Opinion: High-tech microchips can help save pets

Just last month, a terrier named Coco, who belonged to San Diego Assemblymember Ben Hueso, went missing from his home.  Coco was found in Fresno about 350 miles away and because Coco had a microchip, he was able to be reunited with his family.  The result: A happy lawmaker and an even happier dog. 

But not everyone is so lucky.

Every year, shelters in California impound nearly one million dogs and cats, and more than half of these animals are euthanized, many because they were lost and could not be reunited with their original owners.

Recently, I authored Senate Bill SB 702, which seeks to address a critical problem facing California, where only 13 percent of animals entering shelters are reunited with their owners.

The problem goes beyond dead pets and their heartbroken owners. According to the State Controller’s office, each year this process costs local governments about $300 million. My bill would slash these costs while providing a painless, cost-effective way to make it easier for pet owners to be reunited with their lost animals.  Lack of proper identification for pets is a significant source of overcrowding at our municipal shelters statewide.

According to animal welfare experts, if a lost pet is microchipped, animal control officers or a veterinarian can scan the pet and get them home before they enter a shelter.  This process can normally cost nearly $50 and helps reduce pet intakes at shelters. Additionally, microchipped pets have a 74-percent chance of finding their way back home.

In a major step to put an end to pet overpopulation in California, the Senate last month passed SB 702 with an overwhelming bipartisan, 36-2 vote. It now faces an Assembly review.

If signed into law, SB 702 would require that owners of animals adopted from or impounded and claimed by their owner from a local animal shelter implant an identifying microchip under the skin near the animal’s neck upon release, if available, or within 30 days of release from the shelter.  This bill authorizes local jurisdictions to waive the fines or fees associated with the SB 702 if the owner qualifies for free or reduced-cost microchipping services. 

When a pet is found by an animal shelter or veterinarian, a scanner is used to see if the pet has a microchip.  If so, the scanner provides the unique ID number of the chip, which is linked to the owner’s contact information. A microchip is not an active pet-tracking device and therefore it is essential for the owner to keep their contact information current with the microchip’s manufacturer.

Like Hueso, all pet owners benefit from microchipping. Our state can no longer afford to spend $300 million in taxpayer funds to euthanize pets in shelters. Not only is this irresponsible, but there are solutions, like SB 702.  Together, we can begin fixing the problem.

To help bring this issue to light, we are inviting Sacramento-area residents to bring their pets and join us for free microchip implanting and low-cost vaccination day at the Capitol on Thursday, July 7 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. by the fish pond near the east steps. 

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