Montreal veterinarians see surge in patients as microchipping deadline looms

Montreal pet owners are scrambling to get their pets to the vet on time for the city's new bylaw.

All cats and dogs must be spayed or neutered and microchipped by Jan. 1

In this file photo, a dog is examined by a veterinarian. In Montreal, all cats and dogs will have to be microchipped by Jan. 1. (AFP via Getty Images)

Montreal veterinarians are seeing a spike in visits from pet owners as they rush to adhere to a new city bylaw.

The bylaw, which comes into effect on Jan. 1, is aimed at reducing the number of pets abandoned on the streets of Montreal. It requires all dog and cat owners to have their pets spayed or neutered and microchipped in order to get them licensed.

If the requirements aren't met and the pet isn't licensed, owners can be fined up to $400, said Philippe Sabourin, a spokesperson for the city.

"If, for medical reasons, the dog or the cat can't be microchipped, then we only need a note from a veterinarian," said Sabourin. "But it's rare." 

Sabourin said pet owners have been given ample warning to get their pets microchipped on time and said the city has sent out more than 10,000 letters to remind pet owners about the new bylaw. 

The City of Montreal had launched its first campaign recommending owners get their pets microchipped back in 2015

Dr. Karen Joy Goldenberg, a veterinarian at Pierrefonds Animal Hospital, said she's seen a dramatic increase in patients in the last month.

Her clinic went from microchipping three pets a week to microchipping between 10 and 20 per day.

"By having the microchip, your pet is going to be identified and people will be able to reach out to you so it saves a lot of time and resources and it increases the chances of a pet getting home," she said. 

The microchip is no bigger than a grain of rice, she explained. It is injected into the pet's upper back, between their shoulder blades and under a layer of skin. Goldenberg described it as a safe and painless procedure.

Dr. Karen Joy Goldenberg says the Pierrefonds Animal hospital has seen an influx in patients this month. (Ainslie MacLellan/CBC)

Every microchip has a special barcode that can be scanned, which bring up the contact information of the pet's owner.

Because microchips are permanent, Goldenberg said they are a lot more efficient than animal collars.

"Maybe you're walking your dog on a leash and something startles them, their collar can slip off," she said. "An outdoor cat may get their collar caught on a branch going through bushes and it will come off. So, this being under the skin is permanent and your pet can't accidentally lose that form of identification."       

Costs for microchips vary depending on their radio frequency, said Goldberg​​​​. She recommends choosing a universal microchip so that it can be scanned regardless of where your pet is found. The cost also depends on whether it is a veterinarian or an animal technician who performs the procedure.

The new bylaw has been met with mixed feedback from Goldenberg's patients. 

"Everyone recognizes that it is a good idea, it's just the idea of being forced within a certain time that does leave a bit of a bad taste in some peoples' mouths," she said. 

The Montreal SPCA has been microchipping pets for years, and all pets that go up for adoption are microchipped and spayed or neutered before they can be adopted. 

"It prevents a lot of stress for both the animal and the family involved and when we're able to reunite animals with their families, not only are we happy that the animal has been reunited, but that also gives us more room to take in even more animals," said SPCA spokesperson Anita Kapuscinska. 

With files from Chloë Ranaldi


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