Tracing Equine Microchips

While microchipping is safe and practical, chips can be hard to trace if owner and database information isn’t kept current.
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Tracing Equine Microchips
While microchipping is safe and practical, chips can be hard to trace if owner and database information isn’t kept current. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
For years, owners have been implanting microchips into horses for unique and unalterable identification. While the safety and practicality of this practice is well-established, there is little information available about microchip traceability. Given horses’ long lifespans, the ability to trace microchips over many years is necessary.

Reasons to trace microchips are few, but vital when encountered. Regulatory officials use the microchip of a horse involved in a disease investigation to trace additional exposed horses or premises. First responders to natural disasters have significant challenges in identifying ownership of displaced horses. Individuals searching for a lost or stolen horse have a critical reliance on microchip traceability. Equine rescue groups encounter horses that have lost their identity and endeavor to trace any permanent identification available to uncover their history.

Current methods available for tracing microchips are limited. Each trace begins with scanning a horse with a microchip-reading device and obtaining a microchip number. But what next?

If the phenotype or history of the horse presents clues to a breed or discipline group that might have the horse’s information, this is often the best place start. If there is no obvious place to begin the inquiry, then one contacts the manufacturer of the microchip. The first three digits of the microchip number indicate the manufacturer or country code, which can be looked up online. The manufacturer provides contact information for the distributor to which the microchip was sold

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