Mandatory Microchipping: Ensuring Transparency for Pets, Owners and the Trade
By Ed Sayres
The New York City Council is currently considering a proposed law that would establish a mandatory requirement for all dogs and cats to have a microchip implanted by a licensed veterinarian before they are sold in a pet store or adopted from a shelter. PIJAC spoke before the Council Committee on Health yesterday to express our support, pending an amendment, for the proposed legislation, known as Int. No. 146-A, which would take effect on June 1, 2015.
Let me briefly outline PIJAC’s position and explain why we believe microchipping is in the best interests of pets, their owners and the pet industry. It is also important to know that we are asking the Committee to consider amendments that take into account specific concerns we raised in expressing our support for the bill.
PIJAC believes that the first step in addressing the challenges associated with unwanted pets, especially those with issues that make them unadoptable, is identification of their source. Mandatory microchips would help increase transparency benefiting dogs and cats, their owners and the trade. (The microchip is a tiny transponder the size of a grain of uncooked rice implanted under the loose skin between the shoulder blades and read by a chip scanner or wand. The implantation is a simple procedure that feels to the dog or cat like a routine vaccination.) Microchips enable us to collect hard data about the source and history of the animals – facts that will no doubt have a significant positive impact on what is now an emotional debate based on conjecture and speculation.
In our testimony yesterday, we asked New York City legislators to strengthen the current bill by incorporating a provision requiring shelters to check, track and report the information regarding source contained on the microchips of the animals they accept. (Even the fact that an animal does not have a microchip is useful information.) This will allow the City, rescue organizations and the pet industry to focus all of our efforts to end animal homelessness where they can be most effective.
We also raised and suggested amendments to address three other concerns we have about the proposed legislation:
- To ensure that they are acquiring dogs from only the most reputable sources and to comply with USDA identification requirements, most animals are microchipped by USDA Class B dealers before arriving at a pet shop. (Many states allow this to be done by veterinary technicians and other personnel under veterinary supervision.) As written, this ordinance would result in New York pet stores having to implant a second microchip in these animals. We propose that, to avoid unnecessary duplication, the law apply only to those animals that have not been microchipped before acquisition.
- As currently written, the legislation requires that a “bona fide microchip registration company” be used. We have called upon the Committee to clarify what criteria will be used to determine which registration companies are bona fide to ensure that the City is not seeking to favor a preferred vendor over their competitors. We would also encourage the Council to consider lending its voice in support of the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) proposal that would standardize the microchips.
- The proposed ordinance includes a provision stating that pet shops that make space available for shelters and rescues to offer animals for adoption are exempt from this microchipping requirement. This makes sense because these shops have no ownership of the animals being offered for adoption, but we have asked the Committee to clarify that this exemption does not waive the requirement that the shelter or rescue conducting the adoption ensure that the animal has been microchipped before adoption.
We believe that this legislation could become a model for other jurisdictions to continue reducing the population of unwanted pets. We are therefore respectfully urging the City Council to strengthen and pass this bill so that all of us who are concerned about animal welfare can more effectively address the issue of unwanted animals within city limits.