March 8, 2012 | Vol 42, No. 10

HARK event offers to 'chip' dogs

“Pelly,” a husky mix that resident Marnie Hartman adopted in Whitehorse, Y.T., came with an implanted microchip that stored contact information about the pooch’s new family.

The microchip was required for adoption. Hartman said this week she feels the technology is a bit “bizarre,” but understands its potential benefit.

“I will say that many of us treat our dogs like our children, and it would be devastating if she was lost and never found, and somebody had her and didn’t know who she belonged to,” Hartman said. “If that scenario didn’t have to happen, then I guess it’s a good thing.”

The Haines Animal Rescue Kennel is scheduled to microchip dogs and cats from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Haines Senior Center. The chips cost no more than $20, and discounts are available if the animal is licensed or the purchaser is a HARK member.

“Since it’s a service that’s returning to us, we wanted to kind of kick it off for people to become aware that it’s available again, and give people an easy opportunity to get chipping or get their license renewed, by doing it in a central location in town,” said Steve Vick, executive director.

He said the “relatively painless procedure” involves using a needle to insert a microchip that “is literally about the size of a grain of rice” in the back of an animal’s neck.

“The longest part of the process will be filling out the paperwork,” Vick said.

The chips do not have global positioning system tracking, but they do hold information such as the animal’s age, plus addresses and phone numbers for its owners.

“You can wave a wand over a dog, that reads their chip,” Vick said. “The chip information goes into a database, and the chip is basically a number. When the wand reads it, this big number comes up and you go into a database and you’ll have all the information you ever wanted about that dog.”

Highway resident Carrie Kinison, who owns 10 dogs and organizes the “Most Lovable Dog” contest at the Southeast Alaska State Fair, expressed one concern about microchips that has drawn enough attention to warrant inclusion on the American Veterinary Medical Association website, www.avma.org. Kinison said she’s heard the chips can cause tumors.

The AVMA in Feb. 2010 referred to reports of mice and rats with implanted microchips that developed cancer.

“However, the majority of these mice and rats were being used for cancer studies when the tumors were found, and the rat and mice strains used in the studies are known to be more likely to develop cancer,” the website said. “Tumors associated with microchips in two dogs were reported, but in at least one of these dogs the tumor could not be directly linked to the microchip itself (and may have been caused by something else).”

Kinison said word of mouth should be enough to track down a lost animal in the Haines area.

“I just don’t know if it’s that efficient in a small town,” she said of the chips. “I could totally see it in a big city where animals are stolen.”

Vick said the technology would be most beneficial to frequent travelers, because “any rescue kennel or animal control or whatever will wand your dog, so it will be easier to find.”

“The chips will last forever,” Vick said. “The only time you really have to ever update it is if you move.”

Hartman said HARK had been unable to read 4-year-old Pelly’s chip in the past. That might change with new equipment at the kennel, Vick said this week.