Check the Chip Day an opportunity to connect with the community

With Check the Chip Day only about two weeks away on Aug. 15, some animal hospitals might be feeling like they don't have enough time to adequately prepare for it.

Michelle Forgy, DVM, owner and veterinarian at AAHA-accredited Pinnacle Animal Hospital in San Jose, Calif., was in the same boat in 2013, but she and her staff managed to put together quite an event in a short time.

NEWStat spoke with Forgy to get the details of how her hospital put together a successful Check the Chip Day event in her community.

What is the story behind your Check the Chip Day event in 2013?

Two of our RVTs (Desiree Bacchetti and Jamie Kind) read about the event on AAHA's Facebook page, and they brought the idea to our doctors. We only had a couple of weeks until the Aug. 15 event date, so we decided to get the word out as quickly as possible through Facebook. We created a Facebook event and invited both clients and non-clients.

Desiree designed a very nice informational handout for the pet owners that included the major microchip companies and their contact information. We kept it simple and set up a small table on a lawn next to our hospital. One technician scanned the pet's microchip while the other recorded the number on the handout. We looked up the number on AAHA's Universal Pet Microchip Lookup website, so we could at least give the owners an idea of the last time the information had been updated; many were surprised that it had been a while since they had done so. We also had a sample microchip for owners to see and handle so they could better visualize what one looks like.

I took the opportunity to discuss the importance of microchipping and maintaining current contact information. I also took photos of the owners and pets (with their permission) and loaded the photos in real time to Pinnacle's Facebook page. People enjoyed sharing their photos immediately, which also helped spread the word. We hoped to check 50 pets, but fell short and checked about 30 pets for chips. 

Why was it important for your hospital to participate in Check the Chip Day?

We had seen numerous animals in our community go missing around the Fourth of July, so when we heard about the event in August, we felt it was important to do a better job of educating pet owners in our community. We were also a new hospital last year, and we saw it as a great opportunity to meet some of our neighbors.

How did the community receive your event?

We opened the event to clients as well as non-clients. Everyone was very appreciative of the free service. Many also didn't know how microchips work and didn't know they needed to keep their contact information up to date. The biggest surprise was two dogs who came in to have their chips read, and they didn't have microchips at all. The owner was totally shocked!

What are your plans for this year's Check the Chip Day?

We are doing a very similar event, although we expect it to be a much bigger event this year. We decided to start advertising the event on Facebook much earlier this year. Several local rescue groups and training groups are helping promote the event for us. We've set a more ambitious goal of checking 75 pets this year.

What was fun or rewarding about last year's experience for hospital staff?

Many of our staff members had worked at larger hospitals previously, and they said they felt excited and proud to be a part of a hospital that participates in the community like that. The team of us that ran the event had a great time meeting people and talking about our new hospital.

Why would you recommend that other animal hospitals consider Check the Chip Day participation?

Holding an open event lets your community know that your hospital truly cares about animals. It can also be a great opportunity to promote your hospital's services and your AAHA accreditation.

Learn more about Check the Chip Day

Read the AVMA's article on planning for the 2014 Check the Chip Day, containing many ideas for animal hospitals to follow.