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New microchip search tool debuts

September 22, 2009
By: Edie Lau
For The VIN News Service


The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) on Monday launched a long anticipated Web-based search engine for pet microchip identification numbers.

The search tool has access to four databases with which pet owners in the United States may register their pets’ microchip identification numbers. However, companies that control three other databases are not currently participating.

AAHA spokesman Jason Merrihew said the organization is still in discussions with those companies and opted to make the tool available now rather than wait for full participation.

“We decided that the participating companies that we have now represent a pretty big portion of microchip companies in the United States,” Merrihew said. He was unable to say exactly what proportion of microchipped pets are covered by the participating registries.

Registries taking part in the new search engine, www.petmicrochiplookup.org, are AKC CAR, HomeAgain, Petlink by Datamars and ResQ by Bayer.

The databases not covered by the search tool are AVID, Banfield and 24PetWatch.

AAHA’s search engine is the second such tool to tackle the long-standing problem of matching pet microchip identification numbers to their respective registries. Due to the competitive nature of the business, no central database for registry information exists. That means that a pet with a microchip might fail to be reunited with its owner if the person who finds the pet cannot determine with which database the pet is registered. It is the registry that holds information about the pet’s owner, not the chip itself.

In August, a private company in California’s Silicon Valley, Chloe Standard, unveiled an Internet search engine at www.checkthechip.com to simplify the process of finding a chipped pet’s registry.

That search engine doesn’t access any registry’s database. Rather, it tells the user which company manufactured the chip. The manufacturer may also be the same company to which a chip is registered. If it is not, the user must make more calls to track down the pet owner.

Olivia Sadlowski, founder and CEO of Chloe Standard, has said that the company would like eventually to incorporate registry databases into its search engine. That would require the cooperation and participation of the database companies.

Merrihew of AAHA said his organization worked for nearly a year on collaborating with the companies and emphasized the unprecedented nature of the collaboration. “We feel it’s a major step forward,” he said.

He said AAHA did not have to pay for access to the databases, nor are the companies paying AAHA. “We felt that this is something that is needed, and we would be serving the best interests of the veterinary community, as well as the pets, if we had this available,” he said.

But Sadlowski said a search engine that accesses some database registries but not all could potentially be confusing to users, especially if the developers do not make the tool’s limitations clear. The Web site lists the participating companies but does not explicitly state that some registries are not participating.

“I think the only value-add this (search tool) has is that they managed to make connections (with the registries), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s ready to be used,” Sadlowski said. “This is why we didn’t want to work with the databases at the beginning. We wanted to have a broader default.”

Sadlowski called the registry information the “cherry on the sundae. We built the sundae. The collaboration is the cherry. You can’t start with the cherry, which is what they’re doing.”

In cases where a microchip number is not contained in a participating registry, the AAHA search tool identifies the probable manufacturer and gives contact information for the manufacturer.

Merrihew acknowledged that AAHA’s project, like Chloe Standard’s, is less than complete. “We know this tool is a work in progress,” he said.





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