Equine Microchips

Equine Microchips

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Why Microchip?  
We hope the following information will not only educate you on the current status of microchipping in the USA but will also encourage you to put the nation's only VIN, serial or social security number in your horse or pet.

Theft or Loss
Law enforcement agencies view microchips as analogous to VIN numbers, making them court-worthy permanent ID. During natural disasters rescue organizations utilize scanners to locate horse owners. Signs alerting visitors to microchipped horses on premises are used as theft deterrents and are available from NetPosse. 

NetPosse offers microchips for equines in both US Standard and International frequencies. The microchip number is unique and unalterable. Registered in a national database, the chip identifies the horse and connects it with the owner. With a microchip as a VIN number there is little doubt about ownership.    

Disaster Recovery
Microchips can be instrumental in reuniting horse with their owners when disaster strikes. Since 1994 Louisiana has required that identification such as microchips, tattoos or brands be used with its mandatory equine infectious anemia (EIA) testing. Although some companies recommend not using a second chip, there are many who feel that it is better protection to have both the 125 and 134.2 kHz chips to make sure a chip is read during this transitioning period.

Genetics & Internal Management
The microchip is the perfect identifying number for all records, charts and procedures having to do with a patient. Confusion from color or trait similarities is no longer an issue. Genetics and DNA are backed up by the ‘instant ID’ of a microchip. Large numbers of horses penned together can be easily worked when using a microchip scanner. It is great for permanent ID when recording the sale of a horse. 

Horse Registries & Events
Some registries require microchip identification, some recommend it, and most include the chip number on registration papers. The chip number can be scanned and documented with blood typing and DNA profiles for positive instant ID. Chip numbers can be correlated with event or performance records as authentication of individual performance history. Microchips are required for CERF certification.  USEF, USHJA, FEI and a few other registries now require the 134 khz microchip to show in their events. See more information on this subject below.

Government and Regulatory
Microchips meet identification requirements in certain states. AVID microchips provide accurate and positive ID in quarantine, disease contact or exposure situations. The microchip number included on Coggins forms, vaccination records, etc. provides proof of procedure on a specified animal. Microchips are used for permanent ID and tracking in certain government wild horse programs.

International Travel
You need a Certified ISO microchip with a 15-digit long number and meets the specifications of the International Standards Organization. (ISO)

The Microchip and Insertion Process

Injection of the microchip is a simple procedure for horses. The microchip is scanned to make sure it is readable. A large gauge needle is used to inject the chip into the nuchal ligament half way between the withers and the poll on the left side of the neck.  There is a smaller gauge needle available but the scanning range may not be as large. The injection causes a slight amount discomfort to a horse, and since the microchip is in the ligament it is less likely to migrate and does not leave scarring.  If you can see or feel the microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, then it has been implanted improperly.  

The microchip information is much like your VIN number or social security number for your horse. There is no data actually on the chip and it is not a tracking chip with GPS.  Personal information is only in the database and is not visible to the public by entering your microchip number. The information is only available through the microchip manufacturer, chip registry, or other people or organizations with which you have registered. A registry proves that the chip is verifiable and who the horse is registered to in their registry.

We recommend that you also ask that your microchip number be placed on file with your veterinarians, rescue adoption forms and breed association paperwork, just to name a few.

The Cost

Microchips and scanners have a wide range of cost. The microchip can cost as low as $25 to more than a $125 when implanted via a shelter or veterinarian. Much of the cost depends on the procedure used to insert the microchip. The insertion can range from a simple process to a very sterile and elaborate process. Some veterinarians simple clean the area and inject the microchip, thus the lower cost. Other may shave, clean, give a lignocaine shot (a medication used to numb tissue in a specific area) and then insert the microchip—a longer and more costly procedure.  

Thanks to Stolen Horse International (SHI), which was the first to sell a microchip to the public online, you can purchase microchips at a lower cost. In most states it is legal to insert the microchip into your own horses. We recommend this only if you are competent with injections in horses. If you feel doubt, you can still buy the chips online and have your vet insert them on their next visit to the farm. Even if you are not implanting the chip yourself, we recommend that you know the procedure well to oversee correct placement and insertion. Not every professional knows where and how to insert the microchip and sometimes they place them on the wrong side of the neck or in the wrong place..

Registration of the Microchip

It is imperative that the horse owner registers the microchip. It is easier to prove ownership of a lost, missing or stolen horse that has its own VIN number. If a horse is missing some companies send information to their contacts while others are only a registry. We recommend that you research the registry and find out what it does for you when your horse is missing and ask for proof of concept information.  

Remember, nothing is foolproof when it comes to recovering missing horses and proving ownership. Even though the microchip company registry is where most people will trace the chip, those registries have very limited information on the horse itself.

When a horse is missing and is registered in SHI’s NetPosse Identification Program registry (NIP), the NIP reports team issues NetPosse Alerts to the public, multiple agencies which may include state vets, horse associations, horse rescues, law enforcement, the news media via a press release and much more.

Stolen Horse International recommends that you register with the company in which the microchip is purchased first, where you can input contact information, horse’s veterinarian, photo of the horse or other visible ID and breed registration number. Then back up that registry with the NIP registry, which is a great all-equine identification record keeping registry as the second registry.  

There is no perfect stand-alone ID. All types of ID have pros and cons, and can work or not work depending on the situation.

The NIP registry, started in 2002, is based on decades of field work with thousands of missing horse cases, and contains more in-depth information than the microchip company registries. Situations where owners did not get their horses back highly influences the data input by the owner to help owners circumvent any recovery problems. 

There is no other registry backed by as much hands-on experience or as detailed information as the NIP, which includes all types of equine ID such as hot brands, freeze brands, hoof brands, lip tattoos, markings and more. If a horse in the registry is missing then the information is used not only disseminate the NetPosse Alert to tens of thousands nationwide, but to provide the owner with a webpage with all the data, pictures and a flyer (if warranted) to share with the public.

More Microchip Information--How does it work and where is it required?
We are moving from the old US Standard 125 kHz microchip frequency used for decades in the United States to the new ISO 134.2 kHz International microchip. Although there is no law dictating which frequency must be used the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) for radio-frequency identification recommends that

  • A microchip is meant to be a lifetime ID and ownership can be transferred in most registries. Make sure you register the microchip in a reputable registry and Stolen Horse International's NetPosse Identification Program (NIP), the only all ID record keeping registry. 
  • A chip must be an ISO microchip  that operates at a radio frequency of 134.2 kHz.USEF, USHJA, FEI and a few other registries.
  • Must operate on at 134.2 kHz, which is read only by universal scanners compatible with ISO 11784 or ISO 11785.
  • Must have 15 characters in which the first three designate the manufacturer or country code. The other 12 characters are unique to each horse, thus their VIN or SS number.
  • 840 is one of the USDA acceptable methods of ID, the 15 digit microcip, that begins with the designated US prefix 8-4-0 and carries the official USDA 840.
  • 900 prefix chips, which are usually cheap and possibly not sterile,  have the potential for duplicate numbers and are unacceptable.  A shared 900 chip is a ISO code carried by over many implantable microchip products  and is almost impossible to track the chips to their manufacturers, many of which are overseas or difficule if not impossible to reach.
  • Make sure the owner of record is listed in microchip registries.
  • Microchips registration is transferable.
  • USEF, USHJA, FEI and a few other registries require the ISO microchip. (See article links below)
  • The Jockey Club is requiring microchipping for all foals born as of January 1, 2016.
  • Microchips do not migrate if properly inserted.
  • A microchip is not a GPS tracker since the microchip does not have a battery or power source. Both are are required for GPS. Microchips are initiated by a scanner's radio wave signals.
  • You can use a microchip for a multitude of task--FEI Passport requirements, health certificate, coggins, new foal ID, record keeping etc. 

The Scanners
A scanner creates an energy field when it is on. A transponder picks up that energy when its antenna enters this energy field. The integrated circuit, aka the microchip, creates a signal of specific characteristics and identification data is transmitted using the antenna. The signal is then received by a scanner via the antenna’s energy field or by a separate receiving antenna. The scanner understands the signal and converts the data from binary data to decimal format. It then sends that data to a display or other device such as a computer.

It is important to note while the United States is going through transitioning from the old 125 kHz microchip to the new 134.2 kHz microchip that the following may occur:

  • The old universal scanners will not read the new ISO microchips even though they are universal scanners. They were universal at the time because they read other company’s microchips and frequencies used primarily in the United States. Many of these scanners are still in use today.
  • The new “true” universal scanners read the old US standard frequencies plus the new ISO frequency.
  • All scanners are not created equal. There are now scanners being cheaply sold that do not read the encrypted 125 kHz chip, or in some case no chips other than the 134.2 frequency. Unless you are using a scanner for the purpose of reading your own horse, we do not recommend using one of these scanners when reading multiple animals.
  • The US Standard microchips are still sold and preferred by some animal owners and agencies. Microchips last for the life of the animal thus resulting in decades of use of the 125 kHz frequency microchip.
  • You get what you pay for in scanners. There are hundreds of thousands of horses and pets still using the 125 kHz frequency and some scanners will show there is no microchip present when scanning a chip on that frequency. Do you want to be the one who misses the opportunity to save an animal or horse? Spend the money and buy the better scanners, especially if you are a professional.
  • Some brands of scanners that read all microchips from any company are: AVID Mini Tracker lll (which also reads other frequencie is a universal scanner), Halo, Destron Fearing, HomeAgain WorldScan, Datamars and Trovan. BEWARE: Not all of these scanners read frequencies other than the 135.2 kHz frequency. Make sure you ask questions before you purchase a scanner. Don't go by the saes pitches alone. Read the small print.

In Summary

As of this article, the microchip industry is still transitioning and the need for a scanner that reads multiple frequencies is imperative for professionals when scanning multiple animals. To be a professional and have a single frequency or old universal scanner is irresponsible.

As an animal owner it is your responsibility to know what company and frequency of microchip is implanted in your animal. Should a horse or pet be lost, it is up to you to make sure the right scanner is used to prove a microchip is present. Make sure your vet knows to use a true universal scanner. When making lost posters or flyers, make sure you put that your animal is microchipped, the frequency used and that it must be read by a scanner that reads that frequency.

The microchip industry is changing in the USA but one day we will all be on the same frequency and all scanners will read all chips pretty much like it was before the introduction and push to use the international code.

As for which microchip company is the best--most are similar but only one still offers the 125 kHz microchip. Our favorite company is AVID. They are one of the oldest companies, have a variety of products and were the first to offer a pet registry. HomeAgain and Microchip ID also offer good microchips and services and are very reputable.  We offer up a buyer beware warning when purchasing microchips from newer companies, especially if they are offering 900 numbered microchips. Do your homework and check them out before purchasing their really low priced chip or scanner. 

It is all about the recovery and proving ownership here at Stolen Horse International. We encourage you to microchip you animals even during this time of transition. It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. 

Microchips for horses by  AVID, HomeAgain and Microchip ID are available in the NetPosse Store. Our microchips are US Standard (125 Khz frequency) and International  (134 Khz frequency) FEI COMPLAINT. Low cost universal scanners for permanent identification are available.   Purchase your NetPosse ID record keeping registry, AVID and HomeAgain Registry.  

NOTE: Not all scanners are created equal. To read all frequencies you need a true universal scanner that reads current frequencies. You do get what you pay for in scanners. Make sure you get the scanner that fits your needs. Don't assume that your scanner reads all frequencies. See more on this topic below. Have questions? Contact us. We have multiple scanners from different companies.  To see the details or purchase the one we use, click here

Microchip Video Demo

AAHA Microchip Lookup Tool

CA.Gov Microchip Inplantation

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