Florida board clarifies rule on microchip procedure

Florida board clarifies rule on microchip procedure

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Apr 01, 2008

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. — The Florida Board of Veterinary Medicine clarified that DVMs must be present during microchipping, despite strong opposition from shelter representatives.

The board reaffirmed its position in a March 18 meeting that microchipping is a minor surgery, and therefore governed by the state practice act. Limited board resources previously hindered enforcement of state laws requiring that surgical procedures be performed by a veterinarian or with direct DVM supervision, says Sam Farkas, spokesman for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The action met with opposition from shelters and rescue groups, including the Coalition to Help Identify Pets, who fear the rule will lead to fewer pets being microchipped, eventually increasing the numbers relinquished to shelters and possibly euthanized.

"We see so many animals coming into shelters that are unidentifiable that when we see any restrictions on encouraging pet owners to be responsible, we are at a loss," says Frank Valente, executive director of the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast in Palm City, Fla., and chairman of the Coalition to Help Identify Pets. "This seems to be counter-productive to helping animals. The need for microchipping has never been greater."

Of the 6,000 animals taken in by Treasure Coast each year, almost 500 are returned to their homes because of microchips, Valente says.

"It is a curious issue to be championing, especially since microchipping does so much more good than harm. The public is better served to have as many pets microchipped as possible," he says.

Shelters can continue to administer microchips while they maintain ownership of an animal — before sale or adoption. Establishments that do not follow the requirement could face licensing restrictions or fines, Farkas says.

The procedure is considered minor surgery, but serious enough that regulators have concerns. During the same March 18 meeting, the board completed a disciplinary hearing — ordering financial and continuing education requirements be fulfilled — for a veterinarian responsible in the death of a cat during a microchipping surgery.

"There is danger associated with this procedure," Farkas says. "There are inherent risks involved."

Valente agrees, but says if the people performing the procedure are properly trained, the potential for injury is very minimal.

"I appreciate the veterinary board's position that this is a veterinary procedure. I'm just not so sure there is a lot of evidence out there that it is a dangerous procedure," he says.