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Chips confusion US style!

Thousands of British pet owners whose animals are fitted with PETtrac microchips have found they are no longer registered on a UK pet registry, as the US-based PETtrac company, Avid, have decided to keep all registration details "in house", writes Nick Mays.

Any British pet owner with a query about their pet’s registration or wishing to report a pet stolen must now call a Californian hotline and hope that the operator is au fait with the procedures necessary to deal with their enquiry.

Writing in her pet column in last Saturday’s Weekend Telegraph, pets journalist Celia Haddon explained how a reader named "MB" had suddenly found herself caught up in a transatlantic two-step.

"Owners who microchipped and registered their pets with PetLog, may find that they are no longer registered," writes MB. " When O’Neill, our Maine coon cat went missing, we were frantic because he needs medication. After an hour of searching the immediate neighbourhood I rang PetLog to register him lost.

"Imagine my distress when I discovered we were no longer registered with PetLog but our details had been passed on to PETtrac, the firm who supplied the chip. We had a PetLog ID number and at no time had we ever been told that the two companies had split up. I was given a number for PETtrac and found myself talking to an operator in California who said the office was closed over the weekend. The PetLog lost and found service is 24 hours a day daily.

"Luckily O’Neill was found safe and sound at the end of the day. Our cat certainly gave us a lot of grief but this was made worse by the micro-chipping muddle. Our vet told us that in order to re-register our pet with PetLog we would have to pay a further fee. I consider this an imposition since neither company had informed us about what had happened."

Haddon goes onto explain that PetLog is a 24-hour database which has details from several microchip companies, but last year PETtrac removed the details of all pets with a PETtrac chip. So anybody with a PETtrac chip is no longer registered with PetLog.

A PetLog spokesman told Haddon: "We tried to keep PETtrac on side, as we feel one central point for reunification is the key to the success of microchipping. "We supply a unique 24 hour 7 day reunification service to all other suppliers of microchips in the UK. At the time we felt strongly that PETtrac should have informed their customer base of their intention and let the customers decide but they chose not to do this. We constantly revisit this scenario with PETtrac in the hope of resolving it and providing peace of mind for all owners."

Haddon writes: "PETtrac, part of the Avid group (www.avidplc.com) say they could not tell all those customers who have been moved from one system to another, because it would be impracticable. At the end of last month when I test-called the PETtrac lost and found number (0800 652 9977) I too, like M B, was answered from California and told to ring back in office hours. PETtrac say the people answering the phone were "new hires" so perhaps service will have improved by the time this column appears."

OUR DOGS contacted Kathleen Hwang, PR at AVID Identification Systems, Inc. in California to ask about the confusion over Pattrac’s removal of customers from the PetLog database.

Ms Hwang commented: "To answer your questions, PetLog initially was paid a fee to maintain the database for both PETtrac and Animal Care. Unfortunately, they did not fulfil their obligations, so Animal Care pulled their database out and PETtrac pulled out a year later. It's not a matter of parting from PetLog when it was part of our property to begin with.

"Currently, both Animal Care and PETtrac provide their own in-house database services and lost pets are being re-unified. PetLog still maintains prior data, which at times is not accurate."

Hwang continues, singing PETtrac’s praises over PetLog: " PETtrac is part of Avid's GLOBAL Recovery System, which is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and has been continuously in operation since 1985.

"There are more than 11 million microchips in Avid's database, protecting pets the world over. It was only two weeks ago when PETtrac traced a chip (from a different manufacturer) back to the U.S., and helped to successfully reunite the owner in the U.K. - the supplier of the microchip in the U.K. could not help, but that's what makes us different.

Avid is the only company in the world that designs, manufacturers, and sells our own patented microchips and readers, plus we do the work required to reunite lost pets with their families. As such, we have an obligation to trace our products to the vet or implanter to whom we sold to, even in the case the pet gets lost before the owner sends in the registration."

Canine commentator Nicola Finch from South Yorkshire said: "Once again we’ve got a large corporation – and an American one by coincidence, like American Airlines – who don’t care about dog owners and certainly don’t seem to care about their responsibility to their customers. It’s quite atrocious to simply remove their customer’s pet’s details from the PetLog database, not tell them and then expect them to telephone California for help – and then only give customers help if they have suitably trained staff on duty, Monday to Friday. I think this is a clear message of ‘Chipping Sod Off!’"

If you are not sure if your pet has a PETtrac chip, your original certificate will have PETtrac_s name on it. For those who have no certificate, PETtrac IDs normally started with a 1 and end with an A, or start with either 977 or 250. If this is the case for your ID, write with the identification number and full details of the pet to PetLog, PO Box 263 Aylesbury, HP19 8ZH or e-mail them from the website, www.PetLog.org.uk. PetLog will restore you to the register free as a goodwill gesture.