Avid Microchips and International Pet Air Travel
We have been receiving a lot of questions recently about microchips, specifically AVID brand chips and whether or not they are ISO compatible.
We'd love to address these very important questions, but first, let's review what a microchip is and why it's typically required for any animal traveling internationally.
What is a Microchip and Why Does My Pet Need One?
The microchip is a tiny computer chip which has an identification number programmed into it. The chip is encased in a smooth, strong biocompatible glass, and is small enough to fit into a hypodermic needle. Once an animal is injected with the chip, they can be identified throughout their life by this one-of-a-kind number. Their identification cannot be lost, altered or intentionally removed.
The chip is typically implanted subcutaneously between your pet's shoulder blades. The process does not require any sedation or anesthesia, as the needle used to insert the chip is no bigger than any normal vaccination needle. Aside from maybe a little initial swelling from the injection itself, you will not be able to see or feel the chip afterward. The chip is inert, smooth and biocompatible, so there is no chance of the body rejecting the microchip or developing an allergy.
At the port of export and port of entry, the inspectors will scan the chip. It is one of the ways countries can control disease -- so they always know who is coming and going, and what sort of vaccinations they have had.
AVID Chips and ISO Compatibility
AVID Standard chips (9 digit format such as XXX*XXX*XXX) are not ISO compatible, due to their encryption (they were produced early on). AVID Euro Chips are in fact ISO compatible and will work in various countries and are 10-digit chips.
However, some countries such as Hong Kong still require that all pets coming into Hong Kong be chipped with an AVID Standard chip (9 digits). Animals that are already chipped with an ISO compatible chip (such as AVID Euro or HomeAgain) may enter the country with a non-AVID Standard chip, however Hong Kong will re-chip the pets upon arrival in Hong Kong with the AVID Standard chip. This is a compulsory government rule (similar to the compulsory rabies shot upon arrival in Hong Kong), and cannot be avoided.
This article, written by an AVID representative, explains in further detail the differences between the AVID chips:
First, let me state a few simple sentences that should be of immediate help to you. Then I will follow with further explanation for anyone who is interested.
AVID, as a worldwide manufacturer and supplier of microchips, makes many different products in order to comply with various standards around the world. We make three different kinds of chips. We have ten scanner models.
1. For pet travel OUTSIDE of the United States, particularly within the EU, I would recommend our EURO Chip. It is 10 digits long and complies with the latest EU regulations and with those of DEFRA. The bonus to this chip is that while it is accepted in the EU, Canada and other countries, it will also work just fine within the United States microchip infrastructure. It is not new. We have manufactured this chip for several years.
2. Most vets in the US who use AVID products, do not use the EURO chip on an everyday basis. Why? They have always used the AVID secure chip. (Long before ISO was involved in pet travel). It is easier to read and works beautifully in the US and it is required in certain countries. It is our oldest and most widely used chip. Most importantly it is secure. Meaning that it can never be duplicated or cloned, as can all other 10 and 15 digit chips, including our own EURO chip.
3. The AVID Secure (encrypted chip) does not comply with ISO Standard 11785 Annex A.
Further discussion and suggestions:
As we discussed, my office receives hundreds of calls from people who are trying to make sense of the ISO standards and what to do to avoid quarantine.
The ISO confusion in the states stems from three things:
1) The average person does not know how to interpret the ISO standards because they do not know what 11784 and 11785 mean in the first place.
2) Our own USDA and often their equivalent in countries other than England are confused about what types of chips are used in America.
3) Vets in the states generally do not follow the nuances of ISO, because they do not have to deal with it on an everyday basis.
We all know the following things:
1. ISO standards for animal identification are not worldwide.
2. ISO standards are interpreted differently in different countries. (The EU gave a very clear interpretation with its new regulations).
3. The ISO is currently in the process of addressing the worldwide and growing problem of chip cloning or duplication which takes place regularly with 15 digit chips. The new standard is # 14223. It will detail encryption as a method of prevention.
4. Annex A of the ISO Standard 11785 identifies all 125 - 128 kHz FECAVA chips as compliant. (That means AVID EUROChip, Destron, HomeAgain, Trovan and any other 125 kHz chips that are not encrypted).
5. Key: The ISO, while it produces standards, is not an enforcemententity. While the standard REQUIRES scanners to read 15 digit and ten digit, there are many companies in the EU that make scanners that read either, but not both. There is no one to stop this from happening.
So, with the understanding of how the real world works, regardless of how ISO wants it to work, this is our protocol:
If a dog is already microchipped and paperwork initiated the questions become: What type of chip is in the dog? Do you plan to live in the EU, or will you be returning soon to the United States?
If the chip is an AVID 9 digit secure chip, the owner MUST take a scanner with him/her. They can rent one from AVID by the month, or if they choose, they can purchase one. If the chip is an AVID Euro Chip or a HomeAgain chip, they do not need to carry a scanner. They comply. HOWEVER, if the person will be staying overseas for a long time (and this comes from experience), I would suggest at some point that the owner consider having an ISO 11784, 15 digit chip inserted. Why? Because
unfortunately, there are companies overseas that sell scanners that do not comply with the ISO standard, and ONLY read a 15 digit chip.
If a dog is NOT chipped and paperwork not initiated, the question is: Do you plan to live in the EU or will you be returning soon to the United States? If staying in the EU, I recommend using either an AVID EURO Chip, or a HomeAgain chip for travel. For countries outside of the UK, I recommend implantation of an ISO 15 digit chip IF the owner is overly concerned about loss or theft. If returning the states, I would NOT chip with a 15 digit chip, since it is useless here.
What if the vet uses AVID, but does not carry the EURO 10 digit chip? The vet can order EURO chips from AVID in increments of five (5) and he can use them for any pet, inside the US or not.
In summary: While the attempts of an international standard are good in concept, the practical issues are even more important. The US had a huge infrastructure of microchip technology in place for ten years before ISO wrote standards.
The reason there was an immediate ANNEX (A) to the standard, was due to the fact that a huge installed base in Europe and elsewhere already existed and continues today. The EU did a very noteworthy and commendable thing by recognizing this base. The American chip companies (and American pet owners) appreciate their efforts, as well as those of DEFRA, and we are doing everything we can top help our citizens comply when they pet transport travel.
Still have questions? Need help organizing international dog or cat travel? Contact us to set up a pet travel consultation.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in July 2009 and has been updated with new information.