Ten million pets are lost or stolen each year in this country. That's why the Animal Humane Society recommends microchipping your four-legged friends. The tiny devices contain information that should give someone who finds your pet a way to contact you. But we found the system has a problem.
That problem almost left Moss, the cat, an orphan. He got out of his south Minneapolis home and somehow made his way to Maple Grove. Along the way he was burned on his chest area, and two legs. No one knows how he was injured. A gas station worker saw him and called police. Police scanned his micro chip but could not find his owners' contact information through the database service called. The local animal shelter workers also came up with a "dead end" when they checked his chip number.
And it might have been the end of Moss also if shelter workers would not have called an animal rescue to help out. "He would have been euthanized, maybe if he had not gotten out of the system," said Claudia Beckman with Pets in Crisis. It was obvious that Moss must have a home somewhere because he had clean ears and was neutered. Beckman and her sister, Colleen Jefferson, took him to a veterinarian they work with. She cleaned and bandaged his painful wounds and gave him medicine to heal.
Then the sisters went on a mission to find his owner, which turned out to be Anna Bussie. She and her family spent two weeks desperately searching for the cat.
They put up signs around the neighborhood and even called the micro chip company where Moss was currently registered to see if anyone had reported finding him. Her info at the registry was all current.
Beckman and her sister Colleen Jefferson took two days and spent hours on the phone and online to find Bussie. They thought it was too long and set out to see if it was a common problem. They took their universal scanner and randomly scanned animals with their owners' permission, of course.
Since mid April they have checked 104 pets. In only four cases were they able to scan the chip number, make just one phone call and find the owner's contact information. The other one hundred left them on a logistical leash The sisters had to make multiple calls, visit multiple websites.
It turns out because there are many microchip makers and so many data bases which store the id numbers it can be hard to figure out which database has the contact information you are looking for.
It'd be a lot easier if there was just one pet registry. Bill Stephenson from St. Paul Animal Control agrees. He says that would save his staff time from making repeated calls to find an owner.
It's not only those that work with animals that would like this, one industry insider also agrees. Keith Myhre runs the Info Pet registry (http://www.infopet.biz) based in Burnsville.
With many of the current registries collecting fees and advertising for their services there may be a reluctance to consolidate into just one database. "The reality is we live in a business where it comes down to making money," said Myhre, President of the company.
Under the current system, about 73 percent of lost pets with microchips are reunited with their owners. According to shelter workers, the others are usually turned over to rescue groups. But those pets eventually get adopted out and never to see their previous owners again.
If your pet has a microchip:
It's a good idea to register the ID number on a couple of databases. There are registries out there that do not charge for their services, other's charge minimum lifetime fees.
And make sure your contact information is kept current. After reading this, you should check your current registration info.
Add a trusted second contact for the times you can't be reached.
All the shelter workers and experts we talked with strongly recommended chipped animals always wear a name tag on a collar. And yes, this includes indoor cats.
One of the closest tools to a unified site is a database developed by the American Animal Hospital Association.
About three years ago, the group created what is known as the AAHA look up tool (http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org). Industry insiders call it the closest thing to a unified data base.
Type in a microchip number and the registry lists the company and phone number it belongs to. The trouble is there are still registries not tied in with AAHA and that continues to force searchers to play the guessing game with a long list of companies that come up with some chip ID checks.