The recent earthquake events that have quite literally shaken the length of New Zealand serve as a timely reminder that our pets are affected by natural disasters also. Even here in Dunedin where we were fortunate enough to be spared the full force of the earthquakes we have been informed about a number of animals that have gone missing over the week that followed. While there are many ways to identify your pet, there is only one which is not only lifelong but also does not rely on a collar. To do your best to ensure a safe return should your pet go missing, whatever the circumstances, is to have them microchipped.

The microchipping process involves a small chip, the size of a small grain of rice, being inserted via a needle over the back of the animal’s neck. There are no recognised side effects of the process, other than local pain at the time of the insertion. This can be minimised by an injection of local anaesthetic being given prior to the microchip.

We recommend that all microchipped pets should be registered onto the New Zealand Companion Animal Database. For a very small, one-off registration fee you have lifelong access to an online database that enables you to easily keep your contact details up to date, and provides valuable information on what to do should your pet go missing. The details on this database can be accessed by recognised organisations permitted to obtain this information, such as vet clinics, the SPCA and other shelter organisations.

Dunedin City Council legislation (effective 1 July 2006) requires dogs to be microchipped within two months of their first registration, or from four months of age. In addition, unregistered dogs that become impounded or any dogs that become impounded for a second time must also be microchipped. Failure to microchip your dog under these requirements can lead to a $300 infringement notice. It is optional for other pets to be microchipped, such as cats and even rabbits.

There are additional benefits to your pet having a microchip other than for identification. Companies such as SureFlap have developed pet doors and feeding bowls which can be programmed to only allow your pet(s) access. This prevents unwanted neighbourhood animals from entering through your pet door and stressing out your animal, and ensures your pet that is on a special diet cannot eat the other pet’s food. We have demo models of both of these products available in our Mornington clinic if you would like to know more about how they work.

The most important message we would like to emphasise is that your pets microchip is only effective as long as you keep your contact details up to date, whether that be with us, the local council, or on the NZCAR.