ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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USDA Considers Adoption of ISO Standards for Animal Microchips


New York, Mar 14, 2006

In the United States, between eight and ten million pets stray from home each year. Fewer than 25% of them, however, are reunited with their families. According to the Coalition for Reuniting Pets and Families (the Coalition), the low reunification rate is directly related to the lack of a national radio frequency identification (RFID) standard for pets. The Coalition, which is comprised of leading U.S. humane societies and veterinary organizations, petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to adopt a national RFID standard for companion animals. The agency is soliciting public comments regarding the proposal.

The Coalition endorses the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 11784:1996 Radio Frequency Identification of Animals – Code Structure and ISO 11785:1996 Radio Frequency Identification of Animals – Technical Concept, which are widely implemented around the globe, with the notable exception of the United States. In countries where the ISO standard has been adopted—the United Kingdom for instance—the reunification rate of lost dogs with their families is as high as 47%.

The lack of a universal microchip system in the U.S., in which any RFID scanner can read any chip, has complicated the identification of companion animals. Microchips with varying frequencies are used, and since the technologies are not interoperable, many microchipped animals are not successfully identified. ISO microchips feature an “open” technology that allows scanners to read chips universally, regardless of frequency: ISO 11784 addresses the code for identifications; ISO 11785 covers the technical operations between the RFID code and reader.

According to the Coalition, the need for an effective national identification standard was underscored by the Hurricane Katrina disaster which separated thousands of pets from their families. Efforts to identify and return pets were thwarted by the fact that many of the animals were either chipped with inconsistent technologies or not microchipped at all, resulting in euthanizations that might have been prevented. Adoption of the ISO standards, the Coalition believes, would increase the efficiency of the U.S. identification system, and would be successful in identifying pets under both ordinary conditions and regional disasters.

The Coalition’s petition came on the heels of a congressional report issued in June 2005 that directed APHIS to develop regulations enabling an open RFID microchip system for pet identification. In response to the two appeals, APHIS recently issued a Federal Register notice announcing its decision to consider requiring ISO 11784 and 11785 compliant microchips. APHIS is seeking public comment regarding the use of microchips to identify cats and dogs, and on the potential impacts of adopting the ISO standards. To provide a forum for discussion, APHIS is hosting a series of informational meetings on the subject.

Click here for information about the meeting dates and locations and to access the Federal Register notice.

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