Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When Rover Goes Missing

We've all been drilled in this modern day to microchip our pets so it's easier to find them if they should go missing.  Today, with the ulterior motive of finding out how to update the contact information, I asked the vet how they work.  And he was gracious enough to spend 20 minutes or so educating me and checking Lightning, Jack and Gizmo for chips.

Jack doesn't have one.  Or the one that the folks at Banfield inserted in his scruff is faulty and doesn't read.  No... I won't go on another rant about just how much I hate them.  I do hate them!  I'm just sparing you the rant about it.  Lightning and Gizmo, and Thunder I presume though he wasn't with us to check, have chips made and/or maintained by a company called Home Again.  I don't have the other names, but he said they are one of several companies to offer this service.

What got me thinking about this was the bill I got awhile back for Gizmo's chip.

Home Again wants $18.97 each year.  That made me worry that they could somehow 'turn off' the chip so he couldn't be scanned at a vet or shelter were he to be picked up loose somewhere...  That's kind of what the bill led me to believe and it made me a little nervous.  I thought it was outrageous!  Better to look dumb and be sure than end up with a problem down the road, so I asked about it.

The vet explained the yearly fee is for their 'location service.'  In a nutshell, when your pet goes missing you alert them and send them a recent picture so they can prepare fliers for you to print and post in your neighborhood and they fax the information to area vets and shelters.  I have a computer and the minimal skills needed to make a flier and I can place a few phone calls...  He agreed that the yearly fee is pretty much a rip off.  He also said that 5 times more lost pets are reunited with their families because of Facebook postings than those fliers.  Once the chip is there, it's there.  You may, depending on the brand, have to pay to register it and, again depending on the brand, update your contact information.  But unless you move or change phone numbers, the location service is a needless extra charge and not something you have to subscribe to in order for the chip to be active.

If you don't update your information, the chip will point the organization searching for you to claim your lost pet to the vet who originally purchased it and hopefully they will be able to reach you.  The biggest problem with this is if your pet is hurt at night or on a weekend while out on his (or her?) adventure and they can't reach the vet's office.  Most shelters will NOT provide even basic life saving care while you are being sought...

So tonight I'm updating the address and phone number on their microchips.  And 2 years down the road trying to register Thunder's and Lightning's chips because, even though Banfield was paid for that, it wasn't done.  Yay.  And yay, again, Jack will have to be chipped when I scrape up another $40 for it.

In the vets office, he brought out the reader to show me how it worked. It's kind of similar to and used like the 'wand' that TSA probes you with at the airport and when it goes over the microchip it beeps and displays an alphanumeric code in the display window.  That code, much like a barcode, is the identifying information linking you to your pet in their database.  The vet or shelter staff can enter it in to the website and get an owner's contact information and pretty soon witness a happy reunion.

And that, my friends, is what I learned about microchips today.

And no... I'm not happy that I have to come up with $100 to get everyone chipped with the correct information.  It's another place where it feels like I'm needlessly hemorrhaging money that I don't have but they kind of have me over a barrell.  Now that I know that Home Again is so fee oriented I will specifically request that they not be used on any future pet.

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