Losing track of your cat or dog is every pet owner’s nightmare. In the terrible cases when our four-legged friends flee our homes, it is often difficult to reunite with them. For many people, a pet collar is the only thing that stands between a missing pet and bringing it back home. Thanks to modern technology, this no longer has to be the case.
Many vets and pounds recommend people microchip their animals. The simple process makes it easier than ever for people to identify lost animals and bring them home. Are these pet microchips compromising your privacy?
What are pet microchips?
Pet microchips, sometimes called “tracking chips”, are integrated circuits used to protect pets when they are separated from their owners. The device is tiny, about the size of a grain of rice, and is implanted directly into a pet’s skin (usually around its scratch) by a veterinarian or other trained professional.
These microchips contain important information about your pet that can help reunite in an emergency. Each microchip is assigned a unique ID number that you can register to identify the pet as your pet. Users can register the number with standard information such as vaccination schedules, animal descriptions, or contact details of the veterinarian or owner. While they don’t technically last forever, pet microchips last around 25 years, which is longer than a lifetime for most dogs or pets.
Are pet microchips a privacy concern?
“Microchip” sometimes has a negative connotation. Many people, often associated with mind control propaganda, wonder if these pet microchips have safety concerns. There are some myths worth researching to better understand pet microchips and why they are a surefire way to protect your animals.
While there are a few pet GPS devices you might consider, these are the same as a pet microchip. A pet microchip has no battery or other power source and cannot continuously transmit information. You can think of it as a flash drive. Although you can store data on these powerless devices, you will need the right tools to read a document from them.
An abandoned pet doesn’t run around spreading information about itself to anyone who wants it. In fact, you need a special high frequency scanner that you can only find at veterinarians, animal shelters and airports. Chances are that no one is maliciously tracking down your pets in order to steal your sensitive information.
Even if someone managed to scan your pet, they couldn’t get a lot of information from the microchip anyway. The only information stored on a pet’s microchip is its unique serial number. In order for this serial number to mean anything at all, someone needs to register the number along with your personal information for cross-referencing.
You choose what information to store in these databases. If you are concerned about protecting your contact information, providing your veterinarian’s phone number is vital so that they have someone to contact. In some registers you can even enter your email address. The beauty of this system is that if you ever move or change numbers, you can update the information.
Because microchips are not connected to the Internet in any way, shape, or form, there is no way for you (or anyone else) to “hack” and change any information on the chip implanted in your pet without your knowledge. Designers make these chips with the intent to last a lifetime. Therefore, it is difficult and impractical to change information directly on the chip.
Are you concerned about someone hacking these databases? Don’t worry unduly. This is highly unlikely as critical data such as social security numbers and payment information are not saved. If this happens, you can occasionally check in to make sure it’s correct.
Do pet microchips prevent my pet from being lost?
Pet microchips are a great way to help animal shelters or other animal professionals identify and connect with your pet. While they certainly add a modern twist to pet ID cards, they are not a foolproof way to permanently secure your pet. There are a few important things to keep in mind when taking pet safety precautions.
Not all scanners are universal
Microchips transmit information over radio frequencies (this does not cause any health concerns for your pets). Different microchips work on a different frequency – even within the same brand.
Some scanners do not detect specific frequencies (although general-purpose scanners identify all; some companies do not realize that they are not using general-purpose scanners). Just in case, it is a good idea to find chips that meet the “international standard” (134.2).
You need to register microchips
Unless you register your details, these chips are completely useless. The only information scanner that recognizes is the unique number, which does not provide any information. Don’t just give your vet the microchip number. Register it online.
You can even register the number on different platforms to cover your terrain.
Don’t rely on microchips alone
Microchips are a fantastic invention, but that doesn’t mean you should rely on them alone to keep a pet safe. There are many different steps all pet owners should take to keep pets safe. In addition to taking safety measures to keep your pet from running away (such as fences, leashes, closed doors, and training your pets), sticking to tradition is also a good idea.
Never underestimate the power of a collar and tag, as this is still the first thing people look for when they come across a potentially lost animal.
Should I get a pet microchip?
Acquiring a pet microchip is a great way to put your pet’s safety at ease. Even perfect owners and well behaved animals escape sometimes, and preparing for this scary event is a smart idea.
Microchips for pets are a safe and inexpensive technology that serves as a permanent identification system. Combined with other security measures, microchip increases the likelihood of being reunited with a lost pet without compromising privacy.
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About the author
(26 articles published)
Brittni is a PhD student in neuroscience who writes for MakeUseOf alongside her studies. She is a seasoned writer who started her freelance writing career in 2012. While she’s mostly focused on technology and medicine, she has also spent time writing about animals, pop culture, video game recommendations, and comic book reviews.
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