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Microchipping pets save lives and reduce taxpayer's cost

BY CHASTITY DILLARD | MAY 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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A quick pinch and it's done.

Charlotte Tobiason held 10-month old Wendy, a golden Labrador mix, as Jen Read gently inserted a syringe with a microchip into the dog's back.

"They might whimper a little bit, but it's just like giving a shot," said Read, an Iowa City shelter animal-care technician.

The microchip Read placed into Wendy will ensure her owners can locate her in case she is lost.

Local officials say using microchips on pets can save their lives.

The Friends of the Animal Center Foundation and MidWestOne Bank will hosting their fourth-annual microchip clinic this Saturday.

"If a dog loses its tag or its collar and if the animal shows up here or gets lost, we'd be able to reunite them with their person," said Tobiason, the program director of the Friends of the Animal Center Foundation.

With the microchip, a simple scanner can identify owner information.

The Iowa City animal shelter gets a lot of unidentifiable strays, many of which end up not being reunited with their families.

Tobiason said the shelter averages 2,500 animals annually, with higher numbers in the summer.

"It's really sad, because they are wonderful animals," Tobiason said.

The animal shelter now requires a pet to be given a microchip before the new owner can take it home.

Tobiason said cost is sometimes an issue for owners with an average microchip rate at $50. The clinic this weekend will lower costs to $5.

"It makes it really affordable for people to do it, and we want to increase [the number of] our happy endings," she said. "If we can reunite animals with their people, then they are not here at the shelter , and that would increase more space here."

Owners from any Iowa county may bring dogs to the Saturday clinic. Vouchers can be purchased for microchips for cats at the shelter at a later date.

Misha Goodman, the director of Iowa City Animal Services, said using microchips can prevent animals from disappearing.

"Let's say your cat gets hit by a car tonight, but it had no collar because a lot of cats don't wear collars," she said. "If it had a microchip, we would be able to find you and tell you, 'Hey, you're animal is at the vet …"

Lack of owner information and severe or expensive injuries could cause veterinarians to euthanize the animal, she said.

Though the center has administered microchips for the last 10 years, Goodman said, there can always be a push for more recipients — which also helps save taxpayers' money.

"I'll tell you what, if every animal had a microchip and we knew who it belonged to, we wouldn't have any animals in the shelter," she said. "They'd all be back home. So it saves money for the taxpayers and it gets animals out to their owners much quicker."

Goodman said roughly 15 to 20 percent of animals coming into the shelter have either a tag or microchip, showing a steady trend.

"Every day that animal is in the facility costs money to care for it, staff time, water, electricity — all that kind of stuff," she said. "So if the animal can get picked up by an officer, scanned out in the field and go back home before it even comes here, that saves the citizens' money."


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