When your pet goes missing, you should start searching right away. Learn how to find your pet’s chip number, check and update registration, report your pet missing, and navigate the animal shelter system.
Millions of pets go missing every year. A microchip ID greatly increases a lost pet’s chance of being reunited with their owner, but it’s not a guarantee or a push of the easy button. Follow these steps to increase the likelihood of a quick reunion with your microchipped lost pet.
1) Find the chip number
If you don’t know your pet’s chip number, check your paperwork from their adoption or purchase. Most shelters and rescues and many breeders will microchip all animals before placing them in a new home. If you can’t find the paperwork or don’t see the number, call to get this important information. If you had your pet chipped at the vet, they should have the number on file.
You are likely reading this article because your pet is already missing. If not, do yourself a favor and have them scanned now so you can record the number. Verify the number with any paperwork you may have, as mistakes happen. I have seen a number of microchip mixups over the years including sibling kittens, all chipped on the same day, and German Shepherds who looked the same having their paperwork accidentally swapped.
2) Check registration
By itself, the microchip is just a barcode and a number, and the number helps no one if it is not registered. Unfortunately many owners don’t understand how this works. Some owners don’t even know if their pet is chipped.
Do not assume that the vet or shelter registered for you! Most vets do not provide this service, and while many shelters do, you will still want to check for accuracy. As many as 50% of chipped lost pets entering shelters do not have current information attached to them. The chip isn’t registered, is registered to a previous owner, or is registered to the current owner but with outdated address and phone numbers. Start by going to Pet Microchip Lookup and entering your pet’s chip number. This website will tell you if the chip is registered, with which registry, and on what date.
3) Update registration
You will have to contact the registry directly to make sure the information is correct. If it is not registered, do it right away. You can register with the chip’s manufacturer, for example Home Again, or you can register with a different organization like Found Animals, which is free and can be completed online in minutes. I recommend registering with Found Animals in any case because it provides immediate protection. Updating information in some registries can take days or even weeks, and you don’t want to wait when your pet is missing. Check out this article and video for detailed information on how chips work and how to register.
4) Report your pet missing
When you contact the chip registry, you can report your pet missing. Every organization handles this differently, so ask what services are available to you. Some send out notices to shelters and vets, and to individuals on their email list in the area. Others offer missing pet counseling, flyer printing, and other services. See the article linked above for detailed info on missing pet services offered by each registry and the costs for these services. Make sure to give out a number where you can be reached 24/7 via phone or text, and keep your sound on!
5) Tell shelters etc. that your pet is chipped
When you go to the shelter, be sure to notify them that your pet is chipped. You do not need to give them the number. Standard procedure in shelters is to scan all incoming animals, and to follow up on any chip found. Although this is important, do not rely on the chip for notification. It is not a perfect system. The shelter worker may scan incorrectly or the scanner may be malfunctioning, so the chip will not be read. Continue to check the shelter online and in person as often as possible.
When making signs and flyers, note that your pet is chipped. DO NOT write down the number! Anyone could take the number and register it, then claim the pet belongs to them. For the same reason, do not use the ID tags with the printed chip number.
If you follow these steps along with effective search techniques, you are likely to be successful in finding and bringing home your lost pet.