Pet Microchip Information

THIS PAGE CONTAINS INFORMATION ON:
Health Effects
Lost Pets
Background (Risk Assessments)
Broken Information Chain
The Problem with Microchip Mandates
Compounded Veterinary Procedures
Cats Versus Dogs
Failures of the Microchip Tracking System
Alternative ID Methods
Recommendations for a Pet Friendly Community

It is suggested that pet guardians ask the following questions of the manufacturer before implanting their product in a pet:

    • What percentage of pets implanted with the pet microchip are returned to owner by that method?
    • What are the rates of failure, migration and reaction for the microchip implant?
    • What is the typical inflammatory response to the implant of the microchip in terms of the duration of the acute and recovery phases and does it return to the original level or just within some norm?
    • What are the specifications for the encapsulants and microchip in terms of potential toxins and what methods of quality control are used to assure them?
    • What are the specifications and quality controls for the magnetic potentail of the microchip?
    • What are the rates of cancer for pets implanted with the microchip as compared to those without?

HEALTH EFFECTS

Pet microchips can cause pain and illness through acute and chronic inflammation, toxins in encapsulants and electromagnetic effects.  These are significant effects and should not be marginalized.

When a microchip is implanted in a cat or dog they suffer pain through acute inflammation for at least three days.  The inflammatory response continues for approximately a month until the implant is covered with scar tissue so animals need care and considerations for some time after implant.  Implant techniques into the pets tissues and plastic coatings are intentionally designed to be inflammatory, to cause the inflammatory response that covers the microchip with scar tissue.  The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) sites an independent study on beagles where only 87 of 90 implants formed the scar tissue.  So what happens with the inflammatory response when no scar tissue forms?  Does it never start or never stop?  So how much does the microchip implant increase the level of inflammation in a pet?

The plastics used as sleeves or to coat or encapsulate microchips can contain toxins that migrate to the surface over time, releasing into the pet.   Parylene C is chlorinated poly-dimethybenzene and so benzene would be incorporated into the polymer chain.  One should consider the ways that benzene causes cancer when considering the safety of the polymer as well as any impurities in parylene C.  Promoters will tell you it is safe, that it is inert.  Being inert is also one of the outstanding characteristics of Benzene.

Plastics are also used in place of glass.  Patents held by one manufacturer of such a microchip describe plastic encapsulants as silicone with a polyester sheath.  There are no substantial regulations and little restriction on what materials can be implanted in a pet as a microchip coating or encapsulant.

Cancer studies on these materials may not actually be useful because the impurities in them depend a lot on how they are manufactured.  The pet microchip industry has virtually no regulation.  Specifications and quality controls are left to the manufacturers discretion.

These plastic coatings are said to be put on pet microchips to prevent migration, a major failure of the microchip system.  There are no third party studies that show any of them actually do that.   The use of such coatings leads to questions about experimentation.

Glass is a non-crystalline amorphous solid.  It can contain impurities also. Although the diffusion of them to the surface is very slow, there are still issues.  Lead is commonly added to glass to make it easier to process.  What are the protections from the use of lead in the glass of pet microchips?  Just what is bio-compatible glass?  One manufacturer gives heavy metal specifications for their pet microchip transponder glass as, “The heavy metal content for the elements lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium is below 100 ppm.”   That would be 0.01%.  Does the pet guardian know to ask for specifications on the glass used for their pet’s microchip?  And just what should they be?

Pet microchips can be made with ferrous materials that give them magnetic potential.  Human microchip tests for magnetic potential are described in the FDA Guidelines.  Pet guardians are not advised of the dangers, here.  Are they warned not to use magnetic pain therapy for their pets?  The AVMA reports that surrounding tissue is not damaged during MRI, but conflicting reports exist elsewhere and MRI manufacturers give warnings.  There are questions about MRI safety due to movement, also.  Pets should have more rigorous standards for magnetic potential than humans.  But they have none.  There are no regulations on magnetic potential for pet microchips.  The magnetic potential of three different microchips are shown in the following:

Claims that pet microchips are passive, activating only when scanned may be in part true about the actual microchip but the implant also has an antenna.  The antenna is not a selective receiver and can intercept, generate current with, and re-radiate other electromagnetic waves in the environment.  If the wave received by the antenna is tuned out before the microchip, it is simply re-radiated.  Electromagnetic waves in our environment are of health concerns as they can cause oxidative stress to our cells .  Implanting a microchip, that has an antenna, in a pet would need to be considered as to having an adverse effect on their health.

There are standards for pet microchip implant sites, radio frequencies and scanners, but none that protect pets from toxins in encapsulants or set limits for magnetic potentials and electromagnetic effects.

Medical microchips implanted in a sick person to manage or cure illness can benefit their health.  Implanting microchips in an otherwise healthy animal only creates illness.

LOST PETS

We are told that the benefit of the pet microchip system is to return the pet to it’s guardian and protect them from being euthanized in shelters or otherwise lost to us.  It is also used to hold people accountable for pets that do harm.  How many pets actually benefit from this?  With all the data collected, we are presented with virtually no hard facts.  Some companies will tell you how many reunions they have had, but none will say how many were lost and never found.

We look at two surveys to tell us what is happening.  One set of surveys is done by The Dogs Trust of the United Kingdom, covering the compulsory implant of dogs there.  The other is a 2012 ASPCA survey.  The UK focus is on found dogs.  The ASPCA survey is on lost pets.  These two studies highlight the difference between the pets that people lose and the pets that the authorities find.  It reveals bullchips in the numbers of lost pets as numbers used to frighten pet guardians into implanting their pets with microchips.  One issue to watch is the time basis as being annual or some other length of time such as over the lifetime of a pet. The lifetime basis is confusing because pets and strays have different life expectancies.  We will use 14 years in our calculations.  The other issue is how percentages and fractions of the population are portrayed.

The United Kingdom has made microchip implant, registration and adverse event reporting compulsory for approximately 8.5 million dogs.  It went into effect starting in 2015.  Proponents announced the success of the program in 2017.  They reported 95% of the population implanted and reductions in strays and euthanasia. We say, the data in their report shows a annual benefit from microchip implant to be approximately 0.2% of the dogs in the UK and that the success of the program actually came from spay/neuter programs.

What is not in their report, is that there were spay/neuter programs increasing services during their microchip implant campaign that more likely brought about the reduction in strays and euthanasia.  Although it was reported that the percentage of stray dogs returned to owner increased from approximately 50% to 60% when the mandate was imposed, the number of dogs returned to owner by microchip ID actually declined during the period before, during and after the mandate was implemented.

Total strays represented approximately 0.8% of the total UK dog population in 2017.  That is down form a maximum 1.5% in 2011.  The reduction of 0.7% is apparently due to spay/neuter based on the magnitude and timing of the changes observed.  Changes is the returns to owner were not significant enough to cause the stray population changes observed, but the spay/neuter services were.

The year ending March 31, 2017 shows 48% of strays that were returned, were by microchip ID.  This indicates there is an annual return benefit of 0.2% (0.8% of 48% of 60%) that could be attributed to microchip implant, according to the survey results. The UK survey shows a 3% microchip recovery benefit for an average dog, over its lifetime.

How this translates to reduced euthanasia is questionable because returns reduce adoptions.  There is a difference between the macro effects on the population and the micro effects of how an individual dog is impacted by microchip implant.  The macro population is effected by adoption offsets and the individual dog is not.

With the population reduction, the euthanasia rate had dropped to 3%.  If the return to owner benefit is not offset by reduced adoption, it amounts to a euthanasia benefit of 0.007% of the population on an annual basis (approximately 600 dogs).  Over the lifetime of a dog, there would be a 3% return to owner benefit and a 0.09% euthanasia benefit to an individual dog.  So a dog may be lost, but not likely euthanized.

Those who want to believe in microchip magic for stray population control may harbor beliefs that there are undocumented returns to owner going on that have reduced the stray population.  However, the methods used in the surveys done in the UK include the returns done outside the shelter system and give it as 1/3 of the total.  There is also an ASPCA survey in which those are covered.

In the UK survey, approximately 95% of the population is implanted with a microchip.  In the ASPCA survey 20% of the lost pets had microchips.  Both surveys show similar return benefits from ID.

A 2012 survey of approximately 1,015 pet guardians reported by the ASPCA also gives an idea of how many pets benefit from having ID.   According to the data in the study, less than 2% of pets would have recovery benefit from mandated microchip implant ID over their lifetime.   It is reported that 14% of dogs and 15% of cats may get lost in a 5 year period.  That data in the study shows that 39% get lost, 30% get recovered without ID, 3% get recovered by ID, and an additional 2% might be recovered if they had ID.  There are 4% not recovered that did have microchip ID.

Approximately 85% of the lost pets are recovered by various methods.  Even without recovery by ID, the recovery of lost pets is 76%.  Dogs were mostly found by neighborhood search and returns and cats mostly found their own way home.

The ASPCA Survey recovery rate of lost pets without ID of 76% is a whole lot different than the 10% implied by HomeAgain claims that 90% of lost animals would not be recovered without ID.  The company has been in the pet microchip business for decades and boasts of 2 million reunions, not specifying the time range or geography.  Nor do they tell you how many pets have been in their database.  They claim to reunite 14,000 pets with their owners every month.  However, that rate reflects only 0.09% per year of the US pet population and less than that on a worldwide basis.

The ASPCA study includes household with multiple pets and pets that get lost multiple times.  The data is based on the number of pets.  Data from the study on lost and recovered pets is summarized as follows :

Survey of 5 Year Period Dogs Cats Total
Total Survey 815 503 1318
Lost 110 74 184
Not Recovered 9 19 28
RECOVERIES, Total 101 55 156
Neighborhood (Search & Return) 56 16 72
Shelter 6 1 7
ID 15 1 16
Self 20 32 52
Other 4 5 9
Lost, % of Total Survey 13.5% 14.7% 14.0%
Recovered, % of Survey 12.4% 10.9% 11.8%

The information in the ASPCA study suggests that 3% of pets would be recovered by ID over an average 14 year lifetime of a pet and 6% of pets would remained lost.  Would those 6% benefit from having ID?

The  data from the study shows that 36  of the 184  lost pets had microchips, but does not show how many recovered pets had them.   With some small discrepancy in the survey data, it appears that all 16 pets recovered by ID had microchips and that the other 20 pets with microchips were among the 28 pets that were not recovered.  The data shows 72% of the lost pets had ID and 20% had microchips.  If all pets recovered by ID were recovered by their microchip ID, it would indicate a microchip recovery rate of 44% for the lost pets in the study.  However, only 8 of the unrecovered pets did not have ID, so the potential gain for having all pets with ID is only 1.7% over an average 14 year life of a pet.  If microchip recovery rates are applied, that is less than 1%.

So with 3% recovered by ID and 6% remaining missing what is happening?  What happened to those 20 pets with microchip implants and 8 that did not?   Maybe someone found them and just decided to keep them.  There are many possibilities.

But it is a sad fact that the reason many animals are not recovered is death on the roadways.  It is reported that 1.2 million dogs and 5.4 million cats are killed each year in the US.  Considering a pet population of 183 million, that could be estimated as 300 million including stray and feral cats and dogs, that comes to 2% per year and a chilling 31% over the average life of a pet. This more than explains the pets not recovered in the ASPCA survey and exceeds the US annual euthanasia rates of 0.67 million dogs and 0.86 million cats.  Pets lost to death on the roadway is something pet microchip promoters do not figure in the potential benefit of pet microchips.  The ASPCA study suggests that the pet loss in the roadway could be as high as 5% over the lifetime of a pet.  The majority of cats and dogs lost in the roadway would be stray and feral to make up to the 31%.

Pet guardians should not be given the a false sense of security to allow their pets to roam.  No form of ID will protect them on the roadway.

So in summary, the ASPCA survey shows 39% of pets get lost during their lifetime, 30% get recovered without ID, 3% get recovered by ID, and an additional 1-2% could be recovered if they had ID but 4-5% are not recovered.  The study does not say what type of ID the pet was recovered by.  The potential microchip recovery benefit indicated by the study is 1% – 5%, certainly consistent with the 3% observed in the UK survey.

HomeAgain Claims that 33% of pets get lost (during their lifetime)  and 90% of the lost pets will not be recovered without ID.  The ASPCA study says 39% of pets get lost during their lifetime and 24% of the lost pets will not be recovered without ID.  If it sounds like double talk, that’s because it is.  They do not say how many will be recovered if they do have it.

To HomeAgain’s 90% claim we say, BULLCHIPS!

The UK lifetime return to owner benefit is around 3% and if 30-40% of the UK dogs get lost during their lifetime, the recovery rate is less than 10% of lost dogs who have microchips.  Maybe this is why microchip companies are not publishing their rates of return of lost pets with microchips?  Other surveys indicate it is over 30%.  If you are not confused by now, you have not been paying attention. It is a shell game of lost and found pets.  So we will create the case of Community X where pets are lost and found to illustrate the game.

Community X has 1,000,000 pets.  40% of them get lost over an average lifetime of 14 years.  75% of lost pets are easily returned without ID, by such as neighborhood returns (dogs) and self returns (cats), 10% are returned by various ID and 5% of lost pets will never be recovered.  Let’s assume all pets and 30% of strays have microchips and 3% of the total pet population will be returned by that method, with external microchip returns of 30% of the shelter microchip returns.

Community X

Total Pets 1,000,000

14 Year (Lost) Annually (Lost) Annual Shelter (Found)
Lost, 40% (400,000) (28,571)
Easily Returned W/O ID 300,000 21,429
Easily Returned by Tag ID 10,000 714
Returned by MC ID 30,000 2,143 1,648
Recovered by Misc 10,000 714 714
Never Recovered 50,000 3,571 500
Surrenders 6,000
Strays W/O Owner 18,000
TOTAL 26,862

Although our case is hypothetical, it is consistent with both surveys on lost and found pets.   Although it may be true that 30-40% of pets get lost during their lifetime, when that basis is used, the microchip recovery rate is very low because most are returned without even scanning for a microchip.  There are surveys that say the pet microchip return rate is around 30-40% but that is for found pets, not lost pets.  The microchip recovery rate for lost pets is around 10% and the benefit to a pet over an average lifetime is only around 3%.  With the benefit well established, the higher the lost pet rate claimed by microchip promotions, the lower the lost pet recovery rate is.  So it is something they just do not talk about.

It is only some of the “Never Recovered” pets who may become part of the stray population and the split shown in the hypothetical case is somewhat arbitrary.  They live as strays or shelter residents, find another home or get adopted or they perish by euthanasia, disease, predators or road deaths.   But the numbers are just not there for them to be the main source of the overpopulation problem.

As we see in Community X, the majority of pets that become problems and enter the shelter system are predominantly pets that do not have guardians so returns to owner just do not work.

BACKGROUND

Medical microchips are an emerging industry.  The microchip was invented in 1959.  Some of the first human implants were demonstrated in 1998.  The FDA classified their use as Class II Medical Devices in October 2004 and they have been implanted in humans as such since 2006.  However, the FDA official involved in their classification was later became a highly paid employee of the first company approved for the classification.  The industry has been plagued by questions of integrity and a lack of due diligence for regulation and cancer review.  False advertising is pervasive as FDA health risk labeling recommendations for humans are not required for pets.

Animal testing has been conducted since at least the 1980’s.  Adverse event reporting has been inconsistent, with no mandatory reporting throughout the world until recently.  Some earlier data is available through the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA).  The AVMA summarizes the BSAVA voluntary adverse reaction reports on their website.  It shows 391 adverse events reported for a period of 1996 through 2009 relating to 3.7 million registered pets with microchip implants.   Of the 391 adverse events, 301 were migration (includes lost), 36 failed and 54 were reactions.  That would indicate an event rate of 1 out of 9,462 implants, commonly sited as 1 in 10,000 and generally dismissed as insignificant.  The AVMA does not make their own risk assessment, but references the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).

It is a committee of the WSAVA  that has established the position on pet microchip implants based on the early BSAVA voluntary data, that the other organizations reference as a recommendation.  The WSAVA committee concludes on health risks:

While it is not possible to claim that the reaction to an implanted transponder in a companion animal will NEVER induce tumour formation, the Committee is unanimously of the opinion that the benefits available to implanted animals far outweigh any possible risk to the health of the animal concerned.

The position statement also takes exception on the registries:

The benefits of transponder implantation, backed up with a reliable, accurate and available database, far outweigh this risk.

The WSAVA is a global organization that includes member nations that are major microchip producers.  There are varying views throughout the world on cats and dog as companion animals or livestock.  The WSAVA accepts the Five Freedoms as standards of care but still condones the consumption of dog and cat meat .  Cat and dog guardians in America generally regard them as family members.

Adverse Event reporting in the UK became mandatory with the mandatory microchip implant of Dogs. The UK’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) assumed the task of adverse event reporting there in April 2014.  Mandatory microchip implant of dogs and mandatory adverse event reporting went into effect in England in February of 2015 and in Scotland and Wales in April of 2016.

The first summary report was issued for the period of April 2014 through December 2015 and dismisses the adverse events as “very low” despite their data that showed a mandatory reporting rate that was approximately seven times higher than the voluntary rate.  The 2014 voluntary data shows 28 reports in 8 months (10.25 reports/month) for a population that would have had between 60% and 86% of dogs implanted.  This is compared to the mandatory implant and reporting  of the 2017 data with 1,044 reports (87 reports/month) with 95% of the dogs implanted, for a factor of approximately seven.

The recent UK adverse events associated with microchip implant appear to be significantly higher than the original voluntary data that was the basis for the WSAVA position on pet microchips.  The data through the end of 2018  is shown below. The estimate for the total cat and dog population of the UK is 16 million with 8.5 million dogs subject to mandatory microchip implant.   Mandatory microchip implant for dogs throughout the UK took effect February 2015 through April 2016.  The total number of implants is not tracked.  To do a good comparison to the earlier data for risk assessment, information should be collected over a similar time period, however, the data to date gives us fair estimates that indicate it is approximately ten times higher than the earlier data that has been used for many risk/benefit analysis.

The Reactions include rejection, infection, tumors and death.

UK ADVERSE EVENT SUMMARY

Period Total AE Dog AE Migration Failure Reactions
4/2014-12/2015 1,420 1,195 729 630 61
2016 2,063 1,861 876 1,090 97
2017 1,044 843 407 584 53
2018 642 491 241 379 22
Total 5,169 4,390 2,253 2,683 233

Based on 8.5 million dogs, 95% implanted, the adverse event rate for them would be 1 in 1,839.  Taking the 2018 dog rate to make a 14 year period, would make a total of 8,441 dog adverse events and would indicate an adverse event rate of 1 in 957 to compare to the earlier data.

The BSAVA, the UK VMD,  the AVMA and the WSAVA are not reporting on these statistics.

Adverse Events may yet be underestimated by infectious disease and shelter death issues.

THE BETRAYAL OF DOGS TRUST (Updated 3/13/2019)

The Dogs Trust, a major UK humane organization, initiated a campaign in 2009 for the mandatory microchip implant of all dogs there that went into effect starting in 2015.  Their 2017 annual report  and their 2017 report on stray dogs announces the successful reduction in stray dog and attributes it to the microchip implant mandate, despite their direct involvement in spay/neuter programs that they do not mention, that were more likely to be the actual cause of the reductions in strays, thus setting a pattern of deception that has become prevalent in promoting mandated programs.  Their report shows the following history for stay dogs in the UK

And the following data is taken from their other reports for UK strays and the services they provided that relate to the trend.  Spay/neuter is obviously in use and is never mentioned in Dogs Trust Report on Strays, yet it is known to reduce stray populations.  One other aspect of the data that is interesting is that there is substantial correlation between the Microchip and Neutered services so that it is statistically difficult to prove which caused the improvement, especially with population effects that have lags.  But in this case the spay/neuter produced results too soon for them to be plausibly claimed by they microchip mandate.

 Survey Year Ending March 31st Strays Euthanized Service Year Ending Dec. 31st Neutered Services Microchip Services
2009 107,228 9.310
2010 122,000 6,404 2009 45,814
2011 126,000 7,121 2010 48,520 10,677
2012 118,000 2011 64,691 62,367
2013 111,000 8,985 2012 67,244 144,600
2014 110,675 7,805 2013 68,619 90,968
2015 102,363 5,142 2014 73,549 264,240
2016 81,050 3,463 2015 77,047 196,214
2017 66,277 2,231 2016 33,457 107,826
2018 56,043 1,462 2017 22,789

It takes one more chart from the Dogs Trust report on stray dogs, combined with an edited version of the chart above, to tell the story of what really happened to the dogs in the UK when the Dogs Trust launched their Microchip Campaign in 2009 and  mandates for microchip implants into them became mandatory starting in February 2015.  Neuter services effect intake (population) while microchip returns to owner effect the disposition of the dogs (reunions).

The number of spay/neuter services provided were increased until they reached the point where the stray population went into significant decline starting in 2014. It was even further increased through the end of 2015. When the microchip mandate started going into effect in February 2015, it did not result in an increase in the number of dogs returned to their owner because the stray population was already in decline.

Total returns to owner improved only as a percentage of a declining stray population.  Microchip returns to owner dropped slightly less than the population dropped during the 2014 through 2017 period of rapid population drop so that would show an increase as a percentage of the stray population, also.  The most improvement that could be attributed to microchip implant would be a return benefit of 0.2% and a euthanasia benefit to 0.007% of the UK dog population, annually.  That would be about 600 dogs.  And that would be likely offset somewhat by reduced adoption.  Considering the millions of dogs that were implanted to achieve that, it would be much more cost effective to establish and maintain effective spay/neuter programs.

The Dogs Trust Stray Dogs Survey of 2018 showed further reductions in the stray population that made the returns to owner even less significant.

Survey Year Ending March 31st 2017 2018
Strays           66,277           56,043
MC Returns Surveyed             6,910             5,775
Total Returns Surveyed           14,309           10,551
Total Returns Reported           32,434           22,325
Estimated MC Returns           15,704           12,219
MC Returns per Dog Implanted 0.194% 0.151%
Lifetime Return Benefit 2.72% 2.12%

Dogs Trust also ignored the increase in their shelter deaths that occurred when the mandate was implemented.  Any illness or death coincident with a microchip implant is subject to mandatory reporting. Yet they seem to dismiss all of them as just another death in the shelter.

Year Ending March 31st Care Rehome Return Death Death/Care
2009 16,238 14,169 190 260 0.0160
2010 15,886 13,909 178 226 0.0142
2011 16,813 14,590 237 276 0.0164
2012 15,986 13,830 178 309 0.0193
2013 16,879 14,826 202 199 0.0118
2014 16,892 14,865 220 238 0.0141
2015 14,630 12,419 203 214 0.0146
2016 15,196 12,987 204 188 0.0124
2017 15,343 13,067 226 270 0.0176
2018 15,446 13,141 242 312 0.0202

The 2018 shelter death rate is the highest of their last 10 years.  The average shelter deaths rates from 2009-2015 as compared to 2017-2018 show an increase of 57 dog deaths per year in the Dogs Trust shelters.  For the year ending March 31, 2018 only 35% of stays had microchip implants so they would be implanted in the shelter system.  Based on the Dogs Trust intake of strays (6,452 dogs), they would have implanted approximately 4,194 microchips.  If 57 dogs died as a result, that would be a death rate of 1 per 74 implants, or 1.4%.  If applied to the 40% of strays that probably entered the entire UK shelter system, that would be 204 dog deaths probably associated with microchip implant.  Yet there appears to be no such adverse event reports made as required by the dog microchip mandate laws.

If the deaths in the shelter are not occurring in direct association with the implant, this raises more ominous questions about the effect the implant of microchips has on the general population.  Is this an increased vulnerability to, and transmission of infectious disease?  Is it some effect of the inflammatory burden of the microchip?  Inflammatory markers can be measured.  There are those who say, once a pet is implanted with a microchip, the markers never return to baseline.  Who will stand up for the dogs of the UK?  Who will protect our pets?

There also appears to be a disturbing aspect to what is going on with the reduction in spay/neuter after the implementation of the the microchip mandate.  Have they cut back on spay/neuter programs because they know that reductions in the population and euthanasia also negate the return benefits of the microchip?  The histories say that the 2017 and 2018 levels are too low.  It will be a dangerous backfire if the stray population starts to grow again.  But then, it will create plenty of customers for microchip implant.  The seed money has been spent, who will pay from here?

The next update from the Dogs Trust will be out in April 2019.  The CEO passed away unexpectedly and the organization may be going through some adjustment.  We hope to see some answers to our questions about why this organization has been promoting this program the way it has and hope to see some more information about the benefits of spay/neuter.

MORE RISKS

Adverse effects relating to cancer that have been validated are tumors that actually grow on the microchips.  Reporting tumors or other adverse events associated with pet microchips to the Veterinary FDA is not mandatory.  Four veterinarians were involved in treating this dog for cancer and never reported the tumor as an adverse microchip implant event.  Most pet guardians do not know that they can make the reports.

The incidence of tumors growing on the chips is rare.  But despite the existence of these tumors, there are no known accepted, published studies on how the cancer rates of cats and dogs with microchips compare with those who do not have them.  Although it appears that pet cancer may be on the rise, pet microchips are not being scrutinized.  Pet cancer is actually not a reportable illness and there is apparently no third party surveillance for it.  Pet data remains obscured by a lack of standardized reporting, yet a lack of proof of harm is used by promoters to validate the safety of microchips for pets and people.

What we do know is the pet cancer treatment industry is growing by leaps and bounds.  Their projections are partly based on the, ” rising prevalence of pet cancer.”.

Major manufactures distributing pet microchip products in the United States include Datamars, Trovan, AVID, Altifex and Destron Fearing/Digital Angel.  Dozens of other suppliers have entered the market over recent years with various products of unknown origin.  These products are mainly distributed through non-profit pet identification registries with volunteers who are not trained or knowledgeable about the technology or adverse effects.  AVID won a lawsuit against Datamars in 2004 for technology infringement and making false advertising claims that harmed consumers, yet they dominate the market of today with the same practices.

With the pet microchip industry essentially unregulated, microchip mandates for animals can be used to provided a corridor for the industry to use our pets as test subjects for risky products without consent or compensation.  New products can be introduced into the microchip market without notice.  These products are frequently made available at low cost so that the product can be field tested.  Destron-Fearing set the precedent for polymer coating part of the microchip with a polypropylene cap over 20 years ago.  The polymer is supposed to be medical grade polypropylene that could be a simple hydrocarbon polymer that would have minimal impurities and additives.  But now there are microchips on the market that are coated with Parylene C, a plastic coating that is basically chlorinated poly-dimethylbenzene.  It appears to have been introduced without cancer testing.  Such a microchip is being promoted by a UK microchip producer called Pet-ID Microchips who supplied microchips for the UK dog mandates.

Merck Animal Health, who has distributed the Destron-Fearing polypropylene cap for years under the brand of HomeAgain, now offers the smaller Parylene C coated microchip to consumers.

Datamars currently sells “the only bio-polymer microchip in the market” that is being used on our pets.  They claim it is FDA approved, but do not say what for. The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine has no knowledge of the product.  It is sold on the internet, represented as a glass microchipDatamars, a Swiss livestock management company, appears to dominate the UK market, based on the adverse event reporting.  Their 2007 pet microchip patent includes a plastic microchip that is described as a silicon filled pet microchip with a polyester sheath, but other plastics are also referenced.  It was registered with ICAR in May 2012 and the North American division started promoting it for sale around 2014.  The Veterinary FDA has reported it has done no review.  It is currently being sold on the internet without disclosing to consumers that it is not glass encapsulated.  So far as we can tell, the only thing in the packaging that distinguishes the plastic pet microchip from their glass product is the orange cap used on the syringe. That is not what is shown in the pictures on one sellers website.  There is vague reference made to the fact that it is other than a standard glass microchip, but no say of how besides it’s smaller size.  The consumer would otherwise have to discharge the microchip for inspection or measure the diameter of the syringe tip and research the microchip to know it is not a glass encapsulated microchip.

One of the interesting features of the Datamars plastic microchip is how it appears in an x-ray.  Samples of a HomeAgain and Datamars plastic microchip are below the cat.  The Datamars microchip is below the R.

In case you are having some trouble seeing it, here is a 10X view.

If there seems to be some problem with the contrast of the Datamars microchip that may be because it has a silicon filled plastic sheath instead of a thin walled glass cylinder.  The glass does not appear in the HomeAgain sample, but may have some image qualities as seen when implanted.  Just hope your pet does not need to have the Datamars microchip removed.

If anyone has or knows of an x-ray image of this Datamars microchip implanted in a pet, we would appreciate it if you left a note on the blog.

Datamars manufactures a glass microchip and a plastic microchip under the same transponder numbers starting 981.  Such transponder numbers dominate the UK Adverse Event reporting at approximately 30% of the 2016 through 2018 adverse events.  That would indicate they either have problematic technology or a high participation rate in the mandatory microchip programs there.

Third party studies, including the polypropylene cap microchip, indicate that the cap does not prevent or reduce migration.  The 2016 – 2018 UK Adverse Events that are related to the Destron-Fearing polypropylene microchip (transponder numbers starting 985) accounts for approximately 9.1% of the migration events (some by this number may be parylene C).  While it cannot be determined from this if the cap reduces migration or not, it can be said that they do not prevent it.  The relative number of migrations to failures is lower than the rest of the dataset, but the relative number of reactions is higher.

The Parylene C coated Pet-ID Microchip (transponder number starting 958) accounts for approximately 7.2% of the migration events and has a higher number of migrations relative to failures.

BROKEN INFORMATION CHAIN

The FDA guidance document that is part of the human microchip classification determination lists the potential risks to health associated with microchips.  Cancer risk was not considered in the FDA review.  The recommended labeling for human microchips to mitigate the health risk are warnings about:

      • Adverse Tissue Reaction
      • Failure of implanted transponder
      • Failure of electronic scanner
      • Electromagnetic Interference
      • Electrical Hazards
      • Magnetic Resonance Imaging Incompatibility
      • Needle stick

The FDA considers pet microchips to be veterinary medical devices and they are regulated by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine.  The programs for adverse event reporting and advertising/labeling guidance are voluntary and regulations pertain mostly to record keeping requirements.

Manufacturers distribute their products through non-profit registries to veterinarians and pet owners directly.  They are required to label with manufacturer and/or distributors information, but generally contain no health effects warnings as this is not actually required.

So when is the pet owner informed?  How is the public informed?  Do our public information programs include these FDA warnings and health risks?  Would pet microchips become an adoptability issue if they were recognized as a health liability?

THE PROBLEMS WITH MICROCHIP MANDATES

Microchip mandates do not solve euthanasia problems from pet overpopulation and detract from resources that could be used towards spay/neuter programs that do.  There is considerable misinformation promoted throughout pet shelter programs by special interests who would have people believe that microchip ID reduces the euthanasia of adoptable pets.  They create the misconception by tying  microchip implant programs to spay/neuter programs through shelter grant programs and subsequently take credit for reductions in euthanasia from spay/neuter programs for microchip implant programs.  These are harmful misconceptions that lead to improper utilization of resources and more pet deaths.

We see how this was done in the UK.  The Dogs Trust, a major UK humane organization that promoted the mandatory microchip implant of all dogs there, declared the program a success and is expanding internationally.  They had direct involvement in spay/neuter programs that were more likely to be the actual cause of the reductions in strays.  But there was no mention of that.  The adverse event reporting that showed those to be 10X the voluntary rates used for the original risk/benefit analysis, was marginalized and they ignored the increase in their shelter deaths that occurred when the mandate was implemented.  It was a betrayal of dogs trust.  (See also, The Betrayal of Dogs Trust)

The ASPCA itself posts some fuel for such misinformation about microchip benefits.  The ASPCA says statistics show euthanasia rates are dropping.  They show a reduction of 1.1 million per year since 2011.  The post on their website attributes the drop partially to improved returns to owner and improved adoptions.  But there is really only 0.4 million of the reduction that should be attributed to such.  The data on their page also shows that 0.7 million on the 1.1 million reduction is in reduced intake.  Reduced intake is generally attributed to spay/neuter programs, but that is not mentioned anywhere on the page.   How is it they do not mention the most important spay/neuter programs in their statistics on euthanasia?  Microchip proponents would attribute the reduced intake to returns to owner made outside the shelter system and would claim it as the success of the microchip system.  They would claim the 0.7 million reduction in intake as increased returns to owner.  The flaw in the claim of attributing reduced intake to improved returns to owner in this case is that improved returns reduce adoptions and they are claiming both are occurring.  If returns to owner and pet adoptions are both improved, there would be an increase in pet ownership that would actually be the cause of the reduced euthanasia. Certainly the pet population growth is many times the euthanasia reduction.

Euthanasia of adoptable pets occurs when the pet population grows too fast.  The only way to change that without increased deaths is to reduce the births through spay/neuter.   There is no getting around that.  When the population is controlled and euthanasia is not a threat, returning a pet to the owner it left does not save it’s life.  It may even find a better one through adoption to someone else.

Yet another indication that microchip returns to owner do not provide significant benefits comes from the Shelter Animal Count.  California has mandatory microchip laws for dogs.  On April 6, 2019 their data for the year of 2018 shows the following:

2018 Shelter Data for Dogs California All States Except CA
Returns to Owner   48,661    271,152
Gross Intake 229,779 1,619,770
Strays/At Large 136,870    724,718
Returns per Stray 0.356 0.374
Stray/Intake 0.60 0.45

The returns per stray/at large dogs is actually slightly poorer and their intake of strays higher than the rest of the nation.

Microchip technology has not been readily adopted by pet owners and the microchip special interests have been promoting mandates through pet shelter programs.  Best Practice (page 15) recommendations include methods for forcing mandates on the public through local ordinances and enforcing them through the shelter programs by refusing to release or return a pet unless it is implanted with a microchip.  The technology does not appear to stand on it’s own merits.

The adverse health effects of pet microchips on feral cats who are implanted actually creates a need to TNVR (Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate, Return) more cats for it to be effective for population control. There are multiple means of pet identification that do not cause pain, illness and exploitation.

Microchips mandates cause more problems than they solve.  In summary:

        • Early risk assessments were underestimated.  The pet microchip industry is essentially unregulated, making it full of risk and liability.  The safety of pet microchips is persistently misrepresented by the manufacturers and distributors.  Enforceable standards for safety do not exist.  Pet guardians are not accurately informed of the health risks.  Adverse events are observed in the UK at approximately 0.1%
        • The benefits of microchip implant are smaller than advertised.
          • Survey of the results of implanting 95% of the 8.5 million dogs in the UK with microchips shows only 0.2% of dogs annually returned to owner by microchip ID and a 3% return benefit to an individual dog over its lifetime.  The euthanasia benefit observed was approximately 600 dogs/year.
          • An ASPCA published survey shows that 76% of lost pets can be recovered without any form of ID.
        • Compliance with the mandatory microchip laws is costly.  Manufactures market risky microchips for field testing and low quality microchips at low cost to shelters and humane organizations trying to manage costs on a low budget, under mandates.
        • Pet overpopulation is best managed with spay/neuter programs and TNVR for cat feral populations.
        • Implanting a microchip in a pet:
          • is an unessential veterinary procedure that compounds risks and interferes with procedures for essential public health vaccinations and spay/neuter procedures that are essential to population control.
          • influences the individual circumstances of the pet, but does not substantially affect the bottom-line euthanasia rates of adoptable pets in communities where overpopulation is an issue.
        • Pet microchip mandates:
          • provide manufacturers with opportunity and protections to use our pets for nonconsensual experimentation as they can distribute unconventional, risky and harmful microchips,  without notice or labeling.
          • create a hostile environment for pets and pet owners who know the risks and would chose not to implant a microchip in their pet.
          • should include mandatory adverse event reporting and a liberal medical exception or otherwise be revoked.
        • Alternatives to microchips for pet identification exist that do not involve pet health risks, pain and exploitation. The key to good pet identification and retrieval systems is the registry.

COMPOUNDED VETERINARY PROCEDURES

There is a common belief that pet microchips are safe to implant in kittens as young as two months that weighs at least two pounds.  There is also a common belief that it is safe to sterilize a kitten at that age.  It has furthermore become practice to do these two procedures at the same time, particularly when there is a mandate for microchip implant.  Shelter animals seem to be the target of these procedures and many of the kittens and puppies are also at higher risk as orphans.  And they also need their vaccinations.  Little consideration appears to be given to the level of risks accumulating with all these veterinary procedures or elements of experimentation and cruelty.

The AVMA had originally recommended pediatric spay and neuter for population control reasons as early as two months old and by four months old, for “compliance” reasons.  The health issues are controversial and spay for pets are recommended for over four months old.  Their new recommendations for feline spay/neuter appears to be five months of age, with continued controversy.  No veterinary organization or source for recommendations to combine pediatric spay/neuter with microchip implant could be found.

The rapidly developing medical fields of inflammatory and auto-immune diseases  identifies the health risks of these procedures and how they promote disease.  Inflammatory and auto-immune illness is a valid basis for medical exemption from vaccination, including rabies.  The impact of too many procedures too soon may well be that our pets are not just less healthy, they may become less safe.

Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return (TNVR) has become a proven means of reducing cat overpopulation.  As the cat is not just a predator, but is also prey in the wildlife system, consideration must be given in both respects.  Concerns over TNVR cats as predators have generally been disproved.  However, cruelty concerns about them as prey also exist.  Feral cats do poorly in captivity and must be returned as soon as possible after veterinary procedures are performed, even though they may still be vulnerable.  To add the unnecessary veterinary procedure of implanting a microchip to the more essential procedure of vaccination, spay/neuter and eat tipping leaves them more vulnerable as prey and raises cruelty issues.

The management of feral cat overpopulation is a daunting problem, just based on the shear numbers.  TNVR is most effectively targeted in areas where there is human/feline interaction.  However, the remaining population provides a reservoir of untreated cats that will fill any vacuum left by a treated feral that dies.  The additional health burdens of the microchip that reduce the survival of the feral, creates a need for more animals to be treated in order to manage the population.  Compounding the TNVR treatments with microchip implant is counterproductive.

CATS VERSUS DOGS

The microchip risk/benefit is different for cats and dogs.  Stray cats can be pests but are not the same level of threat to public safety that dogs can be.  Cats are less conducive to ownership than dogs are and should be managed differently.

Cats also have problems with pain management that makes microchip implant a problem for them.  Most common pain relievers are toxic for cats so many caretakers use alternative therapies for them.  Microchip implants can interfere with massage and acupressure therapies because the implant site of a microchip is over a significant acupressure point, Bl13.  It also creates risks for magnet therapies as these are commonly applied in a collar application, near the implant site.  These techniques are also applied to dogs, but they have more options for pain relief.

Cats do not get the same return to owner benefits from microchip implants that dogs do as they are 7-10 times more likely to find their own way home after being “lost” than dogs are.  That is another reason why TNVR is a good alternative to euthanasia for stray cats.  Microchip implant is not necessary and is even counterproductive to their survival.  After TNVR with an ear tip, they are best left alone unless obviously sick or in need of help.

The 2012 survey of approximately 1,015 pet guardians reported by the ASPCA shows that 43% of lost cats find there way home, while only 18% of dogs do.  The  survey shows 14% of dogs and 15% of cats may get lost in a 5 year period.  It also shows 92% of dogs and 74% of cats are recovered, leaving 2% of dogs and 3% of cats as lost and  not recovered.  22.7% of the lost dogs and 14.9% of the lost cats had microchips, but less than 13.6% of lost dogs and 1.4% of lost cats with ID were recovered.  That is a microchip recovery of lost dogs less than 60% and for lost cats is less than 10% with an overall pet recovery of less than 44%.

Some would still suggest that more cats would be returned if they were all implanted with a microchip, however, there is a much sadder explanation for the lower recovery rate.  Many more cats than dogs are killed in the roadway.  It is reported that 1.2 million dogs and 5.4 million cats are killed each year in the US on the roadways.  While these numbers include stray and feral animals besides pets, this more than explains the pets not recovered in the ASPCA survey and exceeds the US annual euthanasia rates of 0.67 million dogs and 0.86 million cats.

In the shelter, cats show fewer returns to owner than dogs do but the improvement claimed for microchip implanted animals in several studies is still quite similar, with 37% of cats returned and 30% of dogs returned that would not otherwise have been.  Is this an indicator of the system efficacy or the care and concern of the guardian of the pet?  Considering the UK microchip migration and failure rates of approximately 0.1%, that would point to the registries as the problem.   Are we to believe that 2 out of 3 people who lose their pet do not care to update their registry?

FAILURES OF THE MICROCHIP TRACKING SYSTEM

There is very little information on just how many pets get returned to owner because of microchips.   The available data is a little old and suggests only about 1/3 of found pets with microchips are returned to their guardians who would otherwise not have been returned.  The UK Surveys suggest that 29% of found dogs are returned by that method when 95% of the population is implanted.  However, those returns reflect only 0.2% of the population annually and 3% over the lifetime of the dog.  HomeAgain reports that fewer than 50% of pet microchips are registered.

Failure of microchip tracking systems include:

          • Migration
          • Scanner Failure
          • Registry Problems
          • Chip Failure
          • Adverse Reaction

All pet identification system are limited in efficacy by their registries.  The key to recovery is to have an accurate registry database.  As a first step to registration, the pet owner must know the pet microchip transponder number and how it is registered.  Internet searches for transponder numbers can be done to find the latest lists.  The international registry should contain them all.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Universal Lookup searches a database of information on which registry the microchip information can be found in.  A multitude of microchip registries have emerged with databases that are poorly staffed and maintained.  One microchip producer lists the flaws in the registry system.  Some registries are not even available by phone contact so if you have a problem you can fill out the web form and maybe they will (or not) get back to you before your pet has been euthanized.   Attempts by the  AAHA to unify the search has been only partially successful and is no better than the information contained in the many poorly maintained databases.

Pet microchips must be in a registry to be of use and the AAHA lookup is the commonly used way to find the registry for a lost pet.  Some may guess about what registry the microchip is in, by the first three digits of the transponder number, but it would be best for all pet guardians to check the information in the registry and the registry lookup system, to assure a lost pet is found in the minimum amount of time to avoid euthanasia.

There are claims that the AAHA Universal Lookup processes 5,000 searches per day, but in 2018 it was approximately 3,700 searches per day (1.4 million per year).  With approximately 184 million cats and dogs as pets in the USA, that comes 0.7% of the pet population in a years time.  Most of those should be pet guardians looking up their registry to be sure it is there.  Surveys show that 3% of the pet population per year gets lost.  The AAHA data suggests low participation in microchip programs and registrations, but still does not tell us why.

Maybe it is the privacy policies.  Selling the volumes of pet owner data collected in registries is another way the industry exploits pet guardians.  The internet is full of stories of registries putting fees before pet recovery and their privacy policies are that you have none.

Microchip implant is a failed pet ID technology because microchips are made invasive and/or toxic to prevent migration and have other adverse health effects.  Registries are failures because they are being used to collect personal information.  The benefits are not there for pet population control because most of the problems come from pets that do not have owners.

ALTERNATIVE ID METHODS

For those who like the convenience of RFID, that can be put on a collar.  The state of the art for producing them has reached a point where hospitals can print their own wristbands for patients.  Those are high frequency systems that track patients in the hospital in real time.  Certainly a pet ID version could be used in shelters for scanners.  Or just implant one in a conventional pet collar.

Conventional ID methods for cats and dogs include a collar and tag.

Some animals will have a tattoo.

Ear tipping of feral cats has also been done for some time as a means of identifying them.

Older microchips that do not conform to ISO standards may be missed with an ISO compliant scanner.  However, universal scanners have become available that can read them.

God gave our pets a unique identifier.  Yes, their loving noses.  Each dog and cat has a nose print as unique as our fingerprints.  Patents exist for nose print identification systems.  However, no active services appear to be currently available.  The Canadian Kennel Club has been accepting dog nose prints as proof of identity since 1938.

There are active registries for the facial recognition of cats and dogs.  The Petco Foundation sponsors Finding Rover https://findingrover.com .  There is also an app at Pip My Pet http://www.petrecognition.com/

With the facial recognition and finger (nose) print technologies of today, it is absolutely not necessary to use harmful invasive technologies to have permanent identifications of pets.  Their loving faces and noses are certainly more reliable than a microchip.

Microchip implant and registration is a failed tracking technology that has become abusive.  There is no excuse for mandating all our pets be subjected to the pain and health effects of the microchip.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A PET FRIENDLY COMMUNITY

Managing a stray and feral population, particularly of cats, can be a daunting problem.  They reproduce at rates that are way over sustainable levels.  Females reproduce themselves to death and most of their kittens do not survive.  Humans who try to rescue them flood the system with more animals than there are homes for.   Then comes the euthanasia of adoptable pets.

TNVR is currently the best remedy.  However, the shear number of cats that need to be treated are also a daunting problem.  Animal control agencies and rescue groups can be overloaded.  This is a community problem and a community that does not want pets euthanized must participate to solve the problem.

While government agencies favor mandates, fewer than 20% of pet owners want their pets implanted with a microchip.  Most people who aid ferals and strays would have similar views.  Those views are supported by the information we are posting on this site.   TNVR is most effectively targeted in areas where stray and feral cats interact with humans.  To achieve that, people must be comfortable with identifying cats for treatment. The needed community participation will not happen if there is a microchip implant mandate for these cats.  The recommendations to promote community participation to remedy lost pet and overpopulation problems are:

      • Pet Microchips
        • Mandatory microchip implant ordinances for the general population should be revoked to prevent problems from compounded veterinary procedures, conflicts with rabies vaccination, liabilities from experimental and risky products and obstacles to public engagement.  They should otherwise include mandatory FDA adverse event reporting and liberal health exceptions.
        • Microchip implants should not be promoted without informing the responsible party of the risks.   FDA Microchip Guidelines and compliance with  Veterinary Devices should be reviewed.
        • Any working microchip should be acceptable ID and a pet with such should not be implanted with another.
      • Registration and Public Engagement
        • Priority should be given to participation in pet registration and alternative ID should be accepted from pet owners who are aware of the health risks from microchip implants and find them unacceptable for their pet.
        • Facial Recognition (FR) should be incorporated into protocols for identifying lost pets. A digital FR photo could serve as ID in the registration database.
        • The facial recognition website FindingRover is free, offers partnerships and has adoption options.
        • Priority should be given to promotion for adopting and returning pets. A good facial picture for FR and a good full picture would promote returning lost pets and marketing pets for adoption.
        • Nose Print identification should be given consideration if the technology becomes available.
      • Public Safety and Population Control
        • Rabies vaccination should be given primary priority for public safety and sterilization given priority for population control.  Laws involving pediatric veterinary procedures should be limited and should not include pet microchip implantation mandates.
        • Rabies vaccination and spay/neuter compliance guidelines should match the current state of veterinary practice and owner beliefs and the registration database should automate progressive warnings of non-compliance with enforcement limits reasonable and clearly set.
        • TNVR and other spay/neuter programs should be the primary means of cat over-population control and priority should be placed on their vaccination, spay/neuter and ear tipping with microchip implantation discretionary as the last priority.  Cats need care and consideration following microchip implant for over three days and for weeks afterwards.   No one should be implanting them if they cannot provide the needed care.