The Microchip Maze – Searching the Databases- (Part 2)

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UPDATE – Since we wrote this article, 24 Petwatch has now begun to participate in the AAHA database. AVID is now the only large microchip company that does not participate. 

Your microchipped lost pet has been picked up and turned into a vet or shelter.  He should be home quickly, correct? Well…. not so fast. In Part 1, we explained how the 900 prefix chips are very difficult to identify, thereby delaying or preventing a successful reunion. We also explained how sticking with one of the Big 5 microchip companies was the best chance your lost pet has to get home.

In this section, we’ll discuss the  different microchip databases and how to navigate them. Each of the Big 5 microchip companies (PetLink, Home Again, AKC Reunite, 24 Petwatch and AVID) maintain their own databases. When a pet is microchipped and enrolled the information is stored in their database (a fee may be required).  Each of these Big 5 companies also has a unique prefix making it fairly easy to identify the manufacturer of the chip if your vet or shelter has a “cheat sheet” like this handy.

cheatsheet
But if the finder of the dog doesn’t have this cheat sheet, they can still be forced to call all five companies until they find the right one. This can waste valuable time.
To expedite reunions,  the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) created the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool (see screenshot below).  This is an internet-based application that enables veterinarians, shelters, animal control facilities, pet owners or the public to search various registries and identify those registries on which a particular microchip is registered.
AAHA look up site
The AAHA Pet Microchip Lookup Tool works by checking the databases of the participating microchip companies to determine what company has registration information available for a microchip.  Click this link to see which microchip companies participate.
Simply enter the microchip number into the tool and it will pull up the information. When an enrolled chip number is entered the following information will quickly appear on the screen:
AAHA enrolled chip
 Sounds simple, right? But wait! Not all of the Big 5 companies allow the AAHA tool to access their databases.  PetLink, Home Again and AKC Reunite do.  AVID and 24 Petwatch do not. By NOT participating it leaves 100’s of 1000’s of microchips vulnerable. HOW? If an organization is enrolling ALL the different types microchips they get in, ( i.e. a Home Again chip, AKC, etc.) in ONLY the 24Petwatch database, via their shelter software, when that chip is searched in AAHA, it will not give the finding organization ANY information that that chip is enrolled in the 24Petwatch database.
The AAHA Microchip Lookup tool will make a guess at the type of microchip it is but it won’t be sure. Here is an example of the tool making a guess at the type of microchip.
AVID
 AAHA has done a really wonderful thing by creating and maintaining the Microchip Lookup tool but until ALL of the microchip companies cooperate and participate, it won’t have the far-reaching effect it was designed to have.
If a microchip is registered in more than one of the participating databases it will pull up both. The vet or shelter should call the company with the most recently updated information. Here is an example: homeagain
Because microchip companies are always trying to build a better mousetrap, many of them have started their own free databases that you can enroll any  pet’s microchip information into, even if it wasn’t purchased from them.  Some people will do this instead of paying the fee to enroll their pet’s chip into the manufacturer’s database. Bad idea.  Some of these companies will probably fail and drift off into the sunset, along with your pet’s data. Some of them are obscure and unless the vet or shelter staff know about them, they may never be checked.
Even if they do seem to be a good, reputable company – you are still probably adding one extra step or phone call for the shelter or vet staff. You need to make it as easy as possible for them to contact you.
Don’t risk it.  Always make sure that your pet’s information is enrolled and kept up to date in the manufacturer’s database. That is the best likelihood that your pet will make it safely back home.
Next, we’ll talk about the confusing array of enrollment plans and packages that the microchip companies sell.  Do you really need to pay a yearly fee?
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