Microchips to help county reunite dogs with owners

Dogs that Mesa County Animal Services places with Mesa County residents, or animals they transfer to local shelters or rescue groups for adoption, will now get an embedded microchip — meaning all the dog’s important identifying information will be available with the quick scan of a chip reader.

“When we pick up dogs, our first goal is to reunite them with their owners. So that’s why we want the microchip in place,” said Mesa County Animal Services director Penny McCarty.

Animal services officers in the field have scanners, as well as a laptop that can access the database of dogs. So now, if they encounter a dog that has been transferred through the county system at some time in the past, officers can bring the dog directly home — instead of using up space in county facilities, McCarty said.

The money for microchipping comes from the Colorado Pet Overpopulation Fund License Plate program. All the grant money — $9,000 — will go to purchase of the chips, and local vets will train county staff on how to implant them into dogs.

According to HomeAgain, the microchip program in which the county and the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association participates, the chips are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted without anesthetic between the dog’s shoulder blades.

Apart from local shelters and rescue groups, McCarty said that the county also sometimes transfers dogs to the Front Range, and even to breed-specific rescue groups in other parts of the country. However, only dogs that will stay in or around Mesa County will get the new microchips, she said. Cats won’t get chips.

Last year, Mesa County adopted out or transferred for adoption 1,405 dogs, and about 1,000 of those animals stayed local and would be eligible for the new chip program.

McCarty points out the county will not be offering individual microchipping for citizens’ pets — the new program applies only to dogs in the county system.

While microchipping of pets is certainly on the rise, McCarty said “The number-one problem we see is people forget to register their microchip when they move.” If the info in the database is out of date, reuniting the pet with its owner becomes that much more difficult.

County citizens who change addresses should update their pet licenses with animal services, who will update the microchip information then as well. Owners should contact the specific microchip service to update their information, too.

In other animal services news, the county also agreed on Monday to accept a $5,000 grant from the same program to spay or neuter local cats owned by income-qualified citizens. The money should be enough to sterilize about 100 Mesa County cats.


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