New law requires microchip scanning

By DeeAnna Haney | Jan 26, 2014
Animal Services Officer Frank Goodson scans shelter newcomer "Snoop" for a microchip.

Lost pets now may have a better chance of finding their way home thanks to a new state law.

Prior to the beginning of this year, animal control officers were not required to scan animals for microchips when they were picked up or brought to the shelter. But Senate Bill 626, which went into effect Jan. 1, makes it illegal for officers not to.

Though it was never required until now, scanning for microchips has been routine at the Haywood County Animal Shelter for at least the past six years said Jean Hazzard, director of animal services.

The department has five microchip scanners, one in each of their vehicles and two that stay at the shelter. All of the scanners were given to the shelter, three from a local veterinarian and two from microchip company Home Again.

"Animals are scanned upon entry to the building and are re-scanned before euthanasia," Hazzard said.

They are re-scanned to make sure the microchip was not overlooked, because sometimes the chips migrate inside the animal's body, she said.

On Wednesday, Animal Services Officer Frank Goodson used a scanner to see if Snoop, a 3-year-old pit bull that he picked up that morning, was equipped with a microchip. He waved the handheld scanner behind the dog's neck and shoulders and across his body, not detecting a microchip.

Of the several dogs in the kennels at the shelter that day, none of them had been microchipped by their owners, which is usually the case, Goodson said.

According to Haywood County ordinance, all dogs and cats must have some form of identification — collar, rabies tag or microchip.

"A microchip is something that cannot be lost or removed, so that's why we recommend it," Hazzard said.

However, of the few that are microchipped, animal services officers find that about 40 percent of them do not have updated information or are not registered with the microchip company, making it nearly impossible to track down the owner.

That's why inserting a microchip is only the first step. Next, the pet owner must remember to register the animal with the microchip company and keep the registration up-to-date any time the person moves to a new home.

"The key thing is to register that chip because it's frustrating to see that an animal has a microchip that is clean and taken care of but we can't track the owner," Hazzard said.

Also, if you rehome your animal, let that person know that it has a microchip so they can contact the company and update the information, Hazzard said.

If a microchip is detected, an officer will call the company where the microchip is registered and get the contact information for the animal's owner.

There have been many happy tales of owners who used a microchip correctly. In one case, Animal Services Officer Leyah Pilkington recalled bringing in an orange domestic, scraggly shorthaired cat.

After scanning the cat, she was happily surprised to find its owner had microchipped it and had already registered that the cat had been missing for four months. The owner was identified and came in to redeem the cat shortly thereafter.

Haywood Spay/Neuter typically holds a microchip clinic each spring and fall, which costs $15. During the clinic, a veterinarian inserts microchips provided by Home Again. For information, call 828-452-1329.