Animal Identification

Microchips Provide Security for your Animals

Whether or not you agree our planet is undergoing global warming, it does seem that all over the world the number and severity of natural disasters has increased.  The chance that we will have to plan for disasters that could require placing our animals in centralized facilities while we leave our homes for the duration of the event has increased.  Hopefully we all have homes to return to, and then we can be concerned with reclaiming our animals.

We are all positive that we can identify our horse, dog, and other livestock, however, think about this: your horse is a bay gelding, 15.3 hands, no markings.  Your dog is a female black Lab, medium size, no white markings.  How easily could you identify your own horse if he was placed in a temporary facility and was one of fifty bay geldings, 15.3 hands, no markings?  Could you count on your horse to recognize you?  What if you only owned the horse for a week?

Try to find your dog in a temporary facility where all the dogs are in portable kennels, yapping loudly, and they are all medium size female black labs with no white markings.  Unless your dog recognizes you and starts jumping around hysterically (as dogs do) and barking louder than her neighbors, you might have trouble recognizing her.

Even if, in the above examples, you have signed your horse or dog in at the evacuation shelter and your best pal has been given a neckband or collar with your name and contact information, the only sure way to claim ownership is by having your animal permanently identifiable.  Personnel in temporary facilities have to be vigilant because emergency shelters can lure predators such as Class B dog dealers or horse thieves.  Fortunately, most disasters bring out the best in people, and the shelter workers certainly rank very high in that respect.  The very fact that so many animals are reunited with their owners is proof of how efficient and how caring shelter workers are.

Many people who never take their horses off the farm for showing or trail rides don’t think they need permanent identification for their horses, but sometimes the disaster can show up right in your own pasture.  Imagine that rock plummeting in your stomach should you look out at your pasture and your horse isn’t there because sometime during the night it’s been stolen.

There are a number of ways to permanently identify your animals, but I’m going to concentrate here on microchips because implanting a microchip in your animal can be the means by which your animal can be returned to you no matter where that animal is finally located.

Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are easily implanted under the skin by your veterinarian while he or she is making a farm call, or if you are comfortable with giving your animals injections, you can implant the microchip yourself.  The microchip has an identification number registered to you that when scanned, provides, through the number, your contact information.  Microchips have become a leading means of pet identification and scanners are routinely used by veterinary clinics, humane societies, rescue organizations, and for horses, at auction sales.  And they work!  There are numerous reports of animals being reunited with their owner years after being lost or stolen because they had microchips implanted and someone scanned the animal for information.  Microchips have proven to be life savers when it comes to animals thought to be strays who are brought into shelters.  A routine scanning can easily locate an owner and keep a pet from being euthanized.  A stolen horse who is consigned to an auction may be saved a horrendous trip to a slaughterhouse in Mexico or Canada by means of scanning for a microchip.

The cost for a microchip runs between $35 to $50 with an additional fee for registering the identification number.  If you are adopting an animal, you may find that the organization from which you are adopting has already implanted a microchip in your new family member.  Alley Cat Rescue ( is one of a rapidly growing number of associations who have such a policy.  You may even find an animal you purchase from an individual has already had a microchip implanted.

The only cause for concern about microchips is that in a few instances, tumors have formed near the implantation site, although no link between microchips and tumors have been established.  In some instances inflammation may occur at the implantation site, but that usually disappears in a few months.  The possibility of either of these events occurring should not stop you from using microchips, considering how valuable this means of identification can be if your animals go missing.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a new microchip for equine identification.  The announcement is available on the Penn State website.

There are other means of identifying your animals, such as brands, tattoos, hoof brands, ear tags and ID bands, and all of them are very good, particularly in disaster situations.  You will find a lot of information about equine identification on Debi Metcalfe’s web site,, the web site of Stolen Horse International, Inc.  I urge you to visit so you can learn for yourself how successful proper identification can be.  You can also purchase microchips and ID bands through Stolen Horse International, along with protective signs for your property.

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