Microchip morality

Microchip morality

Your responsibility for stray pets with microchips
Oct 01, 2007

If a client shows up with a stray but doesn't want it scanned for a microchip, am I legally required or legally forbidden to scan the pet or contact the chip registrant?

There are two legal issues at work here, says Dr. Karl Salzsieder, JD, of Salzsieder Consulting and Legal Services in Kelso, Wash.:

Dr. Karl Salzsieder
1. Client rights. A property owner (and yes, pets are still considered property in most states) has the right not to have his or her property searched. However, probable cause (the possibility that justice has been compromised) overrides that right, and a potentially stolen pet would qualify. "The client would need to produce a receipt or some other proof of ownership for you not to do the scan," Dr. Salzsieder says.

2. Hospital policy. Your team may feel a duty to the public to identify lost or stolen pets. In that case, be consistent. "The hospital needs to scan all patients, or at least all strays," Dr. Salzsieder says. "This way neither the chip registrant nor the client can claim discrimination."

If you scan all stray animals for microchips and the client objects to the scan, you can refuse treatment other than immediate emergency care to relieve pain and suffering. If you scan the pet and find a registrant other than the presenting client, Dr. Salzsieder says you can contact police. However, sometimes police won't take action on stolen property below a certain value. In this case, Dr. Salzsieder believes it's your duty to contact the registrant on your own. You can also contact animal control to see if a pet of the same description has been lost.