Manitoba

Tiny microchips make big difference in reuniting owners and pets: humane society

Emotional reunions between lost dogs and their owners, like a recent meeting in Winnipeg that was four years in the making, would happen more often if people recognized the benefits of embedding a microchip, advocates say.

Winnipeg Humane Society says reunion between Thunder Bay man, dog lost for 4 years shows potential of chips

A reunion between a Thunder Bay, Ont., man and his lost dog was made possible because of a microchip embedded in the dog. The Winnipeg Humane Society hopes more people consider paying for the tiny gadget in their dog or cat. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Emotional reunions between lost dogs and their owners, like a recent meeting in Winnipeg that was four years in the making, would happen more often if people recognized the benefits of embedding a microchip, advocates say.

The head of the Winnipeg Humane Society says 80 per cent of people who adopt a pet from the shelter decline a microchip — a tiny embedded radio-frequency identification (RFID) device that includes contact information, and can be scanned to help find a pet's owner.

"The majority of those who are adopting [pets] say, 'Well, they have a tattoo. Why spend another $30 on a microchip?'" humane society CEO Javier Schwersensky told CBC Manitoba's Information Radio host Marcy Markusa.

Pet ID tattoos can fade, he said, but an emotional reunion in Winnipeg demonstrates how a microchip can help recover a lost animal.

Mike Pals, from Thunder Bay, Ont., thought his best friend, Jack, had been taken from his father's home, or maybe killed, when the dog disappeared in 2015. 

Plas thought he'd never see Jack again, until an animal hospital in Winnipeg called him last week and said his dog had been found, some 600 kilometres away. The shelter got Plas's contact information from a microchip — the size of a grain of rice — implanted in Jack.

More than two million people have watched a video of the reunion on Facebook. 

Reunited with lost dog after 4 years

2 years ago
Duration 2:05
Jack the dog was literally a man's best friend, and when he went missing nearly four years ago, his owner never thought he'd see him again. 2:05

Schwersensky said some adoptees who turn down microchips are worried their pet will develop a skin condition, but he likened it to other safe procedures, like an ear piercing. The chips are implanted using an injection between a dog or cat's shoulder blades.

In the United Kingdom, it is mandatory to fit all dogs with a microchip. But the device is nowhere near as ubiquitous in Winnipeg, he said.

"Every 100 [stray] animals that come [in], maybe one may have that information," Schwersensky said.

A lasting search tool

"The chances of reunion are way higher when you do have a microchip or a licence, but if an animal lost a licence tag somewhere, the microchip will always be with that animal."

The humane society comes across 10-12 strays every day, and helps facilitate two or three reunions between missing pets and their owners daily. Schwersensky suggested more reunions would happen if microchips were more widely used.

Dr. Raymond Reboja, one of the veterinarians at Centennial Animal Hospital, saw the Sept. 21 reunion at the hospital between Plas and Jack for himself.

Mike Plas and his dog Jack were reunited last Saturday in Winnipeg after nearly four years apart. (Mackenzie Cutler/Facebook)

"I would have to say it's one of the most surreal moments in my career so far," he said. "I couldn't imagine having a lost dog for four years myself."

Reboja said the story of the reunion has already encouraged a number of people to call his clinic to ask about the procedure. He says they're usually convinced about the benefits of a microchip once they hear about it.

"Hopefully we would have some more success stories like this in the future," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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