Microchipping under the microscope

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - In the last few months, two dogs got away from a local kennel. Both owners kept their microchip ID registry information up to date...one dog is still missing, the other was found, but not because of the microchip. Still, microchipping has a high success rate.

Pet microchipping has become more popular in recent years. Our camera rolled as "Fiona", at just eight weeks old, went through the process at the Richmond SPCA before she was spayed.

Licensed Vet Tech, Heather Johnson showed us how it's done. "First checking to see if she has a microchip in her-- no tag found."

Johnson then scans the implant to match the number on Fiona's records. "And they match," she said.

Then in one fell swoop, the chip is inserted between the pup's shoulder blades.

But in recent weeks, we've told you the horror story of one pet owner who put her dog through the same process but remains heartbroken. Tracy Cohn has been waiting since April 15th to hear some good news about her dog Bailey.

"I haven't found her," Tracy said.

We first told you about Bailey when Cohn called 12 to tell us Four Paws Pet Resort on North Hamilton lost her dog. The doggie daycare owner says "Bailey" jumped a six foot privacy fence.

"I'm not giving up but I am discouraged," she said.

But Robin Starr with the Richmond SPCA says microchipping coupled with dog tags can be a pet saver.

"That chip remains there for the rest of that pet's life," Starr said.

Not just dogs, but cats too.

"A lot of people who have cats don't get the microchip," she added.

But there's one important caveat.

"Of course it is crucially important both to microchip the pet and keep information up to date," Starr said. "We take all the information from them in order to register that pet."

Henrico Animal Control says more than 50% of people who get their pet's microchipped don't register them and half don't update their addresses and phone numbers when they move. Animal control offices in Richmond, Chesterfield and Henrico scan strays for chips. In Chesterfield, all dogs are chipped during adoption. Richmond doesn't offer the service. But tells us it is in the works. Henrico doesn't either, but says most people turn to their vet or the Richmond SPCA.

"Because of all the microchipping that has happened in Richmond since we've been having these clinics the rate of return of pets to their owners has tripled in last few years," Starr said.

Starr says the return to owner success rate is 80% with the microchip service they use. Since 2009, Richmond Animal Control has been able to reunite nearly 60 dogs and cats with their owners.

As Cohn holds on to hope --- she doesn't let her other dog Grizzly out of sight. He also has an ID chip.

"I don't want to go through those feelings again and I don't want him to get lost or anything," she said. "I'm really more protective of him since Bailey."

The Richmond SPCA offers microchipping for $20. It costs about $13 a year to renew your pet's registry.

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