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Lost and Found

news2catMicrochips become mandatory for Santa Cruz County pets

It’s 10 p.m., do you know where your dog is?

Beginning next month, that question will be easier to answer for owners with lost pets. As a result of a 4-to-1 Board of Supervisors vote on Tuesday, Feb. 24, Santa Cruz County pet owners will soon be required to insert microchips into their dogs and cats.

County animal control officials cite the microchip program’s exceptional track record of reuniting stray animals with their owners as a primary driver for the law while pointing out that it will ultimately save taxpayers’ money.

“The whole idea is to get owned animals home as quick as possible,” says Melanie Sobel, general manager of the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter. “Collars and tags are great, but unfortunately many dogs and cats come into the shelter without a collar. The microchip is permanent and unalterable.”

According to Sobel, lost dogs and cats with microchips spend, on average, five fewer days in the shelter before being reunited with their owners.

“Space in the shelter is a precious and limited resource,” Sobel says. “The faster we can get these animals home, the less taxpayers have to pay to house them. It also creates room for incoming ownerless animals that are in much more difficult and dire situations.”

Opponents to the plan have cited medical and privacy concerns while voicing fears that the procedure exists primarily to line the pockets of veterinarians.

Sobel explains that the procedure is not detrimental to the animals. In fact, she compares the microchipping law to rabies vaccinations—a mandatory law enacted in 1970 that contributed directly to the eradication of the disease.

“Much like rabies, this is a public safety issue,” Sobel says. “It is designed to serve the best interests of both the animals and our community.”

The chip, which is the size of a large grain of rice, is embedded into the scruff of the dog or cat’s neck with a hypodermic needle and has been described as a “benign procedure” by Dr. Dana Gleason, staff veterinarian at the county animal shelter.

The cost of this procedure can be anywhere from $20-$50 although some microchip companies charge an additional registration fee. However, the shelter is currently offering $10 microchipping for Santa Cruz County dogs through the end of March.

As for privacy concerns, Sobel insists that the county does not harvest the data stored on microchips.

“This is not an Orwellian plot by big government,” she says. “In fact, the information is stored by the private companies that manufacture the chips. Furthermore, contrary to what some people will tell you, the next step is not microchipping children.”

Supervisor Greg Caput cast the lone dissenting vote against the proposal on Feb. 24, citing concerns that it would create unnecessary bureaucracy and penalize well-meaning citizens.

While Caput was not available for comment as of press time, he has gone on record saying that he believes the procedure should remain voluntary.

When the law goes into effect, animal officers will be able to scan pets to check for microchips and identify the animals’ owners. Non-compliant owners will receive what amounts to a “fix-it” ticket.

“Animals are a luxury, not a right,” Sobel says. “You have to be a responsible pet owner. Think of it this way—car owners are expected to register their cars and get a smog test. This is no different.”

The microchip implant is an identifying integrated circuit that uses passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, and is also known as a PIT tag (for Passive Integrated Transponder). At the Feb. 24 vote, a member of the public expressed concerns that the radio waves emitted by the chips are harmful.

Gary Silberstein, a retired UC Santa Cruz professor in molecular and cellular biology studies, disagrees, asserting that such health fears have no scientific basis.

“We’re constantly bathed in radio waves every second of our lives,” Silberstein says. “The effect of something like this RFID on our cells is nonexistent. It’s not even detectable.”

In addition to reuniting lost animals with their owners, Sobel says microchips also help the shelter avoid adopting or euthanizing animals by mistake and improve the tracking of dangerous dogs.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Sobel says. “And there’s nothing worse than seeing an owned animal in a cage who can’t tell you where it lives. This is considered a best practice for animal welfare and is currently advocated [for] by all legitimate shelters and organizations—it’s in your pets’ best interests to be vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and now microchipped.”

With the passing of the law, Santa Cruz County joins several California communities requiring pet microchips, including Long Beach, Riverside and Los Angeles County.

Comments (5)Add Comment
...
written by Does it matter, June 03, 2014
Waste of time and money. You are punishing people who follow the law and rewarding those who don't. Ous SPCA is a kill shelter, they don't so their jobs if called , and our taxes pay for this why? Isn't it suppose to be the peoples vote to decide with. I don't want a foreign object in my dog, just like I don't one inserted into me. Is their a petition we can sign? Can we start one because this is ridiculous. A dog that is properly taken care of, but isn't chip is illegal?
Free is possible
written by SCBB, March 21, 2014
Yes, it is possible. You are very unrealistic.

Even people that CAN afford $100, probably aren’t going to spend it on S/N. That is NOT “low cost.” Where is our tax money going? There are grants paying for the SN clinics, it IS possible to provide it for free, or even lower cost than $100!

There are those who can afford regular pet care fees, but not the SN/Microchip cost. That does not mean they should not own a pet.

I think you need to do some research. Look up Downtown Dog Rescue and what they’re doing for low income areas, and tell them that those dog owners don’t “deserve” to have a pet.
SCCAS Adopter / SCCAS Volunteer
written by AER, March 20, 2014
@SCBB, actually, it is not possible to spay/neuter pets for free and give microchips for free with the funds that the SCCAS has. If they did that, they would have no money for the animals in the shelter, for the staff in the shelter, and for the other programs.

I wish that it were possible, but unless we were taxed more, it is not possible. So we will have to stick to the low cost spay and neuter programs that we have.

I think that pet owners need to realize that just like children, pets cost money! If you decide to adopt a pet, you have to be ready for certain expenses (food, vet bills, toys, safety items, etc). If money is tight, then you should not buy and unaltered animal (and should NEVER support backyard breeding). If you cannot afford a $20 microchip fee, or a $100 spay/neuter fee, then you probably shouldn't own a pet as food, vet bills, and other expenses add up to way more than that!

Microchips are cheap, effective, and end up saving money for the Animal Shelter (less animals at the shelter = less resources being used). The Animal Shelter then can use that money to spay and neuter more animals, and offer more low cost programs for people with limited funds. So in the long run, that $20 (or $10 at the Animal Shelter) will save you money.
A waste of time
written by SCBB, March 20, 2014
This is really silly. Yet ANOTHER law that will just bring in revenue. I understand the idea behind this, but to make it mandatory is ridiculous.

If you’re going to make it a LAW, at least provide the service for FREE. You should do this with Spay/Neuter, too, but alas, it’s just another way for them to make money. If you want to reach out to the community, especially the low income folks who need these services the most, you have to make them available to EVERYONE and for no cost. And yes, with the money the shelter makes and the donations and funds, it IS possible.
Microchips can prove animal kidnapping
written by Dr. John Colby, March 19, 2014
My sister was able to to ID the perpetrator who kidnapped her emotional assistance cat using a partially activated microchip. If it had been fully activated, the U.S. Department of Justice would have been forced to put the kidnapper in prison for violating Section 901 of the Fair Housing Act.

Every person who has an emotional assistance or a service animal should have them microchipped as well as fully activating the chip.

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