A Lost Cause

The ultra-modern lost-and-found poster might read something like this: Claud the dog, brown with a red collar, good-natured, transponder code 8354690210. Now even pet locating has gone high-tech with hundreds of thousands of American dogs, cats and other pets running around with an electronic microchip identification device under their skin that can be read by a scanner. Each chip is programmed with a 10-digit ID number that animal shelter employees and volunteers can read by scanning the pet with a handheld wand. The number is linked to a national pet database containing information about each animal as well as its owner's name, address and phone number.

No, we're not making this up. No more having to embarrass yourself by yelling your silly dog's name throughout the neighborhood. ("Cuddles! Here, Cuddles! Come on, girl! Cuuuudddllleeesss!") Because, if your pet is one of the more than 10 million that are dropped off at shelters annually, he'll get scanned. If he's already microchipped, the scanner will read the number and the shelter employee will call the database hotline for the owner's contact information.

Under the name Chip-A-Thon, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas is hosting clinics during which family pets can be microchipped for $25 apiece. That includes registration in the local pet database, but registration with the giant American Kennel Club national database is an extra $12. A veterinarian will be on hand to inject the sterile microchip about the size of a grain of uncooked rice between Fido or Fluffy's shoulder blades with a special syringe. According to SPCA of Texas spokeswoman Anita Edson, the insertion process is similar to the administration of a vaccine or any other noninvasive injection.

The system will help locate the owners of lost pets, but we can't help but wonder: Did Orwell ever say anything about animals?

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Cheryl Smith

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