What to Do if You Find a Dog With a Chip

If you find a dog that is microchipped, take them to a vet or shelter to get scanned. Chipped dogs are more likely to be returned to their owners than dogs with no chip.

Always check the collar as this information may be more up-to-date than the microchip. Next try fliers or internet databases.

Unfortunately, you are quite likely to find a stray dog at some point in your life. It’s just the way things are. Some dogs are masters of escape. Others don’t have secure yards and run away.

Other times, frantic owners have no idea how their dogs have managed to get out, and hope to find their missing pet as soon as possible. They will leave no stone unturned when trying to  locate their dog.


It Pays to Read a Lost Dog’s Chip

In the past, you relied on a dog’s collar to identify it when you found it. But, when the collar was missing, there was no way to find the dog’s owner unless they rang in to the local shelter, or put up fliers.

Now, many dog owners have their dogs implanted with a chip. It’s simple, quick, efficient, cheap, and the best thing. You’ll be able to identify the owner straight away.

If someone finds your dog, they will be able to identify you quickly and get you reunited with your pooch.

You need a special scanner to read a dog’s chip, so go to your local vet, shelter, or pound. There should be no charge for them to read the chip so you can take the dog home or get the owner to come to where you are to pick up their dog.

Check with your local authority because sometimes they have rules where you, as the finder,have to surrender the dog to them.


A Chip Won’t Locate a Dog

This comes as a bit of a surprise to some people, but a chip in a dog doesn’t let the owner know where the dog is.

A chip isn’t a locater beacon, GPS device, or anything else like that. In a world of ‘find my phone’ apps, some people forget a chip is merely a recording of a unique number. That number matches the owner’s details in a database.

There are several databases, so hopefully the chip is registered with as many as possible. Some are paid, and some are free, so you will often find dogs registered on the free ones, especially if the database access comes with the microchip.


Some States Must Locate the Owner for You

There are at least nine states where the law says shelters must scan a dog for a chip and do all they can to locate the owner. So if you find a dog in the states listed below, take the found dog to any animal shelter or pound facility for mandatory scanning, and locating of the owner.

  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina

Laws change all the time, so if you are in these states, make sure you check first. If you are in other states, see if this law has been introduced.


A Chipped Dog is More Likely to be Returned

In a study of over 7000 stray animals at shelters, it was found that non-chipped dogs were returned to their owners about 22 percent of the time. Compare this with chipped dogs that were returned to their owners over 52 percent of the time.

For many animals that weren’t returned to their owners, it wasn’t because they weren’t microchipped. It was because the information in databases linked to the chip was incorrect or out of date. (Great reasons to ensure you keep whatever registry you’re with updated that you have moved house, or changed contact details)

There is by no means any guarantee that an owner will get their dog back if it’s chipped, but if you get any dog you find to a shelter or vet, the owner will get their beloved pet back sooner, rather than later as long as the information connected to the chip is accessible and correct.


If You Find a Dog, Take it to the Shelter

If I were to lose track of my dog, I would head straight to the shelter if I couldn’t find her by searching around my house and area.

It’s, for this reason, I suggest you take a dog you find directly to your local shelter or other main dog related authority in your area. Most owners will head straight there when they realize their dog is not home.

Take the dog into the shelter if you’re able to, rather than phoning it in, for a number of reasons:

  • Descriptions are subjective:  Many shelters keep a database of ‘lost and found’ dogs, but a written report is often unreliable. People describe color, size, and breed differently, and an owner may not recognize their dog from a written report.
  • The dog may be injured or sick: Luckily you have found the lost dog, but you don’t know what happened to it before you found it. The dog may have internal injuries you can’t see, or they may be sick or diseased. A vet at the shelter will need to see them.
  • You might have the dog for a long time: If the owner can’t be found, or the owner is out of town, you might have to keep the dog for an extended period of time. They will be better off in the shelter that has all the necessary equipment and medical supplies.


Use the Internet if You Can’t Get to the Shelter

There are databases online that may be able to assist you to locate a dog’s owner. A chip is the best way to do this, but if you can’t get to the shelter or vets, try online.

  • FBI Database: This database lists lost and found dogs and is easy to navigate.
  • Facebook: There are a lot of community groups on Facebook, and you will be able to find a local one either dedicated to dogs, or a generic community page where people may be able to assist you in matching an owner with a dog you find.
  • Fidofinder: This is an example of the many database internet sites that you can search if you find a dog (or lose yours.)


8 Steps to Take When You Find a Lost Dog

You won’t necessarily know if a dog is chipped when you find them. Follow the 8 steps below and the process of getting the dog back to the owner will hopefully take care of itself.

  1. Check the online database of your choice
  2. Contact the closest shelter
  3. Check thedog’s collar for tags
  4. Is the dog micro chipped?
  5. Call the closest vets
  6. Prepare fliers
  7. Ask around the neighborhood
  8. Hand the dog to the shelter

These steps can be taken in any order, and you may find after one or two steps you have managed to find the dog’s home.

Just be aware that it may take time, and you may never find the owner.

In this situation, you might have to hand the dog over to the authorities in the hope they have better luck.


Confirm Ownership Before Handing the Dog Back

Although most dog owners will be frantic that their dog has gone missing, and will be incredibly grateful to you for finding them, be careful before handing the dog back if you have located them yourself without the shelter.

Some unscrupulous people will see fliers and try to claim the dog for criminal or inhumane reasons. There is no problem asking the person to bring proof of ownership when you meet them.

You could ask for:

  • Health booklet showing the dog’s vet visits and history
  • Immunization history
  • A license or rabies certificate if that is applicable in your area
  • A photograph of them and the dog (My favorite choice as most dog owners have at least one, if not many photographs of their dogs. They are probably even on their phone, making it easy for them to show you.


The Bottom Line on Finding a Microchipped Dog

If you find a dog and they are microchipped, you are more likely to find the owner than if you find a dog that isn’t chipped.

This is the case if the information connected to the chip and database is correct and up to date. You may find a dog that is chipped, and never find the owner because the chip holds no relevant information.

In this case, seek help from the authorities and take the dog to your local shelter or dog charity.


Writer: Craig Taylor

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