San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
Email Email | Print Print --

January 13th, 2009
Scanning the mark on the beast

This Martian Life: A Column
Managing Editor

I don’t own a pet, so I can’t say I have any emotional stake in the ongoing debate on whether or not San Marcos residents need to lowjack Fido. However, I am amused that so many people do.

Among other measures in a new animal control ordinance going into effect on April 1, the San Marcos city government is requiring that pets be registered by microchip. People feeling as they do about their pets, many are unhappy about the requirement.

The real issue is pretty innocuous. Pets that get lost or run away should be reunited with their owners (or staff if a cat is involved). Strays are a problem, and until a no-kill shelter is established, this isn’t a bad solution. One small chip could reunite a very distraught and confused creature and the pet that depends on him for food and shelter.

Yet, as is often the case, a misguided sense of liberty is getting in the way. The very moment this comes up in any way, the tinfoil hat brigade presents itself in force.

Let’s make this really easy for everyone. Putting an ID chip on the family pet does not mean we will all be speaking Newspeak, loving Big Brother or welcoming the prince of darkness. It just means your pet can be found, and that’s only if someone scans the chip. It’s almost as if there’s this fear that somewhere in the bowels of city hall, someone will always know what your pet is doing!

The other issue is health. Lord knows, we love our pets in San Marcos. Come to think of it, our pets were very popular with out-of-towners last year too.

Nevertheless, it’s absurd to think that a company would intentionally market chips that cause tumors in small animals. I have no problem whatsoever believing they would do that to humans. But, come on, even these people have a heart.

If sarcasm isn’t enough to sway you, how’s this? A position statement by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association says:

“While it is not possible to claim that the reaction to an implanted transponder in a companion animal will NEVER induce tumor formation, the Committee is unanimously of the opinion that the benefits available to implanted animals far outweigh any possible risk to the health of the animal concerned…

“There is no evidence to suggest that companion animals implanted with a microchip are at a higher risk for developing a tumor. The mice used in the studies where an association between a microchip and development of a tumor occurred were genetically predisposed to cancer and do not represent the genetic diversity we see in our dogs and cats”

I have to admit that I’m not intimately familiar with all the bona fides of the WSAVA, but their title is quite impressive, so I’m inclined to believe them (and because of all that science stuff, too).

The city does have a stake in this, as well. Animal Control costs money. Shelters cost money. We don’t have a no-kill shelter. Measure the minor expense of a radio tag on your pet with the expense we as taxpayers bear. This is a real problem for the city.

Also, and not for nothing here, but one of the reasons this is a problem, and requires a high-tech solution, is because some people didn’t find the time for the low-tech libertarian way of keeping their pet safe (collars, tags, fences, etc.), and settled for the low-tech libertarian way of keeping their pet out of sight, unless needed (yard chains, no fence, no collar, no tags).

So, all this personal liberty talk rings hollow to me, as does the faux panic regarding a radio tag. It means you and your pet will be reunited if it does end up in a shelter, or if an animal control officer scans it.

Before Christmas, I spent some time with an acquaintance from Australia. He’s been here a while and is always amazed over what issues we get up in arms about and what we just accept. We seem to accept poverty, homelessness, unemployment and mediocre local job opportunities as de rigueur. When government tells someone what she can and can’t do with her pets, well… them’s fightin’ words.

It seemed silly to him, and I can’t argue.

Email Email | Print Print


0 thoughts on “Scanning the mark on the beast

  1. Well a lot of us do take care of our dogs/cats with collars, tags, and a fence, so your generalization is very unwelcomed and naive. This ordinance seemed rushed and out of the blue, our pets are fine! We do not need regulations on the amount of pets we can have, and definitely do not need to microchip them – whether it will or will not produce tumors – Im not willing to take that chance. Instead, the city should have just enforced the rules already in place, and make sure all pets had collars.

  2. When you start out with the words “I don’t own a pet”, then that disqulifies you from a basic understanding of the bond between human and animal. Would the city council quietly pass an oridinance that says all homeless people have to have a radio chip inmplanted to indentify them in case they died? I dare say that there would be outrage then. How ’bout injecting poor people with a chip instead of giving them food stamps? That would solve a real problem, and then your Australian friend would hear some outrage.

    The first place responsible pet owners look when they lose a pet is an animal shelter. Pets in the shelter are mostly unwanted dogs that have been dumped or not cared for. And a “no-kill” animal shelter is not any cheaper to run than what we have, although a bit more humane.

    The kind of naivity shown above is the kind of thinking that will one day have us stopping at road blocks and showing the officers our wrists to check our implants.
    That may be a few decades away but it’s coming, as long as we let our city council and appointed officials make decisions that should be up to the publc to vote.
    I say next time around, vote against EVERYONE that has
    passed this ordinance in such a dictatorial style.

  3. BTW – our vet told us that he had found two lost dogs last year that had micro-chips in them, only the owners had moved, so the address on them was of no help at all! These are the $20 chips. The chips that you can update when you move cost $40.

  4. Well, even though I don’t currently own a pet, I have had several family pets. In fact I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have one. So I am quite aware of that bond you mentioned. I felt it particularly strong when one of the family Basset Hounds that I grew up with died a few years ago.

    Hopefully that lets me into the “I really really seriously do love animals club.”

  5. I think they should all have microchips and we should too. Then maybe we would have known where Caylee and Madeline were this whole time!

  6. Not quite as balanced as some of your other pieces.

    It takes about 5 minutes to call the shelter and let them know you lost a pet. Do you really think most people who can’t be bothered to do that want their pets back? I suspect most of the animals put down by the shelter were abandoned.

    Not to mention the transient population we have here. With new pet owners arriving in droves every year, many without the most basic understanding of city regulations, who will educate them and get them to pony up the $20 per pet for the chips? The same people who have done such a bang-up job of managing the single-family zoning and the noise ordinances?

    Either way, I’ll keep my tin foil hat, thanks.

  7. I’ve got to go with Sean on this one. I have two cats and if the law say get ’em chipped well the darnit I’m probably going to do it. That doesn’t mean I’ll like it… I wish they included the little hand-held radar device so I could track their every movement when they’re outside. For now they have tags and that’s good enough for me.

    One question – how much “naivity” does one need to have to have never learned either the correct spelling of the word or the method of finding it? Way to go there, Sonya. Did you know that a lot of professional veterinarians and zoo keepers don’t have pets? Does that mean they don’t love animals? Maybe you should try a little harder to be condescending and exclusive – then no one will be as great as you!

  8. Get your pets chipped (and fixed unless they are papered pure-breeds, which you actually plan on breeding). It’s cheap and simple. Pets get stolen, and even people who think they are responsible, have pets get out. Collars fall off regularly. It’s not big brother, and the link to cancer is tenuous at best (you should probably stop using your cell phone and wireless laptop also… oh wait…) Take real responsibility for your pets. If a pet goes to the pound it should be chipped before it can be picked up. Period. There are a small number of pet owners who truly don’t need this ordinance, and a large portion of people who think they are perfect pet owners, that actually are the cause of it.

  9. If you read the other article on this website dealing with the microchip, you would see/read that the Animal Services Director said that this particular specificity in the ordinance is not completely enforceable. It will only create an added atmosphere of lawlessness for something the community does not really need.

  10. Pingback: QUOTE CORNER : Newstreamz San Marcos

  11. Just to correct some misinformation – the San Marcos shelter uses Home Again microchips which can be updated via web or phone when the owner’s contact information changes. Microchipping is available to the general public during the shelter’s regular business hours at a cost of $20.

  12. Come on Sissy, attacking the spelling of a word is so immature. Ever heard of a typo before? If the law says do it, then darn it I’m going to do it?? Guess you’ll feel the same way when they microchip your arm. If the law says do it….Don’t know if you have ever heard the word “vote” before, but you should look it up yourself. Things like this need to be voted on. I don’t want to live under a dictatorship. And the cancer link IS real, as many tumors have been found on dogs at the location of the chip…. And I’m glad you had a dog, Sean, but if you don’t have one now, then this law doesn’t effect you at all. The law (or ordinance) is so unenforceable that it’s a waste of time even fretting over it. But the principle behind it is and I still say, VOTE THEM OUT!

  13. Sonya, It does affect me because my tax dollars go towards animal welfare and control programs. I want those programs to be run efficiently and humanely. That’s like saying that health care issues don’t really affect me because I’m not sick at this very moment, or that transportation and road taxes don’t affect me because I don’t drive.

    I don’t need a pet to have an opinion on this issue. All I have to be is a taxpayer commenting on city services.

    …At least until we all get our chips and Skynet can do our thinking for us.

  14. Sean – the implanting of microchips is not a city service, its an unfunded mandate! so NO, YOU ARE NOT AFFECTED.. get real.

  15. I’m not sure how this make them more efficient. Under the old system, they took in animals and waited for them to be claimed. Now, it seems that they have an obligation to track down the owners and convince them to come get their animals.

    Given that the discussion has stuck to the ridiculous tone set by the article, I’ll probably bail here. I get enough of this in the O’Dell septic tank stories.

  16. Sean, of course you are entitled to your opinion. That’s what makes this country great. All I am saying is that you don’t currently have a reason to be emotionally attached to the issue, so your perspective is different. If this issue would have been put up for a vote by the citizens of San Marcos, it would have failed and the city council knows that. The words “money grab” suddenly came to mind…..

    Remember when Rick Perry signed an executive order mandating that every young girl in Texas would be required to have a cervical cancer vaccine? The public outcry on it was so strong that he had to back down, thank God. It’s our job as citizens to protest when we feel that our government is stepping out of line. And it doesn’t happen near enough. Type in “dumb laws in Texas” and you’ll see some of the ludicrous laws that have been passed. In Jasper, Tx., there is a law that says your dog has to be on a leash at all times. Even when the dog is in your house, or it’s a $100 fine.

  17. Updating the owner contact information is free for life with HomeAgain. There are additional services you can register for that do have an annual fee.

    To answer Ted’s question about how microchipping is more efficient – the animal control officers have portable microchip scanners in their vehicles. If they find a stray animal, they can scan it and often return it without taking it back to the shelter for processing. This gets the lost animal home quicker and with less stress for owner and pet and will usually mean no impound fees for the owner. If the owner isn’t home, the animal control officer can leave a note indicating where the dog is and how to reclaim it.

    Many otherwise intelligent people don’t seem to have a clue about how to find their lost pets. Read the lost and found ads on Craigslist sometime and you will see a pattern of no photos, only a vague description, and owners who wait a couple of days before they really start looking. By the time they get around to checking shelters, the holding time for strays may already be expired and their pet could be euthanized or up for adoption.

    I can’t say for sure how many of the animals at the shelter who come in as strays and are never reclaimed were abandoned as opposed to lost but neither can any of you. There are very few cases where the answer is crystal clear so that statistic is impossible to track.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *