Published: Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 6:44 p.m.
Members of the nonprofit Shoals Pets Are Worth Saving (PAWS) organization still are fostering close to 20 kittens and cats displaced during the storms. The overabundance of cats is so great, PAWS President Terri Whalen said, the organization is considering a special feline adoption clinic in the fall.
And as with all animals PAWS works with, they will come implanted with microchips, tiny transponders that carry an identification number that can help reunite lost pets and owners.
“There are situations that even with the greatest of pet owners things can happen,” Whalen said. “The microchip is at least one way where you know your animal is likely to be found and reunited with you.”
In addition to avoiding the heartbreak of lost pets, some lawmakers believe microchips can save money by cutting costs at shelters where lost cats and dogs are cared for and sometimes euthanized. California lawmakers will vote later this summer on a bill requiring microchips in every dog or cat adopted or claimed from a shelter. If passed, the measure, introduced by state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, would be the first of its kind enacted in the U.S., according to Sharon Curtis Granskog, spokeswoman for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The size of a grain of rice, a microchip is a radio frequency identification device with a unique number. It does not have a battery and is considered inert, but it does have a capacitor, which stores an electrical charge. The chip is injected into the tissue between an animal’s shoulder blades.
Pet owners must register their pets through the particular chip brand they purchased. When an animal is scanned for a chip, the registration number and the phone number for the registry appear, and the shelter or clinic can contact the registry to receive the owner’s information.
Whalen is a proponent of microchips. Eight of her nine dogs have one, the exception being elderly and least likely to stray from the house. PAWS has so far teamed with Petco and area Pet Depots for three microchip clinics, where about 130 pet owners had their animals implanted for a reduced fee.
Numerous veterinary clinics throughout the Shoals also provide microchipping services. So far this year, Helton Plaza Veterinary Hospital in Florence has implanted nine animals — a low number as far as the total pets the clinic sees, Veterinary Technician Dana Fowler said, but still an increase for the service.
“We have seen an increase in it than what it used to be in years past,” Fowler said. “We recommend it in case they get lost and end up at another shelter or another clinic.”
Education on the topic is just as important for non-pet owners, Whalen said.
“The one disadvantage of a microchip is that if someone doesn’t think to scan (pets) for it, it’s useless,” Whalen said.
Most vets have universal scanners that can detect microchips from various brands, she said, adding that if someone finds a lost animal without a tag, having them scanned is a good place to start when looking for the owner. And don’t just scan between the shoulder blades, she said: the chips can migrate in an animal’s body. The chips will not, however, become lost in an animal, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Microchips do have critics, many citing worries that the chips can cause cancer or tumors. In recent interviews with four veterinarians conducted by the AP, none would guarantee that a microchip could never cause cancer, but they stressed that problems are unlikely when chips are inserted properly.
Natural disasters don’t happen every day, but accidents do. A child can leave the front door open too long and let a dog escape, for example, and the dog may lose its collar.
“This is really a fail-safe way of ensuring that your contact information is going to be traveling with the animal,” Whalen said. “That’s where the importance of getting the shelters and individuals be sure to scan it comes in.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Sarah Carlson can be reached at 256-740-5722 or sarah.carlson@TimesDaily.com.
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