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Mythbuster: Pet microchips are not GPS tracking devices

Animals with microchips have a higher return to owner rate than those without one.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — July is National Lost Pet Prevention month and local shelters and animal clinics are encouraging pet parents to get their fur babies microchipped.

Millions of pets are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year. According to a study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, only about 22% of lost dogs are reunited with their owner, but the return to owner rate is much higher for microchipped dogs at more than 50%.

If you’re someone who thinks a microchip is like a GPS tracker, you’d be wrong, but what it can do is help reunite pet owners with their furry friends sooner rather than later.

It's the size of a grain of rice, but a microchip is probably the best way to help you find your lost pet.

“It’s basically an internal dog tag. It’s a dog tag that your dog cannot lose," Katie Martin, Medical Director, VCA Woodland, said. 

Recently, a dog found in Michigan after being stolen from his Florida home seven years ago was reunited with his owner all thanks to a microchip.

“It’s always important that you keep your information up to date on your microchip," Brianna Shahly, Marketing & Communications Coordinator for the Humane Society of West Michigan, said. 

A microchip is injected between your pet's shoulder blades like a vaccine. When scanned it shows a long set of numbers.

“We input that into a microchip ID system online and then that will link us to the information on your pet's microchip. Using that information we can contact you and make sure your pet gets home safe and sound," Shahly said.

While there are products on the market right now such as dog tags and collars with GPS tracking technology, experts say those can easily be removed or fall off.

“It only tracks your animal when it’s in a certain range but again that’s a separate product than microchips. Microchips don’t do that; they always need to be scanned to pull that information up," Shahly said.

Microchips also allow owners to send out an S.O.S.

“If your dog becomes lost, you can call the microchip company and report they are lost, which I had done, and they send out a fax to all the vet clinics in the area saying this pet is missing, if you see this pet please call this number," Martin said.

A $10 dog tag with your pet name and contact information is also recommended, increasing the chances of your family member returning to your loving arms.

The Humane Society of West Michigan is offering a walk-in microchip clinic Tuesday through Friday from 1-4 p.m. all year around.

It costs just $15.

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