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BILL UNLEASHES PET EMOTIONS ANIMALS BEING SOLD WOULD NEED MICROCHIP ID TAG BENEATH SKIN.

Byline: Martin Kuz, Orith Goldberg and Erik N. Nelson Staff Writers

If a state senator gets his way, your puppy's byte will say more than its bark.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Jack O'Connell, D-Santa Barbara, would require that cats and dogs under a year old that are sold in the state have a microchip implanted in them that would contain the animal's identification.

O'Connell believes Senate Bill 236 would help save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in shelter costs, not to mention tears shed by heartbroken owners.

``This is designed to help reunite animals (taken to animal shelters) with their loved ones,'' O'Connell said Friday. ``If an animal is identified at these shelters, we'll be able to call the owner right away.''

The microchip, which can be scanned like a ``smart'' ID card used in many workplaces, would carry the same information as a dog tag and be injected under the skin much like a booster shot, O'Connell said.

``Tags get lost,'' he said.

While the bill applies only to pet sales, not adoptions, some counties in California have done their own chip implantation.

In August, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services began requiring chips, which cost about $25 and as little as $9 with a city subsidy, along with sterilization and vaccinations, said animal services spokeswoman Jackie David.

``It's a great program because a lot of strays are lost and there is a better chance we can match the strays with the owners,'' she said.

Several pet owners said they liked the idea of high-tech pet sales, but some questioned whether owners should decide to use the chips or not.

``It's very smart,'' said Lark Baskerville of Woodland Hills, who owns two dogs, Sherlock and Watson.

``I think there are too many animals that are abandoned - people buy puppies and then throw them out of the house when they're not cute anymore. The chips might make people more responsible.''

Baskerville, who dropped by Petco in Woodland Hills on Friday afternoon to buy dog food, said making the microchips mandatory ``would help a lot of people who want one for their dog but can't afford it.''

The microchip helps identify animals by acting as a miniature radio transponder with a unique code. The chip is implanted with a sterilized needle between the shoulder blades of a dog or cat in seconds and is virtually painless, according to the senator's literature in support of the bill.

A handheld scanner waved over the animal's shoulders reads the microchip and emits a low-frequency radio signal that triggers the antenna in the microchip to transmit a 10-digit code to the scanner, identifying the animal.

Kelli Grenier, owner of three dogs and two cats, called O'Connell's proposal mandating the microchips ``too intrusive.''

``I understand why some people would want it - I think of my pets as my kids,'' the 37-year-old dental assistant said. ``But I've licensed all my animals and try to look after them. I think every cat or dog owner just needs to accept the responsibility.''

Alice Russell, owner of Anderson's Pet Store in Glendale, agrees with the proposal, but feels that owners should also have a visible ID tag on their pets as well.

``If somebody finds your dog and they're in your neighborhood, they'd be more likely to keep it for you rather than taking it to a shelter, where it could be scanned,'' Russell said.

She said making the implantation mandatory was a good idea ``because there are so many dogs in shelters who don't get taken back to where they belong.''

The measure, which has yet to clear the Legislature's two houses, would also encourage irresponsible owners to keep close watch over their pets to avoid paying a fine if their pet was picked up by animal authorities.

Steven Abrams, who makes veterinary house calls from his office in Calabasas, agreed.

``It's good for the dogs, for one thing, to be returned to their owners,'' Abrams said.

Hamlet Panoisan, 31, feels otherwise. He brought his two dogs, a miniature pinscher named Lulu, and Kiki, an Italian greyhound, to Petco on Friday to have their nails clipped.

``It's a personal thing. If someone wants to get a chip for their pet, they can get it. But you don't need to stick a microchip in my dog,'' he said. ``Animals have feelings. How would people like it if they had microchips implanted in them? They wouldn't like it.''

Kate Grinnell, who owns two dogs, agreed the microchips are a bit much.

``It's too much. We don't need government doing that. It's one piece of legislation we don't need.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 16, 2001
Words:773
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