Simplifying Microchips: Educate Adopters, Track Down Chips, and Boost Redemptions
Aimee Gilbreath, Executive Director, Found Animals Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org
Erin Nelson, Microchip Program Director, Found Animals Foundation, email@example.com
There is a lost pet crisis.
Of the 165 million pets in the United States, every year approximately 3% go missing. That’s 4.5 million pets lost each
year, and approximately 1 million are never returned to their families. How many lost pets are entering your shelter?
Nearly one million lost pets are entering shelters each year causing unnecessary strain on our already overburdened
system. By maximizing pet identification technology, specifically microchipping and registering pets, your shelter can
increase return-to-owner rates and live outcomes while decreasing length of stay in your facility.
Cats are at highest risk when lost since 25% are never returned to owner versus 7% of dogs. Approximately 650,000
cats and 165,000 dogs are forever lost each year (based on data from a study by Emily Weiss, Margaret Slater, and
The same study found that of pets lost, 56% of cats and 11% of dogs did not have any form of identification. The
study also revealed that only 15% of cats and 24% of dogs were microchipped. This statistic is affected by whether
local shelters are microchipping pets at the time of adoption.
Tags and external identification are the most effective form of identification in reuniting lost pets with their families;
however microchips are the only permanent form of identification.
Unfortunately, the microchip industry in the United States is confusing and fragmented. The market is cluttered with
multiple microchip frequencies, scanners that do not read all microchips, and pet owners who do not know that
microchips must be registered and contact information must be kept current. All of these factors have limited the
effectiveness of microchip retrieval process. There is a solution to the microchip madness.
What can you do to make a difference?
Demand ISO microchips from your microchip supplier (134.2kHz frequency)
Register all microchips and educate your adopters to keep contact information updated
Use only universal scanners that read all three U.S. frequencies (125, 128, and 134.2kHz)
Effectively increase return-to-owner rates using universal microchip lookup tools
Demand ISO Microchips
ISO (International Standards Organization) microchips are the worldwide standard and are recommended by AVMA,
CVMA, AAHA, ASPCA, and HSUS. Until we have one frequency of microchip, scanners will continue to be more
expensive and less reliable than necessary. Talk to your microchip supplier and ensure they are providing you with
ISO microchips (134.2kHz frequency). All microchip suppliers have the ability to supply you with ISO microchips even
though they choose not to in the United States.
Register All Microchips and Educate Adopters
Without registration, microchips are useless. Many shelters throughout the United States are microchipping pets but
not all are ensuring that the microchips are registered. Work with your microchip supplier to ensure that all
microchips are registered at the time of adoption or implantation.
It is essential to educate pet owners on the importance of microchip registration. Most pet owners know their pet is
microchipped, however very few know if their pet’s microchip is registered – or that a microchip should be registered
in the first place. Help your adopters understand what a microchip is, tell them where their pet’s microchip is
registered and how they can update their information and add emergency contacts.
The cost of registration and updates is a barrier to keeping microchip registration current. Find a registry that
provides a free nationwide service where humane organizations and pet owners can register and update any brand of
microchip at no additional cost for the life of the pet.
Use Only Universal Scanners
If you are not using universal scanners, you are missing microchips. Because the United States currently has multiple
frequencies of microchip in circulation, scanners must be universal.
All microchip suppliers can provide universal scanners that read all three microchip frequencies, but some suppliers
still sell single-frequency or limited-frequency scanners. Until the United States is using one microchip frequency for
all pets, universal scanners are essential. Unsure of whether or not your scanners are universal? Email
firstname.lastname@example.org for a free test kit.
Effectively Increase Return-to-Owner Rates
Any brand of microchip can be registered in any microchip registry. By only contacting the manufacturer of a lost
pet’s microchip, you may be missing microchip registrations and current pet owner information.
AAHA developed a free online lookup tool that makes it easy to check multiple registries for the most current
microchip registration, www.petmicrochiplookup.org Always check this site to determine where a microchip is
registered and see which registration is most current. From there, you can contact the appropriate registry for pet
owner contact information. Some microchip companies refuse to participate; insist that your provider does.
Found Animals provides a free pet owner alert system that decreases the amount of time spent calling microchip
manufactures and pet owners, reunites lost pets with their families sooner, and decreases the length of stay in your
shelters. At no cost, shelters can automatically contact pet owners through text, email and phone for any microchip
registered with Found Animals, microchipregistry.foundanimals.org.
Improve Shelter Outcomes
By providing all pets with permanent identification and appropriately registering and updating microchips, your
shelter will realize increased return-to-owner rates and decreased length of stay. Be a part of the change. Stop the
microchip madness. Microchip, register, and educate your adopters.
Weiss E, Slater M, Lord L. Frequency of Lost Dogs and Cats in the United States and the Methods Used to Locate Them. Animals.