The chips are down in high-stakes battle over scanner tech
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2004:
PORTLAND, Ore.; NORCO, Calif.–The microchip wars have reignited.
A decade after American Veterin-ary Identification Devices
and the Schering-Plough Animal Health Corporation resolved
compatibility problems between AVID microchips and the HomeAgain
chips made for Schering-Plough by Digital Angel Corp., lawsuits and
threats of lawsuits involving microchips are flying with surprising
velocity considering that only about 2.5% of all the dogs and cats in
homes in the U.S. carry microchip identification.
The present size of the microchip market appears to be less
at issue than growth potential. AVID and Schering-Plough donated
thousands of scanners to animal shelters just to get them into use,
and even then, the National Animal Control Association vocally
objected to having microchip scanning added to the animal control
Microchipping has now proved itself, including in alerting
shelters to the previously seldom detected practice of unhappy
neighbors or estranged “significant others” surrendering stolen pets
to shelters as their own.
A recent NACA survey indicates that about 37% of U.S. animal
control shelters now microchip the animals they adopt out. Microchip
makers are betting that soon most pets will be microchipped.
First, petkeepers must believe that shelters will scan each
incoming animal with a device that can detect every chip.
In November 2003 Pethealth Inc., a Canadian health insurance
provider, introduced to the U.S. a 134-kilohertz chip made to
International Standards Organization specs, called 24PetWatch. The
134-kh chip has been used in Europe, Australia, Canada, and Japan
since 1996, but AVID and HomeAgain make 125-kh chips.
Some scanners donated to shelters by PetHealth Inc. can read
both kinds of chips, but as many as 70,000 125-kh scanners used by
shelters and private practice veterinarians cannot read the 134-kh
chips, and will cost $170 to $250 apiece to replace.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, American SPCA,
and Oregon Humane Society have urged U.S. shelters and vets to change
to the ISO chip.
Banfield, The Pet Hospital Inc., owners of 380 U.S.
clinics, many of them located in PETsMART stores, in February 2004
began implanting ISO chips called Crystal Tag, made by the Swiss
But NACA president Lorraine Moule emphasized in the
January/February 2004 edition of NACA News that “The 125-kh microchip
technology is the standard in use today by animal control in the U.S.”
The NACA survey found that about 86% of U.S. animal contol
shelters scan for microchips, but 98% use only 125-kh scanners.
“Shelters should not have to expend additional resources to
scan animals multiple times with multiple scanners just so the
manufacturers can differentiate their products,” said Denver Dumb
Friends League president Bob Rohde.
Humane Society of the U.S. senior vice president for
companion animals Martha Armstrong in March 2004 warned that,
“Unless these companies come to an understanding and develop
universal scanners [or chips that can be detected by all existing
scanners], we cannot recommend that pet owners microchip.”
AVID in May 2004 sued Banfield for purportedly “misleading consumers
and endangering animals,” the San Diego Daily Transcript reported.
“Banfield spokeswomen Karen Johnson said the company stopped
distributing the chips on May 10,” the Transcript continued. “The
company will not resume distribution until every shelter within 25
miles of a Banfield hospital that takes lost or stray pets has at
least one of its scanners, Johnson said.”
AVID is reportedly also suing the microchip maker AllFlex USA
Inc. and Pethealth Inc., a Canadian pet health insurance firm, for
allegedly infringing on AVID’s patent rights.
“Pethealth is countersuing AVID for false and deceptive
advertising and unfair competition,” wrote R. Scott Nolan in the
July 1, 2004 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary
Individual petkeepers are also becoming involved. For
example, wrote Nolan, Lisa Massey, of Stafford County, Virginia,
is suing Banfield because the Stafford County Animal Shelter could
not detect the ISO microchip that Banfield injected into her pit bull
terrier. Therefore the dog was killed instead of being returned to