How Tiny Chips Save Lives

microchipping is quick, easy, and invaluable if fido runs away

Sarah Hewitt, photos by Andrea Paulseth

At the Eau Claire County Humane Association, we microchip and register every single cat and dog that gets adopted. We also scan every single stray cat and dog that comes in with a microchip scanner, hoping to find some sort of link to an owner. This whole process has become second nature to all of us here, and it amazes me how little the public knows about microchips: how they work, what they do, and even that you can, in fact, microchip a cat. Considering how few stray cats even have a microchip to find, this should really not be surprising at all. Nonetheless, this information needs to get out there: Microchipping saves lives. Here’s why this is more important than ever.

Recently, the state of Wisconsin reduced the legal stray hold from seven days to four. This means that animal groups are required to hold stray animals for four days before evaluating them and deciding if they will be put up for adoption, fostered, or in some cases, humanely euthanized. This also means that owners who previously had seven days to locate their animal in a shelter now have four. That may seem like plenty of time, but it can take animal owners a shocking number of days before coming to a shelter in search of their missing pets.

This is where microchips come in. As I stated earlier, we scan every lost animal on its way in the door, usually more than once or by more than one employee to avoid missing a chip. If one is found, the microchip company is contacted immediately. They pull up the contact information they have for the owner, and we call the owner to let them know Rover is here and ready to come home. No hoping someone will come looking, no lost pet waiting in a kennel for days, no need to even realize the pet is out: Sometimes we’re the first to know the Rex has dug a hole under the fence, or that Fluffy found a way out the bathroom window. So many stressors and fees are reduced because you took 10 minutes and $25 to microchip your pet just one time.

Having said that, a microchip is only as good as the information it carries, so keeping it up to date through moves and new phone numbers is as important as getting it in the first place. There’s nothing more disappointing than finding a chip just to learn that the phone number is disconnected and the address is three states away. We cannot stress this enough: Be sure you have the correct information with your microchip company. If your pet goes missing, call them immediately to let them know and ensure they have a current phone number at the very least.

There’s a lot we can do to make our lives easier as pet owners. A one-time microchip is one of the least expensive options, both in terms of financial cost and time investment. There is literally no downside, so do yourself and your pet a favor: Get them chipped and check the info today.

Sarah Hewitt is a long-time animal shelter employee, dedicated humane officer, and lifelong animal advocate. She wants everyone to know that October is National Adopt A Shelter Dog Month, and that choosing to adopt is a literal lifesaver.