To scan or not to scan

To scan or not to scan

Feb 01, 2009

Q What's our legal responsibility when it comes to scanning pets for microchips?

Dr. Karl Salzsieder
The law, in general, doesn't require veterinary practices to scan patients for microchips, nor does it forbid them. But you should check with your county or state to make sure, says Dr. Karl Salzsieder, JD, of Salzsieder Consulting and Legal Services in Longview, Wash. States and counties can impose a permanent or temporary law requiring clinics to scan for ownership purposes. Otherwise, just like companies decide to make universal or encrypted microchips, individual practices can form their own scanning policies.

If your team feels a duty to the public to identify lost or stolen pets, then you should have an all-scan policy, Dr. Salzsieder says. "The hospital needs to scan all patients, or at least all strays," he says. By staying consistent, neither the chip registrant nor the client can claim discrimination. What if a client objects to a scan? "Owners have the same rights for pets as they do for private property," Dr. Salzsieder says. "If they don't want you to touch their private property, then you should respect that request. But you can decline service if your hospital policy is to scan all pets."

If you scan a pet and its registrant isn't the client, Dr. Salzsieder says it's your responsibility to contact the registrant. If you'd rather, you can also contact animal control or the police, he says.