Na­tional Chip­ping Week en­sures your pet is safe

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - LIFESTYLE - PETE WEDDERBURN

THIS week - 12th to 19th Au­gust – is Na­tional Chip­ping Week in Ire­land. Dur­ing this week, all pet own­ers are be­ing asked to fo­cus on their pet’s mi­crochip. Has your pet been mi­crochipped? If not, why not?

And is the in­for­ma­tion recorded on the chip data­base up to date?

Mi­crochips are tiny, rice­sized, sil­i­con-coated cylin­ders that are tech­ni­cally known as RFID de­vices. In the pet world, they are used to pro­vide per­ma­nent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of pets, by be­ing in­jected un­der the skin of an­i­mals. They can be used in any an­i­mal, from dogs to cats to par­rots to tor­toises, and it’s been com­pul­sory to have all dogs mi­crochipped since 2016.

RFID is an acro­nym for “radio-fre­quency iden­ti­fi­ca­tion”. It’s like bar­code scan­ners that work us­ing ra­diowaves rather than light­waves. So whereas a bar code scan­ner has to shine the light di­rectly onto the bar code, mi­crochip scan­ners can read through short dis­tances of opaque ma­te­rial like skin and mus­cle.

The mi­crochip is a tiny radio trans­mit­ter with two key fea­tures. First, its radio mes­sage only con­tains one thing: a fif­teen digit num­ber, like a bar­code. And sec­ond, this radio mes­sage is only trans­mit­ted in­ter­mit­tently, when a mi­crochip scan­ner is passed over it. The radio mes­sage is con­verted by the scan­ner to a fif­teen digit num­ber that can be read on the screen of the scan­ner.

A fif­teen digit num­ber is virtually unique: it means that there are a hun­dred tril­lion pos­si­ble num­bers. This means that when your dog is mi­crochipped, you can be con­fi­dent that no other dog in the world will carry the same fif­teen digit num­ber.

A key point is that this fif­teen digit num­ber is the only in­for­ma­tion on the mi­crochip: by it­self, the num­ber is use­less. If you just know that a dog has a long num­ber, it does not help you call its owner or find out where the dog lives. The num­ber has to be stored in a data­base where it’s la­belled with the pet owner’s full contact de­tails. So when some­one looks up your dog’s num­ber in the mi­crochip data­base, they will be able to find your contact de­tails, such as mo­bile phone, home ad­dress and email ad­dress.

It’s im­por­tant that this in­for­ma­tion is not avail­able to ev­ery­one who wants to look: pri­vacy laws mean that only prop­erly au­tho­rised peo­ple (such as vets, dog pounds and most res­cues) are able to ac­cess mi­crochip data­bases.

Mi­crochips have trans­formed the world of pet iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. In the past, a col­lar and tag was used, and this still has its place: some­one can eas­ily read a dog’s tag, with­out the need for a scan­ner, and sim­ple in­for­ma­tion (such as your phone num­ber) can be writ­ten on the tag, al­low­ing a lost dog to be re­turned to their owner. The prob­lem with ID tags is that the writ­ing can be­come faded and il­leg­i­ble, the col­lar or tag can fall off, or some­one could de­lib­er­ately re­move them. In con­trast, mi­crochips are there for the en­tire lifetime of the an­i­mal.

So if a dog is mi­crochipped as a young puppy (which it now has to be, in Ire­land), then it’s iden­ti­fied for life from the be­gin­ning. This in­volves an in­jec­tion: the mi­crochip is in a sy­ringe nee­dle, just like a vac­ci­na­tion, ex­cept that it’s a solid ob­ject rather than a small bleb of liq­uid.

Un­der Ir­ish law, pup­pies must be mi­crochipped be­fore they change hands, whether be­ing sold (like most pedi­gree pups) or just be­ing given free of charge to a new owner (like most cross-bred dogs, and res­cue dogs).

This mi­crochip­ping must be done by a reg­is­tered mi­crochip im­planter, usu­ally a vet or a vet nurse. Spe­cial forms have to be used, and spe­cial govern­ment-reg­is­tered mi­crochip data­bases must be used. There are four such data­bases in Ire­land – Fido, An­i­mark, Ir­ish Ken­nel Club, and Mi­crodog ID Ltd. All four data­bases send data to a cen­tral Euro­pean dog mi­crochip data­base, known as Europet­net. This means that if some­one finds your dog, they just need to en­ter the num­ber into one search en­gine, at Europet­net. This will re­di­rect them to the lo­cal Ir­ish data­base.

Un­der Ir­ish law, as well as hav­ing your dog mi­crochipped, you must also be in pos­ses­sion of a Statu­tory Cer­tifi­cate of Mi­crochip­ping from your dog’s mi­crochip data­base. This cer­tifi­cate is sim­i­lar to the reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ments for your car: you are obliged to store it carefully, and if you sell or re­home your dog, the reg­is­tra­tion has to be trans­ferred to the new owner.

Un­for­tu­nately, many own­ers don’t have cer­tifi­cates of reg­is­tra­tion, even if their dog is chipped. And this is where Na­tional Chip­ping Week comes in. Dur­ing this week, Dogs Trust is of­fer­ing a Mi­crochip Cer­tifi­cate Amnesty, al­low­ing dog own­ers across the coun­try to avail of a free mi­crochip­ping cer­tifi­cate, as long as their dog is al­ready chipped. If you are un­sure of your dog’s mi­crochip num­ber, visit your lo­cal vet­eri­nary prac­tice and ask to have your dog scanned with a mi­crochip reader. You can then ap­ply via for your free mi­crochip reg­is­tra­tion and cer­tifi­cate.

Re­mem­ber, if you change ad­dress or phone num­ber, you must up­date the de­tails recorded against your dog’s mi­crochip on the data­base or you will lose this im­por­tant con­nec­tion with your dog, and the mi­crochip will no longer be ef­fec­tive.

To find out more about Na­tional Chip­ping Week, visit

Ev­ery dog owner should have a mi­crochip­ping cer­tifi­cate

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