PAWS Magazine

Issue 44, Winter 2000

"You can go home again," microchip program promises

If a cat or dog adopted from PAWS ever gets lost, he or she will be much more likely to return home, thanks to a new PAWS program to inject microchips into all cats and dogs adopted from the shelter.

Beginning in late December, all PAWS cats and dogs have been injected with a rice grain-sized microchip. When scanned with a microchip-sensing wand, the chip reveals a unique number that can help reunite the animal with his or her original guardian. It’s sort of like a collar and tag that never gets lost.

"We always joke that the strays that come to PAWS are the cleanest strays in the world," says shelter supervisor Eric Ofsthus. "Because they never seem to come in with collars on, and if their guardian does show up, they invariably tell us that they had just washed their dog or cat and had forgotten to put the collar back on."

PAWS, like all other shelters, struggles with a crushing "RTO" or Return-To-Owner rate. As the municipal shelter for Lynnwood and parts of unincorporated Snohomish County, PAWS receives around 2,000 stray animals a year. Tragically, only 60% of the stray dogs that come to PAWS are ever returned to their original guardian. But even more frustrating is that only 2% of cats that come to PAWS as strays are ever returned to their original families. And the national average is only 1%.

The PAWS microchip program hopes to make a serious dent in this problem locally.

When an animal is adopted, the new guardian family will be given paperwork to be filled out and sent to Home Again, the chip manufacturer. If the animal is ever lost, most vets and shelter have the scanners to be able to identify the number contained in the chip. The vet or shelter staffer can call a toll-free number and find out who the animal’s family is.

The chips cost PAWS $10 each, and will cost PAWS close to $20,000 dollars each year. PAWS has raised its adoption rates by $5 to partially cover the costs of the program.

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