Animals going high-tech

Published 12:41 am Monday, January 21, 2008

NATCHEZ — No one wants to lose a pet, and the loss of prize breeding livestock can be devastating to a producer, and so in recent years many have turned to technology to help reduce the risk of having their animals forever displaced.

Using a small, bead-shaped microchip placed under the skin by a veterinarian, owners can leave their animals with an invisible — and permanent — ID.

The microchip, which emits a low-frequency signal, can remain active for 33 years, longer than most pets and livestock live, Natchez Veterinarian Byron Garrity said.

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With a wave of a wand-like reading device, a veterinarian can read the chip’s serial number and then can read the animal’s information off of a database provided by the chip’s manufacturer based on that serial number.

The odds of an animal getting lost at some point in its life are 50 percent, Garrity said.

Natchez-Adams Humane Society President Linda Harper said the society has the equipment to scan for the chips and encourages people to tag their pets with them.

“Very often, when these animals come in, they don’t have any kind collar on,” she said.

The biggest problem with the chips is that of the 10 major providers of animal-ID microchips, only one of them identifies which company the serial number belongs to, Garrity said.

“With that one exception, I’d have to go on the Internet and try to find who manufactured that chip before I could identify the animal,” he said.

Garrity said he has written a letter to all of the chip providers to compile a single database, but he doesn’t think it will happen any time soon.

The chip’s uses thus far are limited to providing identification information.

“It doesn’t work like a LoJack tracking system on a car,” Garrity said. “The cost would be astronomical to put that kind of tracking device on a dog. A tracking device like that would be great but the technology is expensive.”

The chip technology has only recently begun to catch on in popularity in the Miss-Lou, Garrity said, but many of his clients who move in from other states have already had the procedure done.

“If someone comes in and tells us they have found an animal, we automatically scan it,” Garrity said.

Aside from using the chip to help identify livestock that may have been scattered in the event of an emergency, Garrity said some people are using it to prevent fraud.

“That could keep the same prize winning bull from being entered in two county fairs in two states by two people claiming to be its owner,” he said. “It can also be used to make sure quarantined livestock isn’t re-entered into the population.”

Using the chip has helped aid the recovery of pets locally.

“We recently recovered one dog that was lost on the Gulf Coast during a vacation,” Garrity said. “Another lady moved to Arizona and she lost her dog out there, but we were able to recover that dog all the way out in Arizona.”