Companion animal guardians have been taking advantage of microchip technology as a means of permanent identification since the 1980s, although the technology didn’t really gain popularity until a decade later. To date, approximately 3.5 million animals have received microchip implants.

Why microchips? Cat and dog tags and collars can fall off or be removed. Microchips, on the other hand, are permanent, which means that your companion animal will enjoy increased protection in the case of theft or in the event that he or she becomes lost.

Microchip technology has helped reunite countless companion animals and guardians (particularly in times of disasters), has helped in efforts to press charges against people who abandon their animals and to hold people accountable for endangering their animals by allowing them to roam freely, and has even saved some animals from the cruel practice of pound seizure.

The microchip (about the size of a grain of rice) is inserted under an animal’s skin between the shoulder blades, and the process takes no longer than administering a vaccination. Fortunately, it won’t hurt your pocketbook, either. On average, having a microchip implanted costs around $30, in addition to a $12 to $15 registration fee to put your animal’s I.D. into the national registry.

To make doubly sure that their animals are returned if lost or stolen, many caretakers also have their animals tattooed on their inner thigh with an identification number, such as their social security number, in their veterinarian’s office or at a tattoo clinic. Unlike microchips, tattoos are visible (as long as the hair over the tattoo is thin or kept shaved or clipped short) and more noticeable to a person or animal shelter that may not have microchip scanning capabilities or knowledge of scanning technology.

PETA recommends that—to keep them safe—animals never be left outdoors without supervision. Please remember also that a microchip is by no means a substitute for a collar with an identification tag. Not all sheltering facilities have the technology to scan, and some facilities may not be equipped with a universal scanner. Microchipping is simply an additional safeguard for your animal, not a substitute for responsibly keeping an animal collared, tagged, and safe indoors.

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