Discovering your beloved pet has gone missing can be hugely distressing – and, sadly, so many lost animals never find their way back home.
But there is one easy and inexpensive step that pet owners can take, which makes animals easily identifiable and can help see them returned home after wandering or getting lost. That simple measure is a microchip.
Unfortunately, too few animals are currently microchipped in South Australia. Just 139 of the 2,159 cats that came into RSPCA South Australia care in 2017 were microchipped – that’s just 6% of all cats.
With new laws about to make microchipping compulsory for all dogs and cats in South Australia, here’s what you need to know to keep your pet safe.
What is a microchip?
A permanent means of identification for your pet, a microchip is a small chip – about the size of a grain of rice – with a unique number that can be detected with a microchip scanner.
The chip itself is implanted at the back of your pet’s neck and retains critical information about your pet, as well as your owner contact details. The procedure itself is quick, cheap and generally painless for the animal.
Microchipping is available for most animals, with dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and even some livestock able to have the critical identification chip implanted.
Why should I microchip my pet?
These tiny chips allow pet owners the best chance of having your lost pet returned safely home with minimum fuss.
Should your cat or dog ever get lost or go wandering, veterinarians, animal shelters like RSPCA and local councils can easily scan your animal’s microchip and access your contact information through the database.
Take Millie the cat, for example. The thin and sickly 15-year-old was found by RSPCA South Australia in a grotty Parafield Gardens drain this year. RSPCA Rescue Officer Nalika immediately discovered Millie was microchipped – a quick call to the phone number on her file and Millie’s very surprised owner Elle soon arrived to collect her long-lost cat. Turns out Millie had been missing for five years!
Am I legally required to microchip my pet?
In the Australia Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, microchipping is compulsory and enforced by law.
Now South Australia is about to follow suit. Under new laws coming into force on July 1, 2018, all dogs and cats must be microchipped by 12 weeks of age or within 28 days of acquiring the animal.
That microchip number must then be registered with the new state-based Dogs and Cats Online system, which is free to use. If your pet is already registered with one of the national systems (such as Pet Chip Registry, Central Animal Records, Petsafe and HomeSafeID) you will also need to enter this microchip number into South Australia’s Dog and Cats Online system.
With compulsory laws legislating microchipping, it is more important than ever to get your pet implanted. The new laws will hopefully also help relive the already-strained resources of RSPCA South Australia and other animal welfare charities.
And microchipping definitely works. Kevin and his two children, Tanisha and Domanic were ecstatic to have microchipped their fur-baby, 9-year-old Harold. After nearly a year away from home, Kevin received the phone call he had been hoping for: RSPCA had found Harold alive and well thanks to his microchip.
Who can microchip my pet?
Finding somewhere to microchip your cat or dog can be as simple as finding a veterinary clinic. While only certified microchip implanters are authorised to microchip pets, most veterinarians and some councils do offer the service. Or adopt your pet from RSPCA South Australia – all our animals are desexed and microchipped.
The average cost of getting your pet microchipped in Australia is around $45. This is a one-time cost and can often cover the registration fee for your details in a microchip database.
ChipBlitz also offers discounted $10 microchipping in over 30 central and rural South Australian locations.
It’s a small price to pay for keeping your beloved pet safe. Like Gingy the ginger cat, who jumped the fence after his family moved to Morphettville, and simply disappeared. Five months later, though, he was brought to RSPCA Lonsdale and rapidly reunited with his relieved owner Natasha, all thanks to his microchip.
How do I update my microchip details?
Keeping your contact details up-to-date is vitally important to ensure the safe return of your animal, should they ever stray from home. You must update your details when you move home or change your phone number.
To update your details in the new state-based register, simply visit Dogs and Cats Online and enter in your new details.
If your pet is also registered with a national system, the easiest way to update is by visiting Petaddress. Just type in your animal’s microchip number and it will automatically search the various animal databases, such as Pet Chip Registry, Central Animal Records, Petsafe and HomeSafeID.
Remember, you must keep your details up to date in both the new Dogs and Cats Online system and the national system.
Tinkerbell the cat’s owners were so relieved they kept their contact details up to date. The black and white cat was adopted from RSPCA South Australia almost a decade ago, and was microchipped then, as all RSPCA cats are. But Tinkerbell went missing late last year, before turning up three months later at our Lonsdale shelter as a stray. Reuniting her with owner Georgia was as simple as a phone call!
Should you have trouble locating your pet’s registry, contact your vet for help finding out which database your animal is listed in.
When should I get my pet microchipped?
All RSPCA South Australia cats and dogs are microchipped prior to adoption, but if your pet is not, it’s a simple process.
It is generally safe to microchip your pet dog or cat at four weeks of age and onward, ensuring they are over 1kg in weight. There is no age limit, so it’s never too late to microchip your pet and guarantee them the best chance at finding their way home.
And remember, from July 1, 2018, microchipping will become mandatory in South Australia, with all dogs and cats legally required to be microchipped by three months of age, or within 28 days of acquiring the animal.
Still need convincing? Watch Asha’s incredible survival story
Meet Asha, the pooch who found her way home after five long years missing – thanks to her microchip.
Asha was found by RSPCA South Australia rescue officers in late 2016, with a severely matted coat. After receiving the care she so desperately needed, Asha’s family were contacted with the wonderful news that their beloved dog had been found, alive and well.
Watch the video below to see Asha’s heart-melting reunion with her family.
A pet is a permanent member of the family, and for most pet owners, losing a pet can be just devastating. So do the right thing and chip your pet today.
For full details about South Australia’s major new dog and cat management law changes, and how you’re affected by new microchipping, desexing and breeding laws, head here.