|To help return a lost pet, make sure it is microchipped.|
But also make sure you keep its registration updated.
Microchips allow animal control and other organizations to scan your pet and get your information from it. But note: the information isn't stored in the chip, its just an ID that is used to get information from a database elsewhere. So make sure you keep the registration up to date, and allow access to your information, to ensure quick identification and return.
The main purpose of a microchip, a small chip (about the size of a grain of rice) inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades of the dog or cat, is scanned by an organization that receives the animal (animal control, shelter, welfare agency, etc.) which gives them your contact information. But, it also shows ownership. Maybe your pet isn't lost, it's been stolen. A collar and tag can be easily taken off, a chip is there to stay and your registered contact info will help prove the pet is yours.
Of course all this is dependent on having correct information registered and the ability for agencies to access that information, so here is what you should do:
First, of course:
Get your pet microchipped. Depending how you get your pet, in many cases microchipping will be part of the adoption process, but while its important to get it, do a little research about the chip brand and process and decide for yourself to have them do or take yourself to somewhere you can get one with the brand you want. Lost Dogs of America, a group of volunteers who provide no cost resources to the owners of lost dogs to increase the chances of locating and being successfully reunited with their dog, has plenty of great information on their website specifically on chips. I encourage you to read it as a great resource on the different brands and the entire process. In short, the recommend Datamars/PetLink, HomeAgain, AKC Reunite, AVID, & 24 PetWatch.
Register the chip. Don't assume the organization you adopt from is registering your chip either. Chips are only as good as the info available on them. Karen Sparapani, executive director of MADACC (Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Comission says "We see so many that come from rescues or vet clinics that are not registered because an owner assumed it was already done for them. Make sure your chip is working for you and ensuring your animal will get home to you!"
Allow access to your information. I get it, you want to keep your data private. So you may not give out all your info, or you may see a box checked 'keep private' on your chip form and check it wanting to stay off lists. But the purpose of giving the info in the first place is for it to be used - so make sure you ARE allowing access to your info and that it's up to date.
Keep your information correct. Provide a cell phone, usually the fastest way to get hold of you wherever you are. If you move update your information. At least now with cell phones people usually keep their number, but you may change that for various reasons.
Contact your local shelter. Give your information to your local shelter(s) as well. If you move to a different area, remember to contact your new local shelter and give them your information.
Wait? I gave my information to the chip company, why should I also give to my local animal control/welfare agency? There are numerous reasons.
Even though you do the right thing and have your pet microchipped, some chip companies will not give out the owner information to shelters or animal control agencies that call the company. This may be company policy, or that you said not to give it out. Some chip companies only allow a finder to contact them and they say they will contact the owner. Animal control agencies are skeptical how often this is followed. They have to just hope the chip company is contacting the owner on their behalf, but how can they be sure?
Also, some chip companies offer owners the ability to opt into a "Private" group. Thinking this means opting out of telemarketing and email lists, instead the "Private" designation on their microchip may unknowingly to the owner prevent a shelter or animal control from getting your contact info. Seeing as that is the purpose of the chip, this designation seems inappropriate to even offer especially if its not explained well what it will do.
Next problem, the finder or the company may try to contact you but can't reach you due to incomplete or incorrect information. Many chip companies will charge you to make changes or update info, but its an investment you made and should keep it up to date. Its understandable if you may not have the means to update it depending on their fee, if that is the case, and regardless, call your local animal control/shelter and give them your microchip number and contact info. This is a great step to do anyway as it will prevent the need for the agency to even call the chip company (though they may do so to confirm owner information for their records.) Some also require an annual fee to keep your information accessible, and this often isn't clear.
Sparapani reminds us "if they adopted the dog or cat from a shelter, they should also keep updated contact info there as many chips can be traced to the implant facility and those organizations will also not charge to have current info in their database."
If your animal is not chipped, get it done. Tags get lost, especially if you have a desirable animal that a finder may want to keep for any number of reasons, and a registered chip will prove ownership. If your animal is chipped - contact your chip company today and make sure your account is not marked private and make sure your contact info is up to date. Finally, add a cell phone number if you have not done so already.