If you ever find a lost pet, hopefully he’ll 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 Fido doesn’t have external ID, you’ll need to take him to a local vet’s office to get him scanned with a universal scanner to see if he has a microchip implanted under his skin.
If he has a microchip, 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 who the microchip manufacturer is, 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, 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:
1. 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.
2. 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 well 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…
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!
4. 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, the two common companies that do not participate are: AVID and 24PetWatch. If you have pets registered in either of these databases, 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.
5. 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!
Got any other microchip-related questions? Leave them in the comments section below.