Companion Animal Law Blog

Bringing together those whose lives and livelihoods revolve around companion animals

All is Not Lost: California Becomes First State to Pass Bill Mandating Microchips


In July, Happy the min-pin escaped from his yard in Riverside, California. His owners searched for him for two weeks, but never found him. They were so convinced that he was lost for good that they even adopted a new dog.

But just last week, two good Samaritans found Happy in a park in Palm Springs, and took him to the local animal shelter. Fortunately, Happy has a microchip, and it was easy to reunite him with his owners.

Sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for signature is Senate Bill 702, the country’s first legislation that would mandate microchips for pets as of January 1, 2012. The bill requires animal control agencies, shelters and rescues to microchip dogs and cats before being adopted or — if not already chipped like Happy — before being claimed if picked up as a stray.

Christian Science Monitor reports that California shelters impound more than one million dogs and cats a year, and euthanize over half of those animals.  The cost to house and euthanize those animals is $300 million each year.  This bill seeks to reduce the euthanasia rate and costs by increasing the chance that the animal and owner can be reunited.

Microchips are an inexpensive and easy way to make sure that your companion animals can be identified and that you can be notified quickly and easily. With last week’s earthquake and hurricane in this region, there is no time like the present to get your animals microchipped if they are not already. As pointed out by the Examiner, this is just the one step to careful emergency preparedness.

One word of warning. Even if your dogs and cats are microchipped, state law may still require collars and identification tags. For an example, take a look at Virginia Code Section 3.2-6531.

On a related note, now is a good time to review what to do if you find a stray animal, and what happens if your dog is picked up as a stray.

Author: Heidi Meinzer

Attorney and Animal Lover, not necessarily in that order

6 thoughts on “All is Not Lost: California Becomes First State to Pass Bill Mandating Microchips

  1. I have an indoor cat who wears a collar with tags, but you make some good points about microchipping that I hadn’t considered. In light of the recent earthquake and hurricane, I am considering it. I had heard, however, that a few years back there were some problems with microchipping — namely, that different chips required different readers, and so some microchipped animals were not reunited with their families when they arrived at shelters. Has this problem been fixed? And do most municipal animal control departments have microchip readers in the DC/ MD/ VA area?

    • Thanks for your comments, Jessica.

      I’ve heard about issues about needing different readers, or chips migrating, or that animal control doesn’t always scan for chips. I don’t know about the current state of readers or whether migration of the chip really impacts scanning the chips. I would tend to think that animal control officers in the DC metro area would tend to have and use scanners. I’ve seen data that says a pet that is not chipped has a 13% chance of getting back to his owner, whereas a chipped pet has a 75% chance, with the other 25% usually due to inaccurate or out of date info. Here’s one link with those figures:


      • Heidi,

        I spoke with a friend at the Washington Humane Society who told me that many of the problems of the past with different kinds of chips and readers have been eliminated, and at the very least, an animal control officer with a reader will be able to tell that the animal has a microchip (even if the information is not readable). Next time I take my cat to the vet, I think I’ll have it done.


      • Thanks so much for checking on the compatability issue and reporting back, Jessica!

  2. It’s good to have both the chip and collar because the chips do not always stay in place. One of my dogs chips was placed in the neck region, and over time slipped all the way down to her hip.

    Another reason to have a collar with I.D. is because not all scanners match the chip that was implanted in your dog. Hopefully, a universal chip will be available so they can be scanned by any scanner…or a universal scanner may be a more appropriate option.

    I am a Miniature Schnauzer Breeder, and I absolutely support the Humane Society. My pups owners are screened. I have turned potential buyers away because I must be very certain that the new owners are not only animal lovers, but are knowledgeable about the breed, thus making the puppy less likely to be at risk of being homeless. I also offer an unconditional return policy. I can easily sell all my puppies within a very short time, but I have been known to hold on to puppies as old as 8 months old because the right home had not yet been found. I am a conscientious breeder and wish that more breeders would take responsibility for their puppies future.

    It is agonizing to walk into a shelter and see so many sad and lonely faces.

    Our County Animal Control only charges $15 to implant a microchip.

    If you don’t have a County Animal Shelter near by, at least call the the closest one and ask them who and where is the cheapest place to get it done. A Veterinarian is usually the most expensive place to get it done.

    I think making a law that requires pets to have a micro chip is a very responsible move.


    • Thanks, Janine! I cannot agree with you more on chipping *and* ID’ing your pets with collars and tags! And I thank you for your responsible breeding practices. I am very wary of breeders who do not screen potential adopters and do not have an unconditional return policy — these are just starters for things I look for with breeders.

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