Ever wondered how a microchip can help with reuniting missing and lost pets? Having a dog or cat microchipped is not sufficient, you will need to store the details on a government-approved database to help with being reunited with them if and when that missing dog ends up at a council warden or in a vet where they can scan the chip and identify the microchip number and match it to your details.
This article investigates the process of what happens to your pet if its found and how the microchip plays an important part in re-uniting you with your pet. We also check out the UK approved databases to see the different services they offer in relation to your missing pet, and any costs involved.
What happens when my pet goes missing and how does its microchip help?
Your pet’s microchip carries a unique identification number (usually up to 15 digits) which when scanned by a vet, shelter or the dog warden at the local council will present them with the microchip number. They will do this with a microchip scanner and the process will be harmless to your pet. This microchip number when entered into a ‘check-a-chip’ function will let them know which microchip database your pet is registered to.
A microchip (a tiny chip the size of a grain of rice which is inserted under the skin usually behind the shoulder blades) does not contain any GPS functionality (currently) which is often what people believe – they are simply permanent identifiers within your pet that can help in allowing a vet or shelter get in touch with you.
They will then have the ability to access that database (your chip may be on multiple databases) and log in to identify the details of the person who owns the pet. This will include details such as your name, email address, phone number and address. This is what allows them to get in touch with you to let you know that your pet is with them.
Remember, if your details are incorrect, or you have not updated your details – then a vet or rescue will NOT be able to get in touch with you, and having a microchip is USELESS.
Usually, the vet or shelter that has had the dog brought in to them by a member of the public will be the person that tries to contact you. If you have communicated with your microchip database that your dog or cat is missing, then they may also get in touch with you to let you know that your dog or cat has been found.
If a vet cannot get hold of you, or your details are out of date, they will then contact the local authority/dog warden to take your dog in. We would therefore recommend if your pet goes missing that you contact your local authority so they are aware that your pet is missing in case it comes to them.
We’ve also noted below the different government-approved pet databases and what they do concerning the process of a pet going missing so you can understand the differences in what a database may or may not do to help with locating your missing pet, especially if you have not or are unwilling to pay for their premium services.
Councils / Dog wardens will typically have a hold period of roughly 7 days where they will attempt to contact the owner before the dog is passed to a local rescue, or potentially put down.
Different rescues will then operate different processes in terms of how they might attempt to communicate with the existing owner before going ahead with the process of a re-home. If they cannot get through on the phone number supplied with the database, they will send a letter to the address on the database – keeping your pet for a minimum of a couple of weeks before progressing to rehome them. This will be the case to cover situations where perhaps you are not in the country or may not know if say your roaming cat has been missing.
Your pet’s microchip details may not be up to date – and have the previous owner’s details on there – rescues or vets may ask the old owner to help track you down. If the previous owner has not updated the details, or you are not sure – you can find out by contacting a pet microchip database where the details are stored. They will often require approval from the previous owner that this ‘transfer of keepership’ is legitimate. It is therefore important that you do this as soon as you have bought your new pet, in case it does go missing.
How does having my details on a dog tag/collar help when it goes missing?
These act as the first port of call of reuniting you with your missing dog or cat. If it is found locally, hopefully, a kind finder will collect your dog and contact you on the details on the tag. However, these can break off easily or be removed, if say your pet has been stolen. They may also be difficult to read after a while. As a result, a microchip is a permanent identifier for your pet if it gets lost or stolen. It is still a legal requirement for your dog to have a tag/collar with your details when out in public.
What does my pet microchip database do when my pet goes missing or is stolen?
The first thing to do when your pet goes missing is to notify your microchip database to let them know your pet is missing – they will help in different ways.
As explained above, we mentioned that the microchip number has your details stored on one of these databases and usually if a member of the public finds your dog and cannot obtain your details from a tag – they will then take your missing pet to a local vet or warden to help in identifying you.
They will be able to identify which database your details are registered to and obtain your contact details.
Most vets/wardens will call you direct but in some cases, a microchip database will call you.
Ultimately, you will have to simply wait for a call, if your pet goes missing.
We contacted the following databases who confirmed what they do when a pet goes missing and what they do in that process (and if they charge extra money for these services).
Animal Microchips – Lost Pet Service and Contact detail updates
If your pet goes missing, you can log into Animal Microchips and let them know that your pet is missing. They also offer a place on the site where you can list the details of your missing pet where pet owners can contact you directly.
It is not clear whether they charge to update details if your pet is currently missing, and no visible aspect of sending any alerts.
Animal Tracker – Lost Pet Service and charges for Contact detail updates
If your pet goes missing, you can log into the Animal Tracker website and notify them that the pet is missing. You can also choose whether your details are visible to someone searching your microchip number which might allow a quicker reunification of your pet.
Animal Tracker will also send the microchip number of your pet to a network of ‘Scanner Angel’ microchip scanners which will allow anyone scanning in your pet to know that the pet is currently marked as missing and will display the contact number of the database.
If you pay for the premium account – alerts will be sent to those in the local network who have opted in and you will also be able to update your photo and create missing posters. This requires a payment of £7.95 or £15 if you had not previously upgraded.
Chipworks – Lost Pet Service and charges for Contact detail updates
If your pet goes missing whilst registered with Chipworks, you can update the status of your pet on the database as missing. If details are incorrect, they will charge you £19.95 to update the details. There does not seem to be any visible lost pet or alert service.
Identibase – Lost Pet Service and charges for Contact detail updates
If your pet goes missing whilst registered with Identibase, you can mark the status of your pet as missing or stolen. You can also use their lost pet service to create an online missing pet page and share this on social media. If your details are incorrect, you can update the details by paying £10 as a one-off fee or subscribing to either a monthly subscription of £4 or £30 for the year.
Microchip Central – Missing pet service and charges for contact detail updates
If your dog or cat goes missing whilst registered with Microchip Central, you can report your pet as missing for free by signing into your account. If you pay for a premium subscription, you will be provided with a missing pet poster and also email and SMS notifications will be sent to their community of local pet watch within a 5-mile radius. If your microchip has been searched whilst the pet is marked as missing, you will be notified and also locate where the search took place, and if you have provided consent, your details will be displayed to the finder when a microchip is searched.
There is a cost to this premium service of £12+vat for 12 months or £27 plus vat for a lifetime which allows you to edit the contact details.
MicroDogID – lost pet services
You can contact the database if your greyhound goes missing and they will update the database as missing or stolen as a result.
MyPet – missing pet service and no charges for contact detail updates when missing
Mypet database members do not need to pay to update their details if they have paid the £1.99 registration fee. They will also allow you to mark your pet as lost on their database.
National Veterinary Data Service – missing pet service
The National Veterinary Data Service allows you to notify them by phone or online that your pet is missing. It is unclear as to what they do in terms of assisting in the process of your pet going missing.
Pet Chip Register – missing pet service
Pet Chip Register allows a member of their database to notify them online that their pet is missing. Again, it is not clear what Pet Chip Register do in terms of assisting in pet re-unification other than logging on the database that the fact the pet is missing.
Pet Identity UK – lost pet service
Pet Identity UK allow database members to notify them that their pet is missing – they will also message and alert dog wardens, vets and rescue centres within a 10-mile radius of your pet going missing.
Petlog – lost pet service and charges for contact detail updates
Petlog allows pet owners to mark their pet as missing – if you pay for the premium offering of £17, you will be able to update your details and download a missing pet poster. If you fail to pay £17, you will not be able to edit your contact details.
PetScanner – missing pet service
Petscanner database members can mark their pet as missing on the site or app which will notify anyone that scans the pet with a petscanner that they are lost. When missing, pet owners will also be notified when the microchip is scanned and understand who and where they were scanned. The price for this service and to update out of date contact details is £2.99 plus £0.99 per month afterwards.
ProtectedPet – lost pet service and charges for contact detail updates
Protected Pet database members can flag their pets as stolen or missing. To update details, you will be required to pay a £10 one-off fee or upgrade to the gold plan for £29.99. It is unclear what additional benefits a gold plan member receives in terms of lost pet assistance.
SmartTrace – lost pet service and charges for contact detail updates
A charge of £19.95 is required to update your details if they are out of date when your dog or cat goes missing. A pet can be flagged as missing on the database. It is not clear what else the service offers in helping re-unite a pet owner with their beloved pet.
UK PETtrac – lost pet service and charges for contact detail updates
A charge of £16.95 is required to update your details if your pet is currently missing. If you pay for the premium enhanced pet registration, they will provide you with a downloadable poster.
We Trace Pets – lost pet service and charges for contact detail updates
A charge of £9.99 is required to allow you to change your contact details. There is currently no visible elements of an enhanced lost pet service offering.
All in all, it seems that most if not all databases charge a pet owner money in the instance that they need to update their details, including when the pet is missing. A range of different offerings is available from providing lost pet posters, to marking the pet as missing on the database. A couple of databases are a little more proactive in offering updates to a pet owner in terms of potential searches for their microchip.
What other active steps can I take if my dog or cat goes missing?
Waiting for a call from any local vet clinic or microchip database is often difficult, and filled with angst. You can take active steps in finding a missing pet such as missing pet posters, using social media and reporting your missing pet to various lost pet services.
What happens if your pet’s details on the database are incorrect or out of date?
Fundamentally, if your details are incorrect or out of date – if your pet goes missing, and the tag or collar has been removed, then there is no way for a warden or vet to get in touch with you. If they cannot get in touch with you, then they will wait for some time before passing your missing dog or cat to a local rescue who will find them a new home.
If the details are correct, then pets will not be reunited with their pet owners and subsequently end up in animal shelters.
We’d urge you right now to obtain those details and ensure that they are kept up to date.
If your pet is currently missing, contact your local database to ensure that details are up to date for when your pet is scanned in.