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A technological approach to the problem of lost pets in 1988

The injection of a tiny microchip was said to be "the system of the future" for finding lost pets.

Embedded under the animal's skin, a tiny chip meant its owner would be easier to find

A new way to find lost pets

34 years ago
Duration 1:35
In 1991, microchips are heralded as the way of the future for keeping tabs on animals that go astray.

Back in 1988, a new solution promised to cut down on the problem of lost pets.

"Andy! Come on!" shouted reporter Bill Harrington for CBC Toronto on Sept. 2, 1988, after his golden retriever took off in an apparently staged escape. "Where'd you go? Come back!"

Andy had taken off into a densely forested ravine, and been unresponsive to Harrington's whistling and calling.

Harrington said a company called Infopet reported that 80,000 dogs and cats were lost in Canada each year. 

Low odds of a reunion

Any veterinarian was said to be able to inject an identifying chip under a pet's skin. (CBLT Newshour/CBC Archives)

"The bad news is that only 11 per cent of dogs and cats ever get back to their owners," said Infopet's Bruce Keith.

Without tags, dogs who ended up at the pound couldn't be matched to an owner. Even tattoos could be "hard to read," said Harrington.

And even when they could, it turned out the owners had moved. 

"So Andy stays behind bars, facing an uncertain future," said Harrington, as barking could be heard and the camera panned across a row of dogs behind bars.

But the injection of a "tiny chip" could make all the difference.

"Any veterinarian can do it, painlessly," said Harrington, as a large syringe was used on Andy. "Just a jab in the neck."

'System of the future'

A device displayed a unique number after scanning a chip, which could be cross-referenced with Infopet's computer system. (CBLT Newshour/CBC Archives)

A scanner was then used to read the chip's number, which was displayed on an attached device.

That number had been recorded on paper when the pet was injected, and the number sent to Infopet's "central computer system."

"This will be the system of the future, as far as the identification of animals of all types," said veterinarian Paul McCutcheon.

Harrington said humane societies and vets in North America could read the chip.

"The only catch is, it costs you $40 to get your pet into the system," he added. (That's about $76 in 2020 dollars.)

But the price of a reunion was worth it. 

"Andy! There you are!" said Harrington, scratching his "best friend" after the cage was opened and the pair was together again.

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