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Think You’ve Got a Dead-End Microchip? Think Again

A dead-end microchip is a microchip for which the registration leads nowhere. We all know the sinking feeling you get when you run a microchip number and get… nothing. Sometimes the microchip is registered to invalid or incorrect information, and sometimes it’s not registered at all. Either way, it makes it difficult to find a pet’s owner if the microchip isn’t linked to the correct contact information. 

As a pet professional, you already know that having an updated, registered microchip is one of the best ways to ensure that pets get home. In fact, according to a study conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs that are microchipped are 2.5x more likely to find their way home and cats who are microchipped are 20x more likely to find their way home

But, most pet owners don’t realize this. They think that once the shelter registers their pet’s chip for them, that’s all they need to do. And this can be one of the main reasons that they don’t update their contact information with the microchip registry when they move or change phone numbers, or give their pet to someone else. 

Preventing a Dead-End Microchip

So what can you do? The biggest way to avoid having a dead-end microchip is to prevent it in the first place. To do that, it’s important that microchips are registered with accurate and valid information at the time of implantation. No matter the registry, this information should include the pet owner’s first and last name, email address, phone number, and street address to make reunification as quick and seamless as possible.

Once the pet is implanted with a microchip and sent home with its new owner, the owner should be equipped with everything they need to update their pet’s microchip. This includes a take-home PDF with instructions for verifying their registration and updating their contact information when necessary, a Social Security card with the chip number barcode sticker, and the implanter’s recommendations for what to do when a pet is lost in a specific community. 

Steps to Take with a Dead-End Microchip

However, unfortunately, there will be times where you come across a dead-end microchip that leads nowhere. While these particular chips might make it harder to get pets home, they should not be an obstacle that prevents reunification. When that happens, there are a few things you can try, according to one of the industry’s leading professionals, Susan Taney, director and founder of Lost Dogs Illinois. 

Taney’s “Microchip Hunter” model has proven to be quite successful in locating owners of pets with dead-end microchips. Here are her top recommendations:

  1. Use AVMA Best Practices for Scanning for Microchips to ensure that you aren’t missing a second chip that might be registered.
  2. Implement a Marketing Campaign to bring awareness to the public that there is a lost pet at your facility waiting for their owner to come get them.
  3. Be open to negotiating reclaim fees to remove barriers and encourage pet owners to follow up and come get their pet when contacted
  4. Ensure that all adopted + reclaimed animals leave the facility with a collar and the recommendation to purchase an ID tag that has the pet owner’s phone number printed on it.
  5. Develop a Volunteer Pet Detective or Lost Pet Recovery Team. Some of their tasks can include:
    1. Monitoring a dedicated email address for lost and found pets 
    2. Creating a lost pet report form on the website to enter information about lost and found pets, and using this to match against pets that are being held at other facilities
    3. Utilizing services like and to locate potential relatives of the registered owner, who may be able to connect the finder with the owner
    4. Routinely checking Pet FBI as a centralized database
    5. is also a resource to help with dead-end microchips

By following these tips, you can successfully reunite more pets with dead-end chips with their owners, thereby creating more space in shelters and increasing RTO rates in your area. The next time you come across a seemingly hopeless dead-end chip, it’ll make a huge difference knowing you know that you have the right tools to track down the pet’s owner in new and different ways.