Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Animal microchipping ordinance to go under further review

Protestors outside City Hall cheered Tuesday when it was announced the date for mandatory-animal microchipping would be pushed back and public opinion sessions will be held to gauge San Marcos residents’ opinions.

“We would like to come back to this,” Mayor Susan Narvaiz said. “We are in favor of having options for our residents — not mandating.”

A crowd gathered outside City Hall protesting what they said was government intrusion. Katherine Albrecht, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host, helped organize the event and served as a spokeswoman.

“I have been doing national interviews across the country and this has sparked a wave of interest,” Albrecht said. “I believe this microchipping issue is probably going to be the one that tips the balance here. I have a feeling this is the silver bullet that will wake up the sleeping masses.”

Albrecht said the microchip ordinance is encroaching government.

“It’s a little too much Big Brother for peoples’ taste,” she said. “I think there is a concern that if we allow the government to say ‘you must microchip your dog’ the end point for that is the government saying ‘you yourself must be microchipped.’”

The controversy started in January after the City Council approved a new ordinance making it mandatory for pet owners to microchip their dogs and cats.

The microchip allows animal services to retrieve the owners’ information.

However, the effects of the microchip are controversial.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Web site, tumors associated with microchips in two dogs were reported. However, the site goes on to state the tumor in one of the dogs could not be directly linked to the microchip itself and may have been caused by something else.

Albrecht, who has a doctorate in human development and psychology, said she has researched animal microchips. She said a dog died from blood loss last month hours after receiving the microchip.

“We spoke with the veterinarian and have seen the veterinarian report. (The dog) clearly bled to death from the hole where the microchip was implanted,” she said.

The council’s stated goal for the ordinance is to get more lost pets back to their owners.

Councilmember John Thomaides, Place 6, said the Humane Society of San Marcos euphonizes around 20 dogs daily.

“My colleagues and I have a desire to not see as many animals killed as are being in our shelter now,” said Councilmember Chris Jones, Place 4. “The goal for me is a less or a no kill shelter.”

Melanie Gutermuth, public administration senior, said she does not want people to be afraid of planting microchips in their pets. However, Gutermuth said she is not for mandatory microchip placements in animals.

Gutermuth, who addressed the council about the ordinance, said her dog has not been adversely affected by microchipping.

“I got her from the shelter,” Gutermuth said. “She was a lost dog. She has a tattoo that is supposed to identify the dog, which they say is the good and healthy alternative. The argument is that there is no central database of tattoos on dogs and you can’t put sufficient information in writing.”

Gutermuth said the issue has been one sided so far and suggested to the council adopt a voluntary microchipping model.

“Not many people come out in support of things,” she said. “They usually come out when there is a problem and they disagree.”

Mike Occhialini, San Marcos resident, said the council needs to spend its time and resources on other matters.

“Please stop wasting money on problems you cannot stop,” Occhialini said. “We do not have time to waste. This means you must have courage... Please make sure you are ready to discuss these issues when you campaign.”