Microchip Interest Increases After Hurricanes

At least two microchip manufacturers said they experienced recent increased interest in their products, presumably as a result of the animal identification problems following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These companies said they worked with national disaster relief organizations after the hurricanes to provide scanners and identification methods.

Microchipping for horses involves the use of transponders about the size of a grain of rice enclosed in a glass vial implanted in the left nuchal ligament (about halfway up the horse's neck). The transponder contains a unique 10-digit alphanumeric code that can be read by any radiofrequency identification (RFID) reader. Each horse's code is referenced in a registry so the animal can be identified.

This identification system is perhaps what helped reunite many equines and their owners after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. On Feb. 5, 1994, Louisiana passed a law requiring permanent identification in all horses using a brand, tattoo, or microchip to help in prevention of equine infectious anemia. Kevin Owen, DVM, president of Electronic ID Inc. in Cleburne, Texas, estimated that about 70-80% of Louisiana horse owners chose to microchip their animals. Electronic ID, produced by Destron-Fearing, has its microchips in more than 200,000 horses worldwide.

At the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, the horse hurricane staging site in Louisiana, nearly 400 horses and mules were processed following Hurricane Katrina. As of Oct. 18, there were only three unclaimed horses that did not have unique identification such as tattoos, microchips, or brands. In addition, all small animals that were rescued from storm-torn areas in Louisiana and Mississippi were microchipped before they were shipped to shelters around the country.

The need to identify horses after rescue has caused many horse owners to re-evaluate their disaster preparedness plans and consider microchipping to identify their horses. Jean Anne Mayhall, head of customer care at AVID Equine ID, of Folsom, La., said there has probably been a 400% increase in microchip interest at her company since the hurricanes hit. Mayhall said she was encouraged so many horse owners were searching for ways to increase their chances of finding lost horses.

Owen reported an increase in microchip sales at Electronic ID, especially from the West Coast. "I believe that people want to take more measures to protect their horses as a result of the hurricanes," said Owen. "The hurricanes really illustrated the need for advance planning. It is extremely important for all pets to be microchipped in case of an emergency, as the microchip allows animals to easily be identified and traced back to their owners."

About the Author

Liz Stitt, Editorial Intern

Liz Stitt was The Horse's editorial intern in 2005 and a student majoring in equine science and English at the University of Kentucky.

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