USDA updates policy on using microchips to officially identify regulated animals

May 23, 2016 ~ USDA Bulletin: USDA licensees and registrants can now use microchips to officially identify their regulated animals without having to request a variance from the agency.

Animal Welfare Act regulations require licensees and registrants to permanently mark or identify regulated animals. Many regulated facilities mark their animals by tattooing them or affixing metal tags to their bodies. However, tattoos can fade and may become difficult to read, and metal tags can get lost, stolen or broken. The USDA recognizes that technologies change and best practices evolve and have always allowed licensees and registrants to microchip their animals instead of using tags or tattoos, but until now they needed to request a variance.

Licensees and registrants using microchips must: place the microchip in a standard, anatomical location; have a functioning scanner readily available during inspections; and maintain records that identify for each animal the microchip number, location on the animal and the name of the microchip manufacturer. Any licensee or registrant who does not meet these conditions must continue to identify animals by a tag or tattoo.

“Microchips are a proven technology, used widely by many pet owners in their own homes,” said Bernadette Juarez, deputy administrator, USDA Animal Care. “Using them to identify regulated animals is an option welcomed by the regulated community, animal advocates, emergency responders and our own employees.”

The USDA updated Policy 13 in their Animal Care Policy Manual to reflect this new guidance.

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