It's been a rough few weeks for this 12-year-old Labrador Retriever named Blue. His owner, Tammie Sullivan, tries to pet the past behind him, after he spent 9 days locked up in the Kern County Animal Shelter. "My dad was gone and when he came back between 4:30 and 6 the gate was open and he was gone."
That was September 26. Tammie checked the shelter the next day, but Blue wasn't there. She's had him since he was just 3 months old. A playful puppy, she did what responsible owners should, had him licensed and micro-chipped.
So when he recently got out, she thought that would be his ticket home. Still, Tammie says she checked the Kern County Animal Control's website daily for Blue-and she spotted one black lab. "But it was blurry. It looked long and skinny, obviously he's not. He has a chip. I alerted the home again. They put a red flag on his account so if someone wants him they'd call me immediately. And uh, nothing, nothing."
Nine days later, Tammie feared the worst and returned to the shelter to check if Blue's chip had been recorded on a list of animals found dead. She found him, not on that list, but in a kennel, his microchip undetected. "Their excuse for not finding his was that that they move. His chip moved about 6 inches. It's on his right shoulder now. They put it in up here and it's over here."
"I've seen them go from the middle of the shoulder blade to the chest, the front chest of the dog. I've seen them migrate from the rear hip, down the leg. I've seen them migrate pretty far," says Nick Cullen, kern county animal control shelter supervisor.
Cullen says microchips, normally placed in between the shoulder blades, can move within the animals body, especially the older chips. Cullen says animals are wanded twice at the shelter. Once when they are brought in and again during their health examination. Most are detected. "If there's a collar on we need to take the collar off because that will give a false negative as well. There's a lot of factors."
Even though dogs are vaccinated and sprayed to prevent parasites at the shelter, Tammie says she's still finding ticks on the traumatized Blue. And he's fighting off a nasty bout of kennel cough. But the boy's on the mend at his home with new locks on the gate, with an owner hoping others learn from their experience. "My thing is if someone is missing their dog and it is micro-chipped, go look."
"What I tell people, if you are looking for your lost animal, the first place to look is our shelter," says Cullen.
So never just count on the microchip. Cullen says pet owners should have their vet do a microchip scan each year so the owner knows where it is. Some owners are even replacing older chips with new ones that seem to stay in place better.
And make sure the information tied to the chip is up to date.