Here’s a hot button that took up almost thirty minutes of a ninety-minute South Florida Veterinary Medical Association (SFVMA) board meeting last night: Microchipping. Whether ‘tis nobler in the hands of the veterinarian than the shelter worker’s, breeder’s, average owner’s, etc…

A consensus was not reached unanimously. Some felt it was the veterinarian’s duty, responsibility and privilege to implant microchips. Given that a kitten in neighboring Broward County, Florida was killed by a misplaced microchip (how I have no earthly idea), most of the meeting’s members felt it was important to restrict the use of a microchipping device to veterinarians and veterinarians alone.

OK so can you tell I was the lone hold-out?

It’s my contention that a trained monkey could learn how to implant a microchip properly, given some basic instruction and carefully monitored the few first times. It certainly doesn’t take a veterinary degree.

Sure, some degree of medical supervision is understandably preferable, but calling the microchipping process a “surgical,” vet-only procedure as some veterinarians suggest is taking things a bit too far.

We allow techs to place catheters, run fluids and administer all sorts of injections in our absence as long as we OK it (this is known as “responsible supervision”). What’s so magical about a microchip that it requires “direct supervision” (a vet must be on the premises) or even what some of my colleagues suggested last night?: “Only a vet can inject a microchip”

If this is a procedure we all look upon as in the best interest of all pets, why restrict its use to vets alone?  Can’t a tech do it? OK, maybe not breeders if we want to be extra-careful about individual animal health. But a tech? How about a certified tech? Why the heck not?

I tried to explain that the penetration of microchips in the marketplace is staggeringly small. I explained that the only reason we see as many microchips as we do today is because shelters implant them, usually without the direct supervision of an expensive veterinarian.

I proposed that it’s in the best interest of almost every single pet that we allow non-vets to perform this simple procedure.

I even argued that growing the market by making it easy for shelters to implant their own is in the best financial interest of vets. (I had to say something that would appeal to their protectionist ways.)

And yet, as a group, we voted for mandating “direct supervision,” thereby requiring vets be physically present at all microchippings.

The good news is that I wasn’t completely alone. I think I managed to sway about four voters (out of eleven). I even think I planted doubts in the minds of those confused on the subject (there were more than a few bewildered souls, I believe).

It’s also good news that we’re just one small body of vets. A larger group will take part in thinking through the issue more carefully in future months. And ultimately, it won’t be up to just vets. A wide group of legislators and stakeholders will consider all the info, including our board’s two cents.

I can only hope that by then veterinarians will have come to see how small-minded their protectionist approach can be when viewed in the larger context of what’s necessary for our pets’ welfare.