Police Reports: Jan. 21, 2015

Animal tags are required in Homewood and Flossmoor, but they aren’t a foolproof way to get a lost pet back. The best and easiest method is implanting a radio frequency identification microchip into the pet.

It’s a simple process. The veterinarian injects the chip under the skin as though administering a shot. The chip is about the size of a grain of rice and is usually implanted between the shoulder blades, explained Catherine Waters, a certified veterinarian tech at Homewood Animal Hospital.  

Once the chip has been injected, the area is rubbed to make certain it sinks under the skin. Sometimes the chips can migrate within the pet’s body, but vets scan the full body of the pet and can locate the chip, Waters explained.

The pet’s owner can register the chip serial number with the vet’s office or a home address can be filed with the chip manufacturer.

Chips can be a life-saver when a pet is lost. The Smith family of Homewood recovered their German Shepherd dog five years after she went missing because an animal control officer found her chip registration.

“Chipping gives the animal a voice,” said Christopher Mailhoit of the Kankakee County Animal Control and Adoption Center who notified the Smiths that their dog had been found after tracing her chip number through the chip manufacturer.  

“Their dog went missing, but whoever had her couldn’t change the chip number because it was embedded,” he said. “Animals are targets.  You can remove their collars.  You can even remove their tattoos, but you can’t remove the chip.”

Mailhoit said many pure breds, like the Smiths’ dog, are stolen and then resold for $100 to dog dealers who then turn around and sell them for several hundred dollars. Sometimes the dogs are abused and neglected and people open their hearts to the pets and their wallets to the sellers.

“We know of people who prey on these generous people for large amounts of money,” Mailhoit said. 

When people bring their pets to vets, they aren’t typically asked to give identification that they are the owners, Waters said. The chip is really intended to work for lost pets, and she herself helped recover a dog that was roaming because she was able to find the dog’s chip.

Illinois doesn’t require pet owners to have chips for their pets, said Crystal Morris, a veterinarian assistant at the Homewood Animal Hospital, but all shelters are chipping dogs and cats before they’re put up for adoption.

Mailhoit said the chip doesn’t work like the features that help one put a location on a lost phone, but that tiny device has helped with hundreds of rescues.

“The pet could be hundreds of miles from home, but within hours they’re home because of a tiny chip,” Mailhoit said.

Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]

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