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Torrance Daily Breeze: Lieu bill would require all shelter animals to have microchips
August 03, 2011
By Sue Manning and Sandy Mazza, The Associated Press and Staff Writer
When animal shelter workers rescued a German shepherd mix running through traffic on the freeway near Hawthorne last month, they trapped it and scanned it for a microchip.
The dog was registered to an Inglewood family. Workers at the Carson-Gardena Los Angeles County Animal Control shelter contacted the owners and learned the dog had been missing for three years.
"They were very happy. They said they didn't think they would ever find her," Gardena shelter manager Gil Moreno said. "She was found only 10 minutes from Inglewood."
While Los Angeles city and county shelters microchip all the dogs and cats they adopt out, it is not a mandatory practice statewide.
But a bill introduced in the state Legislature by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, would require microchips be placed in every dog or cat adopted or claimed from a shelter. The proposal will be considered later this summer.
Sharon Curtis Granskog, a spokeswoman for the American Veterinary Medical Association, said the law would be the first its kind enacted in the United States.
"A few states require shelters to scan but do not require them to actually microchip," Granskog said. "New York has introduced a bill every year, including this year, that would make microchipping dogs mandatory."
However, those efforts have failed thus far, she said.
Lieu's bill passed the state Senate 32-6 and is scheduled to go to the Assembly in mid-August. He said there is bipartisan support and he is optimistic it will pass. The bill would prohibit rescue shelters from releasing a non-microchipped animal.
Stephanie Crawford, founder of Animals Rule Placement Foundation in San Pedro, said she is a firm believer in the usefulness of microchips but is worried that a state law requiring them in shelters could harm underfunded rescue groups. She said Animals Rule pays about
"How are all these shelters going to afford to get microchips?" Crawford said. "I adopt out several hundred dogs every year and we pay for it. It would be horrible to close a shelter because they can't afford to microchip a dog. They're keeping dogs off the street, alive and fed. There should be help out there for them to get microchips."
California taxpayers pay about $300 million every year to impound 1 million dogs and cats, house them and euthanize half of them, according to the Cities and Counties Annual Reports submitted to the state controller. Thirteen percent of lost pets entering shelters in California are reunited with owners, Lieu said, but studies show that number could grow to 75 percent with chips.
The size of a grain of rice, a microchip is a radio frequency identification device with a unique number that is inserted between an animal's shoulder blades. It stores information but has no internal power source. When a scanner is placed over it, it is energized and able to transmit stored data.
A nationwide study on the effectiveness of microchips found that shelters were able to locate owners of microchipped pets in three out of four cases. That study, done at Ohio State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 2007 and 2008, also found that the main reason owners could not be found was because of outdated or incorrect contact information in the chipmaker's registration database, according to Linda K. Lord, associate dean for student affairs at Ohio State University.
It is up to pet owners to register chips and keep the contact information updated. Costs for a chip and registration run $15 to $75. In Los Angeles County, microchips are free at shelters, Moreno said.
"They are not LoJacks or GPS devices," said Aimee Gilbreath, executive director the Los Angeles-based charity Found Animals, which has donated some 200,000 free chips for area pets since 2005. "If you as a pet owner don't keep the information up to date in the database, the microchip becomes pretty useless."
Microchips do have critics.
"We're opposed to the mandatory microchipping of owned dogs," said Judy Coffman of Rosamond, president of the California Federation of Dog Clubs. "That ought to be an owner's choice. This is like saying we have to tattoo our kids."