However, at our local shelter around 15% of the dogs with microchips have out-of-date information.
On dog forums, some workers estimate that up to one-quarter of the dogs’ owners cannot be located from the information on the chip.
Shelter workers and volunteers try to do the detective work, but it is time consuming and frustrating to find someone when you have incorrect contact information.
One problem is that people fail to register their dog when they first get one, either through laziness or ignorance. Some people think the chip is a GPS tracking device and call the shelter in a panic wanting to know the location of their missing dog.
The microchip, about the size of a grain of rice, is implanted under the dog’s skin where it can be read by a scanner at a shelter or veterinarian’s office. But the chip contains only a number which is meaningless without corresponding contact information on the database of the microchip company. AVID and HomeAgain are the largest sellers of microchips.
Another reason for the incorrect information is that people move a lot and sometimes in the stress of moving they forget to update the chip. However, moving is equally stressful for dogs and this is a time when many go missing. It might be wise during this time to change to temporary contact information of a friend or relative until the move is completed.
We have read many stories of people finding their beloved dogs after months or even years, often hundreds miles from home, thanks to their microchips.
Having a dog microchipped also should give legal protection to an owner when there is a question of custody. I've posted several stories about people finding a dog and refusing to return it to the original owner. Without a microchip, these cases have to be solved in court.
I wrote "should give legal protection" because that is usually the case. Unfortunately not always.
An assistant prosecutor in Brooklyn was notified by the microchip company that the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), a New York based organization, had her stolen dog. Before she could pick up the dog, the shelter gave her away and refused to identify the people.
A widow in England with young children was told that even though she had the dog microchipped, she would have to hire a lawyer and go to court to get her stolen purebred Shar Pei puppy back from the people who had bought her in good faith.
If this is the law in England, it needs to be seriously reviewed.