Microchipping was introduced 20 years ago as a tamper-proof way of identifying pets. For many years, it was only requested by the most dedicated owners, but it's recently become standard practice.
Microchipping has been a requirement for all pedigree dogs registered with the Irish Kennel Club since 2006, usually being carried out on young pups by the breeder's vet before they go to their new homes.
Many owners of cross bred dogs (and cats) now recognise the value of microchipping, getting it done at the same time as their young animals are vaccinated by the vet. The Irish government appreciates the value of microchipping in helping to tackle the issue of straying, lost and stolen dogs. From 2016, it will be compulsory for all pet dogs to be microchipped.
Many people don't understand microchips. They do not hold an owner's details and they are not GPS-enabled. Instead, the microchip just carries a 15 digit unique number. If a stray dog is picked up, a vet or a dog warden can obtain this number by waving an electronic scanner over the animal's body.
An online database can then be consulted and if the microchip has been properly registered, the owner's details, including email address, mobile number and address, can be promptly located.
There is one flaw in the microchip system: it only works if the owner's details are correctly stored on a reliable database. Currently, of the microchipped dogs that end up as strays in Irish dog pounds, over 50% are not registered or have incorrect details. These dogs might as well not be microchipped at all.
When Simon brought Opie to see me for his vaccinations, I scanned the pup for his microchip to double-check that Simon's details were up to date on the database.
To my surprise, when I scanned Opie, the number that came up on the scanner screen was different to the number that Simon had been given by the breeder. Simon had registered his details to a microchip number that was different from the one that had been implanted.
If Opie had gone missing and been scanned, there was no way that he could have been reunited with Simon.
The cause of the mix-up was simple: Opie was one of a litter of half a dozen pups who had all been microchipped at the same time. It must have been a simple clerical error.
One of Opie's litter mates had been registered with Opie's number, and Opie had been registered with the other pup's number. Once identified, the mix-up, it was easy to correct: a phone call to the database and a follow-up email was enough. The other pup owner also had to correct their own records.
Microchip mix-ups are common. Are you sure that your pet's details are correct and properly registered on a safe database? Your vet can check this simply and quickly: if you have any doubt, call in with your pet to your local vet clinic and find out for sure.
This is National Chipping Month (www.ncm.ie), with cut-price or even free microchipping available across Ireland
Owner: Simon Holt from Bray
Pet: Opie, his Boxer puppy
Problem: A microchip mix-up with his new Boxer