Updating pet microchip details can be tricky, but worth it

It always makes me sad when I see a poster of a missing cat or dog pinned up on a telephone pole or notice board. I look at their furry face and think of the family that is desperately missing them. I worry about what might have happened to them and hope that they are reunited with their family, but I know this is often not the case.

Cats can be particularly tricky. Their curiosity can get them into trouble, whether it’s taking the opportunity to look in the neighbour’s shed when a door is left open or wandering under someone’s house when the hatch is open – and despite calls, they may sit in silence out of fear.

They may make it to a shelter or a local vet where their microchip can be checked. However, this doesn’t always lead to a happy ending either. In older animals it can be difficult to detect their microchip as it may have moved over the years.

Worse still, the microchip may be identified but the owner’s details are not up to date. A 2015 study on a Queensland shelter found only 9% of cats were microchipped. Further to this, out of all microchipped dogs and cats at the shelter, 37% of the microchips had incorrect data (Lancaster et al 2015).

It is worth asking your vet to scan you animal at your annual health check up to see that their microchip can be easily detected and to check your details.

I recently decided to check my own pets’ registration details. We have not moved, but as the owner of two much loved family pets, I wanted to check that my details were recorded correctly so I can be contacted should the need arise.

First, you need to know your pet’s microchip details. I found these on my animals’ health records, but if you don’t have your original documents, your vet should have your microchip number or alternatively, they can scan your pet for the details.

Unfortunately, there is not a central microchip data base that stores pet ownership details. However, if you enter your pet’s microchip number at petaddress.com.au you will find the database your pet is registered to.

From here you can check your details by creating an owner login. While this sounds straight forward, if the details on the register do not match yours, it will not recognise you as the primary carer, and you will not be able to login.

My two pets were on separate databases and I could not login online to either. The first because an incorrect mobile phone number; and the second didn’t recognise me as the owner.

Luckily this problem was solved with a phone call to both companies and I can now update my details online. It is important to note that you still need to provide your details to council as your pet’s microchip data does not link up. Also, multiple forms of identification help to increase the chance of you being quickly reunited with your beloved pet – so ensure your pet has a tag with your contact details clearly marked.

Too many microchipped animals find themselves in shelters every year only to have attempts to reunite them with their cares fail due to system failures. A consistent statewide or national pet database would be an enormous help. While I am now confident that I can be reached if one of my pets goes missing, are you?

Fiona Webster is the Chief Executive Officer at Lort Smith

Lancaster, E.; Rand, J.; Collecott, S.; Paterson, M. Problems Associated with the Microchip Data of Stray Dogs and Cats Entering RSPCA Queensland Shelters. Animals 2015, 5, 332-348.