LazyPaw Animal Hospitals believes in microchipping, but when it comes to finding a lost pet, a microchip isn’t a magic wand. In fact, to make microchips as effective as possible, we actually recommend an additional tag that lists microchip numbers, the microchip company you are registered with, and their phone number.
Microchips are not tracking devices or GPS beacons that immediately reveal your pet’s precise location. They are tiny transponders embedded under the skin that serve as permanent identification. When a microchip scanner passes over the animal, the microchip gets enough power from the scanner to broadcast the chip’s ID number. Because chips cannot be removed, fall off, or become difficult to read, they are a great form of identification.
Although microchips are fantastic and we highly recommend them for every pet, they are not a perfect means of identification if your pet gets lost.
Invisible microchips don’t help strangers realize your pet is lost. Collars do!
An animal wandering without a collar and tag is more likely to look like just another stray, so people are less likely to instantly realize the animal is a pet who needs help. Humans have no way of knowing whether an animal has a microchip, so chips aren’t good visual markers that an animal is a pet wandering away from home.
Microchips have to be scanned by a veterinarian.
Even if someone tries to help your animal, they would have to take the animal to their local animal hospital or vet clinic to check for a microchip. If you saw a stray animal, what would you be more likely to do: Take a trip all the way to the vet clinic even if the animal might just be a homeless stray, or quickly realize a pet is lost because they are wearing a collar and then dial the phone number on their ID tag?
But what about stories of pets returning home years later thanks to a microchip?
Microchips have grabbed headline attention thanks to amazing stories of pets finding their original families years after they went missing, such as this one about Willow, the Arizona cat who left home only to turn up five years later in Manhattan. Some animals manage to travel thousands of miles before their microchips are scanned, and it’s incredible when they are returned. However, those same missing animals would likely have been home within a day or two if they had just been wearing ID tags.