Vet-tech industry veteran and general pet-lover, Melissa Johnston recently shared some information on NextDoor about how exactly microchips in pets work (and more importantly, when they don’t). In light of what seems to be a slew of lost pet’s around the borough, she’s graciously let me share her wisdom here as well. If you are a pet owner, take a look and in the meantime please keep your eyes out for all the lost pets.

There are entirely too many dogs going missing in this area lately and it’s upsetting me. So I want to spread some helpful information about microchips that many people don’t seem to know. Please share. 

  1. There is no such thing as a GPS microchip. They cannot be used to track the physical location of a missing pet. 
  2. The chip is completely useless if you don’t register it with your own up-to-date contact info. You HAVE to register it yourself AND you have to update your info if you move or change your phone number. You can not assume that the vet does any of this for you because most of them don’t. And even if they told you they did, you still need to personally verify that everything is accurate because people make mistakes. Do that here, it’s free.
  3. While you’re verifying, you also might want to verify that the chip number that was given to you on paper actually matches the number that comes up when the dog is scanned. I’ve seen people come into where I work with incorrect numbers given to them by a shelter or breeder. The numbers likely accidentally mixed up with one of the other dogs they had chipped that day. If their dog had gone missing they would have been screwed. Any vet or shelter will scan your dog for free so that you can easily make sure that the number you have on paper matches the number that’s actually in your dog. 

“Think of the chip as an internal permanent dog tag that you can keep up to date if your contact info changes.”

4. The way microchips work is: If a person finds a random stray dog that’s running around loose with no ID on the collar they can take it somewhere to have it scanned for a chip and hope to god that if it has one and it’s registered with accurate information. If it is, then the chip company will notify the owner that the pet has been found. They don’t usually give out the owners personal contact info to complete strangers (that I know of). Many people believe that you need to pay a monthly fee with some companies like Home Again in order to keep your pet registered. This is not true. Once you get the chip set up with your info it is PERMANENT. That monthly fee that they ask for is for additional supplementary features and services. You can also choose to use any number of FREE pet registries as backup like the one I provided the link for earlier. 

5. Not all vets will scan each and every new patient that comes in for an exam. They should, but they don’t. And even if they did there is no way for them to know whether or not any particular dog that comes in is stolen or was missing unless the person who brought them in specifically mentions the fact that they found them as a stray and are hoping to find the owner. This means that if someone has stolen your dog, the chip still may not help you recover it unless the person who stole it gets the chip number from the vet and then tries to re-register it with their own information. If the person who stole your dog has access to your email, they could then successfully re-register the dog in their own name. Trust no one. 

6. Think of the chip as an internal permanent dog tag that you can keep up to date if your contact info changes. That’s all it really is. It is a non-removable safety-net ID for animals who slip out of their collars and get lost without a visible tangible ID.


Here are some other random tips that nobody asked for but I wanted to mention anyway:

  1. GPS collars do exist and they can absolutely be lifesavers as long as they are charged, the dog is actually wearing it and didn’t slip out of the collar that it’s placed on, and you are in an area with good coverage for the service provider that the individual collar is using. GPS collars come in many different varieties with many different options and features. The most important tip that I can give for using them is never attach your leash to the same collar or harness that the GPS is on. It should be completely separate from the leash so they can’t pull out of it. 
  2. Harnesses are harder for dogs to wiggle themselves out of than collars are but they aren’t foolproof.
  3. I don’t care how secure your yard seems to you, it’s never a good idea to let any dog outside unsupervised. Especially not in a well-populated area. People steal dogs. It happens and it’s the worst thing I can even imagine. Go out there with them and or watch them through a window. 
  4. Hawks, owls, foxes and raccoons will absolutely eat very tiny dogs. It’s rare, but it certainly does happen. Don’t let it. 
  5. Even the most loving, caring and responsible person could accidentally lose their dog despite taking every precaution. Example: I was walking my dog out and about one sunny day when the metal part of the leash that connects to the collar literally broke in half for no discernible reason. It wasn’t rusty or old, the dog wasn’t pulling or anything. It was just a completely unexpected thing. Nothing bad happened, but it totally could have and there would be nothing I could do if my not-quite-trained-yet puppy had decided to take off. 
  6. If your dog does go missing, post about it immediately. People like me will actually go out there and look for them. I personally do that every single time I see lost dog posts in my walkable area and I always will. I hope you do the same.

As a final note, the dog you see featured here in the picture is Jellybean Johnston (aka Beanie) of East Washington street. He is not missing. At all. He is sitting right here next to me watching Steve Irwin on TV so don’t worry, I only used his picture to grab attention.

Thank you, Melissa!

P.S. the borough’s walking tour and 15-ways to kill an hour in West Chester.

P.P.S don’t forget to follow the blog and if you have story ideas or things you want to know, please shoot me a note.

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