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Chipping In

Tiny microchip can help reunite owners, lost pets

July 19, 2009
By ZACH SUBAR, The Leader-Herald

AMSTERDAM - When Montgomery County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals employee Debra Mazur brought Cagney, a female shepherd mix, into a side room at the shelter Thursday, she was repeating a process she and her fellow SPCA workers have come to know well.

In her left hand, Shelter Manager Debi Crandall held a blue contraption resembling a cross between a thermometer and a needle. In her right, she held rubbing alcohol.

Crandall was preparing to insert a microchip, a device approximately the size of a grain of rice, just under the dog's skin. Each microchip contains a number that can be registered to one of several databases.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Zach Subar
Montgomery County SPCA Shelter Manager Debi Crandall, left, inserts a microchipper into Cagney, a female shepherd mix, as shelter employee Debra Mazur holds the dog at the SPCA on Thursday. The SPCA microchips all of its dogs.

Once registered to a particular owner, a lost cat or dog with a microchip can be located more easily. A scanner can identify the number, which can be matched with an address registered in a database. Crandall said it is essential for owners who microchip their pets to register them-the SPCA uses a database called Home Again-because pets with registered microchips have a better chance of being found.

"You're such a good girl," Crandall cooed as Mazur held Cagney down. She rubbed the alcohol in between the dog's shoulder blades, then stuck in the microchipper as the dog struggled and briefly yelped.

The process ended as quickly as it had begun, as Crandall grabbed a scanner and promptly swiped it across the area where she had inserted the microchip. A number registered on the screen, which confirmed the microchip had been inserted correctly.

"We're into it," said Crandall as Cagney stood up happily, seeming to have forgotten the momentary pain. "We've been doing microchipping since I came here [last year]."

Crandall and her staff will be getting even more involved with microchipping in the coming weeks and months. The Montgomery County SPCA announced this week it will begin microchipping pets owned by members of the general public, something it hasn't done before.

The SPCA?microchips all its animals at the shelter, and it now is inviting anyone to bring pets so they can have the procedure done.

People interested in having their pets microchipped must make an appointment. It costs $40 for one pet and $25 for each additional pet microchipped during the same session.

Crandall said the SPCA's staff decided to start the program this summer because it has seen lost cats and dogs come through in greater numbers recently.

"I think it's going to be a good program-maybe we can reunite these dogs with their owners faster," Crandall said. "Dogs travel."

The procedure has a fan in Fultonville. Irene Lawyer had been training her Jack Russell mix puppy for months until one day last month, when what she called her "very strange cat" darted out of the house and into the woods.

Lawyer began to chase him, leaving Taffy, the puppy, standing in the yard. Lawyer said someone down the street likely whistled at him, or something else caught his attention, because he ran down the road and out of sight.

Lawyer, who has lost a cat in the past, spent two days and nights looking for the dog. She was beginning to give up, thinking he may have fallen into a ravine, when she got a call from the Montgomery County SPCA, telling her they had found her dog running down Route 5S in Amsterdam-some 11 miles from her Fultonville home.

The puppy had been microchipped.

"If you care enough for your dog and you want your dog back, it's worth it," Lawyer said Thursday. "You express your feeling by having a security [device] for him."

Crandall said contrary to what some believe, it is unlikely pets will get infected by microchipping if the chip is placed between the shoulder blades and treated with the rubbing alcohol. She compared the procedure to getting a shot.

Mazur said some dogs put up a fuss - shaking and yelping while they are getting microchipped- but cats "are the best" because "they just sit there" calmly. But the SPCA is now

Veterinarians throughout the area conduct pet-microchipping clinics at scattered times throughout the year, and the SPCA does the same.

Those interested in scheduling an appointment can call the Montgomery County SPCA at 842-8050 from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. Crandall said SPCA officials may pick Sunday as the day when they will do the most microchipping, though they have not yet officially designated that as the day.

Zach Subar can be reached at



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