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U.S. Bill Includes RFID Provision for Pets

Pet care providers hope an open platform will allow readers to identify any RFID tag embedded in a pet, leading to wider adoption of pet-tagging.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Nov 10, 2005Legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 28 and the U.S. Senate on Nov. 3, and now awaiting President Bush's signature, could make it easier for pet hospitals and shelters to use radio frequency identification to reunite pet owners with their lost animals. Million of pets in the United States have RFID tags embedded under their skin, but the tags (which animal hospitals and shelters call microchips) do not all operate at the same frequency, nor are they readable by all RFID interrogators (readers) used by vets and shelters.

The provision is included in House Report 109-255, accompanying the 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill (HR 2744). If President Bush signs it, the legislation would require the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)—the branch of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture charged with protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health and safeguarding the wellbeing of domestic animals—"to develop the appropriate regulations that allow for universal reading ability and best serve the interests of pet owners." This would ensure that any lost pet could have its implanted tag read and be linked to its owner through a national database.

"We're excited and delighted, and [we] hope this legislation will resolve a long-standing problem," says John Snyder, senior director, companion animals, for the Humane Society of the United States. "The biggest user of microchips is the animal shelter community. It tags and scans thousands of animals each years, and lack of interoperability [between tags and readers] has been a major annoyance for many years."

According to animal hospitals and pet advocacy groups, lost pets with implanted tags are sometimes euthanized before they can be reunited with their owners. This is happens when facilities holding the animals are unable to access readers with the appropriate protocol required to read the tag.

In the United States, tags transmitting at 125 kHz are the most common, though some companies have entered the U.S. market in recent years offering 134.2 kHz tags and interrogators compliant with the ISO 11784 and 11785 standards for animal identification. In order to make use of the tags, which pet owners pay for, tag and reader vendors have given an estimated 70,000 RFID interrogators to shelters, animal control officers and veterinarians in the United States since the tagging of pets first became commonplace.

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