When a chip on the shoulder’s a good thing


IT’S THE LAW All puppies and dogs in Ireland must now be microchipped so their owners can be traced.

Naomi Clarkin

The new law on microchipping dogs aims to speedily reunite lost and stolen dogs with their owners, and protect the welfare of all dogs by deterring people from dumping them or letting them roam (and cause a nuisance or a danger to sheep and on roads). The new law has been warmly welcomed by animal welfare groups. However, as with many new things, there is often some misinformation and confusion. I hope by the end of this article most, if not all, of your questions will be answered.
On March 31, it became compulsory for all dogs in the Republic of Ireland to be microchipped and registered on an approved database. Once chipped and registered, the database issues a certificate to the registered owner of the dog. This document will tell you which database your dog is on and how they can be contacted. It is the owner’s duty to keep any changes, such as change of address or phone number or change of ownership, up to date with the database. Owners should also make sure their dog is wearing a collar with an ID disc.
Since September 2015, all pups must be chipped and registered with an approved database by the time they reach 12 weeks of age, or before they are moved from their birth home. It is illegal to buy or take ownership of a pup that is not microchipped and registered and that does not have a certificate to prove that it is registered on an approved database.
Under the new legislation, you must inform the approved database on which the dog is registered whenever you buy, sell, take ownership or transfer ownership of a dog. Currently there are several approved databases: Animark, IKC-PetData, Fido and Pet-Trace.
A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice, encased in the same material as human pacemakers so that the animal’s body does not reject it. It is encoded with a unique number that can be read by a scanner which works through radio wave frequency. It is injected through a sterile needle under the skin between the shoulder blades. The procedure should cause no more discomfort than a standard vaccination. Once under the skin, the chip becomes encased by a thin layer of protein which anchors it in place.  
Most veterinary practices in Ireland can microchip dogs, along with a growing number of local authority dog wardens and animal welfare groups. You can expect to pay between €25 and €50 to have your pet microchipped at your vet’s. As part of the process, your vet will scan your dog to double check that he or she hasn’t already been chipped.
All of the above groups now have scanners to check stray dogs to see if they have been microchipped. If they have, the stray’s microchip number is entered into a European wide database europetnet, which will tell which Irish database the animal is registered on. Next, that database company is contacted and then contact is made with the registered owner, so that the pet and owner can be reunited.
So, if your dog is not yet chipped make an appointment with your local vet to get it done as soon as possible to comply with the law, but even more importantly, to help you and your four-legged friend be reunited as quickly as possible, if you ever become separated.

Dr Naomi Clarkin BVetMed works with three other vets, Tom Fabby, Killian Ó Móráin and David Fabby at The Veterinary Surgery of Church Lane, Westport. As of last week, the practice has moved to a new, spacious site on the West Road, beside the skate park in Westport and is now called Westvets.