If you ever find a lost pet, hopefully it will have an ID tag with the owner’s phone number on it, as this is usually the quickest way to return a pet back to his family. However, if the animal doesn’t have external ID, you’ll need to scan it with a universal scanner (most vet’s offices provide this as a free, or, self-service) to see if a microchip has been implanted under the skin.
If a microchip has been implanted, the scanner will reveal a 9, 10, or 15 digit microchip number. Contrary to popular belief, the scanner doesn’t provide owner contact information. It doesn’t even identify the registry. The vet’s office looks at the microchip number, and if they can guess the microchip manufacturer, they may give you that company’s phone number as well.
So where do you start looking for owner information? It can be a long and confusing process, especially because there is no singular national database in the United States, which means you can register any brand of microchip with any registry, and you can register the same microchip number in multiple registries. This means that even if the vet guesses the microchip brand correctly, that information may not even help you find the owner. Confused yet?
This is where the Pet Microchip Lookup Tool comes in handy. An online tool maintained by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), it should be the very first website you check when you’re attempting to find owner information for a found pet.
Here are 5 things every animal lover should know about AAHA’s Pet Microchip Lookup Tool:
- It’s a Search Engine, Not a Registry
It’s not a registry or database, and it doesn’t store pet owners’ contact information. Instead, it is a lookup tool, sort of like Google for microchip registrations. It “peeks” into (most) major microchip registries (see number 4 on the list below) and tells you within a few seconds if/where the microchip number is registered.
- It Shows the Registry’s Info, Not the Pet Owner’s
If the chip is registered with a specific company, the tool will provide the company’s website and phone number, as we ll as the date the chip was last updated. For example, see the image below for what it looks like when you search for “Waldo’s” microchip number, which is registered in most of the common registries in the U.S., including the Found Animals Registry. As you can see, the tool does not show any pet owner contact information – not even the owner’s name. It just shows the registry’s info. This type of message will show up for any “participating registries” (AAHA’s term for the registries it is able to search). However, just because a chip is registered with a company, you shouldn’t assume that the chip was manufactured by the same company. Which leads to point number 3…
- It Searches for Registrations First, Then Possible Manufacturers
If the chip isn’t registered in any participating registries, it will point you in the direction of the possible manufacturer of the microchip. This way, you can contact the manufacturer to see which implanter they may have sold the chip to. Unfortunately, this information will only show for non-registered chips. If a chip is registered, it will only show the information seen in point number 2 above. So, if the manufacturer’s registry is not also a participating registry in AAHA, you won’t see that company listed when the chip is registered somewhere else.
For all you curious cats out there, here’s a chart of popular microchip manufacturers and their chip number formats. Remember: Rather than basing your guess off of a chart, you can get 100% accuracy with AAHA’s Pet Microchip Lookup Tool to find a registration for a found pet!
- Some Registries Do Not Participate
Even though it’s completely free, not every registry participates in the tool. This is not because of cost or inconvenience – those companies are actively choosing not to be part of the lookup. Click here for a list of participating companies. Currently, AVID does not participate. If you have pets registered in AVID we encourage you to contact them and ask them to participate in AAHA’s Pet Microchip Lookup Tool in the interest of increasing pet reunifications.
- Some Animal Professionals Don’t Use It
Not every shelter knows about or uses the tool when they have a found pet. This can lead to some dangerous confusion — for example, if your pet’s microchip is a HomeAgain chip, but it is registered with AKC Reunite, the shelter may call HomeAgain directly without looking it up on AAHA’s tool, and could miss the AKC registration altogether. Some pet owners choose to update their pet’s information with the original manufacturer’s database as an added safety net to prevent this type of confusion. As long as all registrations are kept up-to-date, there is no harm in registering your pet’s microchip in multiple registries. Hopefully soon, every shelter and vet in the country will use petmicrochiplookup.org consistenly, so no pet will be stuck in a shelter or clinic because someone couldn’t find its registration.
We hope this cleared up some confusion around the much-asked question of how to find owner information for a found pet, as well as provided some insight into AAHA’s Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. Now, it’s your turn to enlighten an animal-loving friend or spread the word to your local shelters, vets, and rescue groups. Tell them K-9 Angels Rescue in Houston TX sent you!
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The Pet Microchip Lookup Tool has been unanimously endorsed by the Coalition for Reuniting Pets and Families. Members of the coalition include: AAHA, American Humane Association (AHA), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives (ASVMAE), AVMA, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), National Federation of Humane Societies (NFHS), and the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators (SAWA).
AAHA and the Coalition for Reuniting Pets and Families encourage all veterinary practices, shelters and animal control facilities to bookmark or link to www.petmicrochiplookup.org, and use it every time a lost pet is scanned.
Listed below are some of the participating microchip registries:
If the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup search does not find the microchip number you entered, check the microchip number and try again. Otherwise, check here to determine who to contact for microchip shipping information.
NOW LET’S RECAP!
Check to see if your pet is already microchipped. You can do this for free at a veterinary office or animal shelter. Make sure the person scanning your pet is using a universal scanner (one that reads all chip frequencies), so the chip isn’t missed.
If a chip is detected, copy down the number and look it up at petmicrochiplookup.org to get contact info for the chip’s registry. Don’t worry – no matter which company sold the chip, you can always register it for free at www.found.org.
If a chip is not detected, go ahead and get your pet microchipped. You can do this at your veterinary office and some pet supply retailers for a small fee. Make sure to get a copy of your pet’s microchip paperwork, which contains your pet’s unique microchip number. Think of this number like a social security number. Keep it in a safe place so you can find it again if you need it.
MOST IMPORTANT STEP: Register your pet’s microchip number as soon as possible at www.found.org. Registration is free for the life of your pet. Remember, your pet’s microchip number is very similar to your social security number – it has to correlate with information in a database to be useful. The database in this instance is a chip registry, where you will enter your contact information under your pet’s unique microchip number. This way, if your pet is lost without external ID, he can be scanned at a vet clinic or shelter and traced back to you as guardian.
Remember to update your contact information in the chip registry every time you move or change your phone number. (This is why you should keep your pet’s microchip paperwork in a safe place you’ll remember.)
Having your pet microchipped is just one step in keeping your pet safe if he’s ever lost. The other equally important step is keeping an external ID on your pet at all times. If your pet escapes your care, the first place a Good Samaritan will look is on your pet’s collar. Make sure your pet’s tag is up to date with your current phone number. Make sure if you move you update it right away. You don’t have to get fancy with this. A fabric collar with your phone number written on it in Sharpie will do in a pinch.
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And for a more inclusive registry lookup, check these links for other countries: