Candy Evans knows firsthand the heartbreak that can result when a family pet goes missing.
The longtime Preston Hollow resident remembered feeling distraught when, more than two decades ago, her dog Buffy, a golden retriever-Irish setter mix, escaped from home.
“We thought she was gone” for good, Evans recalled. However, days later, she received a phone call from someone who had found the dog miles away in Carrollton and used information from its registration tags to reunite the pooch and her owner.
Back then, pet identification in the form of microchips did not yet exist. In the years since, Evans has made it a point to have each dog she has owned outfitted with the devices.
“I’d microchip my grandchildren if I could,” she joked.
In June, Dallas City Council enacted an ordinance that mandates microchipping for all dogs and cats 4 months of age and older.
About the size of a grain of rice, microchips are injected beneath animals’ skin. When scanned with a special reader, they reveal a code belonging to one of several companies that maintain national databases and store pet owners’ contact information.
The city’s microchipping ordinance replaces the requirement for pet owners to register their four-legged friends annually. Those who registered or renewed a registration within the past year are not required to have their pets chipped until the registration expires.
“We had low compliance with the registration. It really wasn’t doing what was intended,” said Gabrielle Vannini, spokesperson for Dallas Animal Services, which implants microchips for $15. They are also administered at private veterinary offices, which typically charge around $50.
In 2016, DAS microchipped 12,113 animals that were either adopted from its shelter on North Westmoreland Road or brought to the facility by their owners to undergo the procedure. Between January and early August of this year, it chipped 9,176 animals.
Besides assisting DAS in identifying animals that arrive at the shelter, Vannini said mandatory microchipping may also help alleviate the loose-dog epidemic that plagues some parts of the city, particularly South Dallas, where thousands of canines reportedly roam neighborhood streets.
“There’s obviously not one thing that’s going to solve a loose-dog problem, but this is something that I think is going to really help,” she said.
The ordinance will be enforced when a pet is caught by animal-control officers on city streets and is impounded. “If your dog comes in [to the shelter] and it’s not chipped, you will be cited and fined for that,” she explained, adding that penalties will be determined by a judge.
North Dallas has not experienced a problem with numerous stray dogs inhabiting area streets.
“I think a lot of the dogs you’re going to be seeing out there tend to be owned,” Vannini said, “so having a microchip and being able to get them back to their owner, and educate their owner on ways to keep the dog inside and not roaming, are going to be the positive effects.”
Dr. Mike Escobedo of Cornerstone Animal Clinic said he has not experienced an uptick in requests for microchips since the ordinance went into effect, likely because more than 75 percent of his four-legged patients already have them.
“These are responsible pet owners and they’re going to do it if we recommend it,” which doctors at the Preston Road clinic have done for years, he explained. “At our practice, we’re very lucky. We’re going into [exam] rooms and doing annuals [examinations] and talking to owners and finding out, ‘Oh, you’re already microchipped.’”