A new online search engine launched yesterday is designed to streamline the search for owners of lost pets implanted with microchips.
Users read the chip with a scanner, then type the resulting 9-, 10- or 15-digit code into the search engine at www.checkthechip.com. The tool then tells the user which of the six registries in the United States houses the pet’s ownership information.
The search engine was developed by a startup company, Chloe Standard, in Mountain View, Calif., a region known as Silicon Valley because of its concentration of high-tech businesses and entrepreneurs.
Olivia Sadlowski, founder and CEO of Chloe Standard — which is named for Sadlowski's pug, Chloe — said using the search engine is free. The company hopes to raise revenues by selling advertising on the Web site.
Sadlowski noted that the company is not trying to compete with existing database registries nor has it received funding from microchip companies. “Microchip database companies provide valuable services to their customers, and that is important,” she said in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to make the task of matching the microchip number to the database easier for everyone.”
Sadlowski said 30 million pets in the United States are implanted with microchips. The majority presumably are registered with one of six database companies in this country, but a fraction may be registered with companies in other countries. In cases where a microchip code is not recognized by the search engine, www.checkthechip.com will display the names and contact information for the six American registries. Eventually, Sadlowski said, the engine may be designed to identify chips registered abroad, as well.
Still, one challenge to the microchip recovery system remains, at least in the United States where many scanners are restricted to read single frequencies and some chips are encrypted. While universal scanners exist, they're not all made equally. Organized veterinary medicine and other animal-health advocates have long pressed for international compatibility between all microchips and scanners, which traditionally have fostered incompatibility due to market competition. In a 2005 report, the Coalition for Reuniting Pets and Families estimated that less than 25 percent of lost pets in the United States were reunited with their owners. The group blamed competing manufacturers' reluctance to standardize their products and the federal government's determination that it doesn't have the authority to mandate a national standard for pet microchips and scanners.