Late last week, The Los Angeles Times reported that a California law was on its way to being approved that would require mandatory identifying microchips for dogs and cats adopted or reclaimed from shelters. The goal of Senate Bill 702 is to drastically cut down on the number of lost pets stranded in shelters each year, but is there any downside?
Several months ago, I decided to tag my own dog with a microchip for his own safety. According to my vet, the HomeAgain device he implanted contains a radio transmitter and a tiny computer with an ID number; a microchip scanner passed over the dog’s shoulders emits a low radio frequency that picks up your pet’s unique ID number. The number is kept in a database along with the owner’s contact information. HomeAgain says it reunites 10,000 pets with their owners each month.
The implants don’t have GPS capability, nor do they use satellite technology. They’ll only help if your dog is actually found. Still, I reasoned that with his microchip, my dog would still have a better chance of reuniting with me than, say, the thousands of chip-free bags that land in Alabama’s Unclaimed Baggage Center each year.
But as nice as microchipping sounds, it has its share of detractors. According to Antichips.com, a website run by privacy advocate Katherine Albrecht that’s devoted to protesting RFID microchips (in people and pets), they’re responsible for cancer in lab animals and a couple of dogs. More Orwellian parts of the site allege things like a coming age of governments implanting illegal immigrants, medical insurers imposing penalties on customers that don’t submit to an implant and business owners making it a condition of employment.
I feel like I made a responsible decision by exposing him to the marginally small health risk of a microchip to offset the greater risk (at least that I perceived) of travel. Do you think pet owners should be allowed to weigh the risks themselves, or is it local government’s responsibility? Weigh in here.
(A portion of this story was previously published as “Should You Microchip Your Dog?” on The Responsibility Project on 1/25/11)