By Jordan Rohlfing, Esq., DeWitt Ross & Stevens, s.c.
Q: Ryan, a new, prospective client recently brought his Corgi, Boris, into my veterinary clinic. I scanned Boris for a microchip and ultimately discovered that Boris' microchip is not registered in Ryan's name. What are my obligations after learning that Boris' microchip is not registered to Ryan? Do I have a duty to investigate whether Ryan is Boris' true owner?
A: Excellent questions! As the prevalence of microchipping increases, inevitably questions arise. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a microchipping policy that can be found on its website. We recommend that your clinic adopt a policy to assure uniformity throughout your doctors and staff. The first decision each clinic should make is whether the clinic should scan every animal that comes through its doors for a microchip. The AVMA's policy recommends that all animals be scanned, and, if a microchip is found, the microchip number be included in the patient's records. The AVMA policy promotes scanning not only to aid in the positive identification of an animal, but also to assess if the microchip is functioning properly and located appropriately, and to remind owners to keep their microchip contact information current.
It is important to distinguish between the decision of whether to scan for a microchip and the decision of what to do if a microchip is detected. The microchip does not reveal the identity of the owner of the animal. Rather, if more information is desired, the registry for the microchip must be contacted.