Juneau animal control officials seek mandatory microchips for dangerous pets

Rachel Trapp shows the readout on a microchip scanner of Sushi the kitten at Gastineau Humane Society in Juneau, Nov. 19, 2016. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO - Juneau)
Rachel Trapp shows the readout on a microchip scanner of Sushi the kitten at Gastineau Humane Society in Juneau, Nov. 19, 2016. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO – Juneau)

Juneau’s animal control officials want mandatory microchipping of pets they deem “potentially dangerous or dangerous,” and the Juneau Assembly is considering an ordinance with the microchipping requirement at the committee level on Monday.

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Rachel Trapp works the front desk at the Gastineau Humane Society. Trapp held Sushi, a black and white kitten, in one hand. In the other, Trapp held a gadget over the kitten. The device beeped twice and then a long identification number showed up on its readout.

“Mmhmm, yep. That’s Sushi,” Trapp said.

The number comes from a rice grain-sized microchip under Sushi’s skin. The chips aren’t tracking devices, but when scanned, they positively identify a specific animal, which is helpful when lost pets are found – or when problematic ones are wrangled.

Sushi probably doesn’t fit the legal definition of a “dangerous” animal, but the humane society chips animals in its care as a matter of course and encourages pet owners to do it voluntarily. At Gastineau Humane Society, it costs $40. Veterinarians also offer microchipping service.

Gastineau Humane Society handles the city’s animal control services under contract. In a memo to assembly members, executive director Matt Musselwhite said the microchipping requirement and other proposed changes to pet codes are in response to “an incident involving a dangerous dog or compliance issues with the animal’s owner.”

Violators would be subject to fines and citations issued by animal control officers.

According to Musselwhite, many other states have similar microchipping requirements for dangerous dogs. In California, New York and several western European countries, microchips are required for all dogs.

The ordinance is on the agenda for Monday’s Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole. It meets at 6 p.m. at city hall.