Your Pet Bird And Microchips

Many of you have probably lost a pet or know someone who has. Unfortunately, most lost pets are never found.

Technology was developed about ten years ago that allowed you to implant a special microchip under the skin of your pet. By “scanning” the chip with a handheld reader, any vet, rescue organisation, or shelter would be able to identify the pet. They can identify the pet owner and reunite the pet with its owners by searching a database.

It appears to be so simple! But, unfortunately, we humans have an uncanny ability to ruin a good thing.

To explain it, I need to go back in time…

Consider another technological breakthrough: the personal computer.


Computers were quickly becoming a popular (but expensive) consumer item in the 1980s. At the time, the main options were IBM and Apple, with a few other manufacturers such as Commodore and Atari. Other computers were unable to gain a foothold in the market because their operating systems were incompatible with those of IBM or Apple, which was critical. IBM was primarily used in the business world, whereas Apple was firmly established in the classroom.

Apple established a strong foothold by providing free computers to schools. The premise is that if you educate kids how to use Apple computers, they will continue to use them when they grow older. However, this did not work out since the corporate sector would not let go of their reliance on IBM’s. As a result, when pupils graduated from high school, they understood nothing about IBM computers, rendering all of their computer instruction useless. You couldn’t get a job if you didn’t grasp IBM systems.

OK, are you still with me?


While microchips have been available since the mid-1980s, they were not widely used for pet implantation until 1995, when AVID Identification Systems started to market them. Soon after, other businesses started to sell their own versions, and AVID and HomeAgain (both produced by Schering Plough) became the two primary suppliers in the United States. Both of these processors sent data at 125MHz.

AVID subsequently started to give out free hand scanners to animal shelters and vets, but they only read the AVID chip. If you purchased the HomeAgain or any competitive device, your veterinarian would be unable to scan it. They eventually created a “universal” scanner capable of reading any produced chip in the 125MHz band. Both of these versions are readily accessible in the United States and much of the rest of the globe.

Now comes the exciting part. Banfield created a new chip and started spreading it over the globe. They were deeply embedded in the PetSmart shop network, guaranteeing a strong distribution network and consumer base. What is the issue? It was sent at 134MHz, rendering it unreadable by contemporary scanners. There was no other method to scan the chip unless the shelter obtained a Banfield hand scanner.

Except for the United States, this approach is now extensively adopted across the globe. Even worse, the International Standards Organization, which strives to establish global electrical standards, has determined that the 134MHz frequency should be the norm for pet microchips. The fight has begun!

It’s like the Apple/IBM feud all over again. Or the VHS/BETA. This is why TVs made in the United States cannot be used in Europe. When two manufacturers produce rival standards, the customer decides, and the victor gets all! Different manufacturers are competing over a standard, and the loser goes out of business. And the customer is always the loser.


Congress enacted HR255.109, the Department of Agriculture appropriations measure, in October 2005. Tucked therein was a request to APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) to design and adopt a microchip standard. I haven’t found anything additional about this bill…it seems to have slipped through a bureaucratic gap.

The only way to solve this issue is for someone to create a universal scanner that can read both 125MHz and 134MHz chips. To make matters even more complicated, several manufacturers employ alternative frequencies and even encrypted chips. Nobody is likely to incorporate all of these standards into a single scanner.


The cost of microchipping your pet is between $30 and $80. The chip itself is not costly, but it must be implanted by a veterinarian or animal technician. It is frequently inserted into the muscle and then into the breast in birds. The chip is around the size of a grain of rice. It is a painless operation, similar to receiving a vaccine injection.

Another issue will be the absence of a centralised, uniform data system. Every manufacturer maintains its own database. Local databases have been developed in certain areas by the government or a local group.

The chip is normally registered to the vet or shelter that sells the chip in all situations. If your pet is discovered, the rescue shelter will establish which chip was inserted and will notify the manufacturer. The veterinarian’s name is supplied, and the owner is located from there.

The owner may have their name placed into the database for a modest cost. However, there have been several cases when this information has been lost or damaged. It is recommended that owners contact the database holder annually to update their information.

The absence of a centralised data base can substantially hinder your pet’s recuperation. But, with rival manufacturers unwilling or unable to resolve their standards issues, I don’t see a rapid solution. Attempting to impose standards looks to be stalled, as indicated by the APHIS bill, which appears to be dead in the water.

Microchips are both safe and cheap. Regardless of the absence of standards, you should make the investment. Because the great majority of missing pets are never found, this may be your only option.

The alternatives to microchips are untrustworthy. Tags and collars might get detached and misplaced. Tattoos are permanent, but the shelter must first choose where to look and then determine which database to check. At the very least, you have some established databases with microchips, the microchip is safe and cannot be lost, and ideally the shelter that scans it has the necessary hand scanner to recognise the chip.

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