In fact, there is no way of knowing how many microchipped pets are killed by animal shelters in the U.S. Stories of such killings have made the news however when broken-hearted owners have chosen to go public.
In 2010, a lost microchipped cat named O’Malley was impounded by the Broward Co pound in FL and left to suffer in a cage for 5 days while his health deteriorated. When the pound’s staff removed him from the cage to kill him, they found the chip but it was too late to save O’Malley’s life. He was killed at the pound.
In the fall of 2011, a lost microchipped dog named Jake was impounded by the Jackson Co pound in OR. The pound did not contact the owners until after the 5 day holding period had expired and the owners were unable to immediately pay the $150 redemption fee. Despite the owners wanting their pet back home with his 11 year old boy, the pound suddenly killed him, saying he was aggressive. Then in December, the same pound accepted a microchipped cat named Max who had been trapped by a person who was not his owner. Local station KTVL reported the following:
According to the shelter’s website it says the “disposition of cats at large bearing no identification may be made at any time after impoundment.” That means if Max was too aggressive when he was brought in the shelter may not have checked his microchip before he was put down.
[Max's veterinarian] said when he called the shelter to ask why the cat was put down and was told it was because the shelter’s microchip scanning device wasn’t working.
Regardless of which story is accurate, Max is dead. So are Jake, O’Malley and an unknown number of other microchipped pets whose stories did not make the news.
The AVMA’s member veterinarians, along with animal shelters throughout the country, push the sale of microchips to pet owners as a means of getting their lost pet home if he ever gets impounded by animal control. The industry likes to promote stories of lost pets being reunited with their owners because of their microchips. But that is not the full story. The potential for a microchip being used to get a pet back home is only worth what the impounding shelter is willing to put into it. And some shelters invest very little effort in saving pets’ lives.
In Washoe Co NV, animal control officers scan lost pets in the field for microchips in an effort to get them back home and avoid impound altogether. For pets who are impounded, a re-scan is performed upon arrival at the shelter just in case the chip was missed in the field. Washoe Co Animal Control boasts a return-to-owner rate much higher than most shelters because of their efforts. Shouldn’t this be the national standard that the AVMA promotes and all shelters uphold?
Further, I believe the AVMA, its member veterinarians, and microchip manufacturers have an obligation to hold shelters accountable when microchipped pets are not returned to their caring owners. By sweeping these stories under the rug and minimizing the risk to the public of microchipped pets being killed by shelters, all parties involved lose credibility. The call for reform to shelter practices which result in the needless killing of microchipped pets should be loud and clear: It is unacceptable and entirely avoidable.
All pets must be scanned for microchips in the field and if found, immediate attempts must be made to contact the owners. If no chip is found and the animal is impounded, he should be re-scanned upon intake with immediate attempts made to contact the owners if a chip is detected. If there is any way to return a lost pet to a caring owner, shelters must act appropriately to accomplish that. These are simple, minimal effort tasks which would increase the effectiveness of microchips and save pets’ lives. Would you please respond to this issue so that the public knows where you stand?