Microchip Use and Scanning Survey

Microchip Reader

The Research Questions

  • Are the scanners in animal shelters are compatible with the types of microchips used in the community?
  • Do enrollment databases have up-to-date owner contact information?
  • Is the microchip identification system a pet’s safety net or a false hope?


Although Americans have more pets than children, a national failure to place identification on them results in a high rate of strays being impounded at animal control facilities. Although certainly safe, a very low percentage of pets are implanted with RFID microchip identification. The result is that several million cats and dogs are killed in animal shelters each year, making homelessness the single largest threat to the health and welfare of companion animals.

Currently in the United States microchips are sold with 125 kHz (encrypted and unencrypted), 128 kHz, or 134.2 kHz frequencies, and not all scanners are capable of identifying all microchips. Universal scanners are available but have yet to replace a majority of the non-universal scanners currently used in animal shelters and veterinary hospitals. The ongoing problem with microchip scanner incompatibility in the fragmented and proprietary microchip industry in the United States creates a substantial risk that even pets with microchips may fail to be identified in shelters using incompatible microchip scanning technology. We will survey shelters, rescue groups, and veterinary clinics in the Southeastern United States to determine what the current level of microchip utilization and compatibility is.

This study is being conducted by Dr. Julie Levy with the assistance of Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Research Fellow Lauren Unger and is funded by the Harold Morris Trust.