Supporters Claim Millions in Savings, Opponents SkepticalBy Mike Luery

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – California is one step away from requiring microchips for cats and dogs rescued from animal shelters. Pet owners are divided on the measure that promises to save lives – and millions of dollars – but will taxpayers really see the savings?

California taxpayers shelled out $300 million last year to impound one million dogs and cats into shelters – and then euthanize half of them. Some California lawmakers say taxpayers can save millions of dollars by using a microchip.   Senate Bill 702, authored by Senator Ted Lieu (D) Torrance, promises to be the first in the nation, animal protection bill to help reunite lost pets and their owners, while saving taxpayer dollars.

The microchip is no bigger than a grain of rice. It carries a radio frequency that allows lost pets to be matched to their owners. The California legislature wants to make microchipping mandatory for impounded dogs and cats. The owners would pay a microchipping fee – up to $50 – to reclaim their lost animal – or to adopt a new pet from the pound.

“And then it saves us money because the dogs go home faster and we don’t have to euthanize them either – and that saves money,” said Dr. Laura Warner, veterinarian at the Sacramento Shelter.

“We bring in over 12 thousand animals a year,” said Gina Knepp, a division manager with the City of Sacramento General Services. Knepp says SB 702 makes sense – and saves dollars.

“It reduces the burden on the general fund for the amount of money that we invest on stray animals that we can’t reunite with their families,” Knepp told CBS 13.

But Joan Greene, a dog trainer, says mandatory microchipping will cost taxpayers.

“I think they’re playing with the figures,” Greene said, noting that more than half the animals in shelters are stray cats.

“They don’t have owners, they’re going to be killed anyway because they’re not adoptable,” Greene told CBS 13. She then added, “It’s going to be a loss leader. It’s going to cost a lot more than it would to go ahead and implement it.”

Just 15% of the strays in the Sacramento shelter are returned to their owners. Will microchipping save lives and millions of dollars? There are no clear cut answers – and now it’s up to Governor Brown to decide if every animal in the pound should be microchipped before adoption. Brown has until October 9th to sign or veto the microchip bill.