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California pet microchip vote nears

In a May 12, 2011 photo, lost but found kittens wait for owners in a parking lot in the Alberta City community of Tuscaloosa, Ala. AP Photo/Dave Martin

Elected officials in California will vote in August on a bill that requires microchips to be implanted in every dog or cat adopted or claimed from an animal shelter.

Smart move, or waste of money?

Microchips for pets — about the size of a grain of rice and usually injected beneath the skin between an animals shoulder blades — store identification numbers that makes it easy for animal control officers to reunite lost pets with owners.

The microchips, themselves inert, contain a capacitor that can be read using radio frequency identification technology. Think of them less like a GPS device and more like your scannable passport.

Owners like them because they can get Fido back if he runs out the front door; similarly, officials like them because they say the technology reduces the number of animals that sit unclaimed in its shelters, waiting to be euthanized.

The bill, if passed, would be the first of its kind, the Associated Press notes. New York state has attempted to pass a similar bill for years without success.

Here’s how the numbers look:

  • In California, taxpayers pay $300 million each year to impound stray animals.
  • 1 million dogs and cats are housed with that money; half are euthanized.
  • 13 percent of lost pets in California shelters are reunited with owners.
  • The cost for a microchip and registration runs between $15 and $75 each.
  • With microchips, 75 percent of lost pets in California shelters could be reunited with owners, according to estimates.

The only time microchips don’t work, officials say, is when contact information is incorrect or outdated in the chipmaker’s database.

Naturally, critics don’t like the idea that animals must be injected with a foreign object; moreover, early (disputed) studies suggest the chips may, in some cases, cause cancer.

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