Millions of pets are lost each year; one in three pets will be lost at some point in their life.  


Approximately 15 percent of dogs and 2 percent of cats without identification go back to their families. Microchipped lost dogs are more than twice as likely to be reunited with their families than dogs without microchips; cats with microchips are 24 times more likely to go home. 

Clearly, identification is crucial to getting lost pets back where they belong. While name tags provide immediate access to the owners’ information, tags can become lost or illegible over time. Microchips offer an additional method of providing that information. 

What is a pet microchip? 

The microchip is a small (about the size of a grain of rice) transponder that carries an identification number. It is injected under the pet’s skin, between the shoulder blades – not much different than a distemper vaccination. It operates via radio frequency; a scanner is waved over the pet to read the number. It is a permanent form of ID that doesn’t need to be repeated and can’t get lost. 

Getting the microchip is the first step. The next step is to register – often for free - with the manufacturer (ideally) and/or another microchip database. Not registering is akin to having a driver’s license but it being on your desk when you are trying to go through security screening at the airport – of limited value at the time. Registration assures that your contact information is linked to your pet’s ID number. Information should be updated any time your details (phone number, email address, etc.) change. In nearly half of the cases of lost pets with chips whose owners were not found it was because the owners didn’t register or didn’t update their information.  

How is a pet reunited with its family? 

If a lost pet with a microchip is taken to an animal shelter, veterinary hospital, or police station, they will contact the manufacturer or search for the ID number in a national database. If the owner has registered with a database, they can be contacted immediately and the pet has the chance to go home quickly. If the owner has not registered, the manufacturer will tell the caller which veterinarian or animal shelter the microchip was sold to; the caller will then need to contact that provider to get the information about the pet that received the chip and the owner. This can delay reunification (if the pet is found outside of business hours, for instance).   

Other things to know 

A microchip is not GPS. It cannot detect an animal’s location and it cannot be used to track an animal’s movements. It is only a form of identification. 

The microchip cannot be “hacked” remotely to get the ID number or your information. 

The government cannot get information about you or your pet through the microchip, other than if your lost pet is taken to a municipal animal control center and the chip is traced in order to return your pet to you.  

Microchipping is often a low-cost service provided by veterinarians. The Anti-Cruelty Society provides free microchipping through the Spay/Neuter Clinic at the time of surgery and at Wellness Fairs held throughout the year.