Whose Responsibility Is It To Microchip A Dog?

Introduction

Microchipping is the process of implanting a small chip under a dog’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. This chip contains a unique identification number that can be scanned to reveal the dog’s identity and owner contact information. Microchipping is an extremely important tool for reuniting lost dogs with their families.

It’s estimated that over 10 million dogs are lost each year in the United States alone. Without identification tags or microchips, it can be very difficult or even impossible to reunite these lost pets with their owners. Shelters are only able to return about 20% of lost dogs to their families when there is no microchip. However, microchipped lost dogs have return-to-owner rates over 50%, since shelters and vets can easily scan the chip and look up the owner’s contact information [1].

Microchipping gives lost dogs the best chance at being returned home, preventing heartbreak for families and saving lives. It’s a simple, inexpensive procedure that all dog owners should prioritize.

Legal Requirements

Laws regarding microchipping dogs vary by location. In the United States, there is no federal law requiring pets to be microchipped, but some states and localities have their own laws. For example, Hawaii became the first state to mandate microchipping for pet dogs in 2021 (source). Some cities or counties, like Los Angeles County, California, may require microchips as part of their municipal codes (source).
state and local laws requiring dogs to be microchipped.

In addition, some shelters and rescue organizations require dogs be microchipped before adoption. For instance, the Texas Humane Legislation Network helped pass a state law in 2021 requiring animal shelters in Texas to scan for microchips when taking in stray pets (source). This helps ensure lost pets can be reunited with their owners if they arrive at a shelter.

Veterinarian’s Role

Veterinarians highly recommend microchipping dogs and often implant the microchips themselves. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), vets advise pet owners to have their animals microchipped to provide permanent identification and help reunite lost pets with their families (Microchipping FAQ).

Veterinarians are trained to properly implant microchips in dogs using a needle to insert the chip between the shoulder blades. The process is quick, relatively painless, and the microchip lasts for the lifetime of the dog (Dog Microchips). Having a vet perform the microchip implantation ensures it is done correctly and safely.

veterinarians implanting microchips properly between dog's shoulders.

Breeder’s Role

The breeder plays an important role in ensuring puppies are microchipped before they go to their new homes. Reputable breeders will microchip puppies as early as possible, usually between 6-8 weeks of age, before the puppy is sold or adopted out. According to the AKC, “A microchip can make certain you know exactly which puppy you sold to whom. By documenting the puppy’s microchip ID number in your contract, you are protected, and so is the buyer.”1 Microchipping puppies early allows the breeder to register and track each puppy as it goes to its new home.

breeders microchipping puppies before sale to new owners.

Many states now have laws requiring puppies be microchipped before sale or transfer of ownership. Breeders must comply with these laws and chip puppies at the appropriate age for their state. For example, a law passed in California in 2017 mandates that breeders cannot transfer ownership of a dog unless it is microchipped and the breeder provides the microchip information to the buyer.2 Reputable breeders follow these laws and go beyond minimum requirements to ensure they are acting ethically and responsibly in regards to microchipping.

Breeders should also assist new owners in registering the microchip and transferring ownership into the buyer’s name. Providing microchip paperwork and registration instructions with the puppy ensures the transition goes smoothly. Responsible breeding means not just microchipping, but following through on registration and documentation as well.

Shelter & Rescue Role

Animal shelters and rescue organizations play a critical role in microchipping dogs. Many states have laws requiring shelters and rescues to implant microchips in stray dogs before putting them up for adoption. For example, a law passed in California in 1998 mandated that shelters scan and microchip dogs upon intake (Source). The goal is to help reconnect lost pets with their owners if they arrive at the shelter. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), nearly 10 million pets are lost each year, and only 15-20% of lost dogs and 2-5% of lost cats are reunited with their families when brought to a shelter. Microchipping increases the chances a family is reunited with their pet (Source).

Prior to adoption, shelters and rescues have an obligation to scan for existing microchips and implant a microchip if the animal does not already have one. This ensures every adopted animal has permanent identification to improve chances of being returned home if lost. Some organizations even provide free registration with the microchip to further assist in getting lost pets back to their new families.

Owner’s Role

The primary responsibility for microchipping a dog falls on the dog’s owner. In most states and jurisdictions, there are no laws requiring dog owners to microchip their pets. However, many vets, shelters, and rescue organizations strongly recommend microchipping as a safeguard in case a dog becomes lost. Responsible dog ownership includes taking precautions to provide permanent identification for a pet.

primary responsibility for microchipping falling on dog owners.

While microchipping itself is relatively inexpensive (usually $25-$50 in the U.S.), owners do take on additional costs and responsibilities. After implanting the microchip, the owner must properly register it with current contact information in a pet recovery database. These annual or lifetime registration fees are usually $15-$30. Owners should also promptly update their registration information if they move or change phone numbers.

Keeping registration information current is crucial for a microchip to successfully reunite a lost dog with its owners. An unregistered or outdated microchip severely limits its effectiveness. Ultimately, owners choose whether to provide this protective measure for their pets. Doing so greatly increases the likelihood that a lost or stolen dog will be returned safely.

Costs

The cost to microchip a dog averages between $25 to $60, according to experts (GoodRx, Forbes). This cost includes the microchip itself, the implantation procedure performed by a veterinarian or trained shelter staff, and registration in a pet recovery database.

Some factors that influence the cost include the veterinary clinic, geographic location, any additional services bundled with the procedure (e.g. exam fee), and whether any deals or discounts are available. Full-service veterinary hospitals may charge more, while low-cost clinics and shelters often microchip dogs for free or a minimal fee.

Overall, microchipping a dog is a relatively affordable one-time expense to ensure permanent pet identification and improve the chances of being reunited if a dog is lost. For pet owners concerned about costs, checking with local shelters, rescues and low-cost clinics can help find affordable microchipping options.

Registration

It is crucial to register your pet’s microchip information in a database so that your contact details are associated with your pet’s unique microchip number. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), microchips are useless unless the microchip number is paired with owner contact information in a registry database [1].

When a shelter or veterinarian scans a microchipped pet, they can access the owner’s name, phone number, and address by searching the microchip number in the registry database. This allows the shelter or vet to contact the owner if a lost pet is found. Unregistered microchips cannot be traced back to the owner.

Registration is fast, easy, and often free. Pet microchips can be registered online or by phone with major registry databases like 24PetWatch, AKC Reunite, and HomeAgain. Owners simply provide their contact details to associate with the pet’s microchip number [2]. Keeping registration information up-to-date is crucial if you move or change phone numbers.

Benefits

Microchipping provides numerous benefits that can help lost dogs get home. According to a study by The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the return-to-owner rate for microchipped dogs is 2.5 times higher than for dogs without microchips (Source). When a lost dog ends up at an animal shelter or veterinary clinic, staff can scan the microchip to identify the owner’s contact information and reunite the pet with its family.

Microchips give lost dogs the best chance of making it home. An estimated 10 million pets are lost each year in the U.S. alone. Most shelters scan for microchips on intake and make immediate efforts to contact the owner. According to the American Humane Association, microchipped pets are returned home in less than 3 days on average, compared to non-chipped pets who average 7 days or more. The quicker reunion reduces stress on the pet and owner.

Microchips provide a permanent form of identification if collar tags fall off. They also enable pets to be reunited with owners even if lost a great distance from home. Microchipping lost dogs is a simple yet highly effective way to improve the odds they make it back to their families.

Conclusion

In summary, while there are some shared responsibilities, the main responsibility for microchipping a dog lies with the owner. Owners are legally required to microchip their dogs in many areas, and they reap the most benefits from having their pet microchipped, including being reunited if their dog gets lost or stolen. Veterinarians play a key role in implanting the microchips and providing guidance to owners. Breeders may microchip puppies before sale, but have limited responsibilities afterwards. Shelters and rescues often microchip dogs in their care to help get them returned home if they go missing once adopted. Overall, microchipping is an important way to identify and protect dogs, with owners bearing the greatest responsibility for ensuring their pets are chipped.

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