One of the most important technological innovations in the history of animal welfare is also one of the smallest and simplest.

Smaller than a grain of rice, a microchip implant helps identify an animal and from that can help reunite a pet with its owner or study migration information that might not easily be discovered in other ways.

When many people update a pet microchip, they do not tend to think of this history, but the technology has been used for nearly 40 years.

The initial version of the microchip technology was known as PIT (passive integrated transponder) tagging, which was designed to be a more efficient and effective method for monitoring wild animal behaviour than previous mark-and-recapture techniques.

Exactly who invented the system is unclear but it is known that it was used as early as 1983 for measuring fish migrations, before being expanded to nearly every form of animal over the next twenty years.

Microchipping pets, however, took quite a bit longer. Whilst the technology was first introduced to the UK in 1989, it took a while for the necessary infrastructure to build around it, and to build an accepted standard for vets and animal welfare groups to build around.

In the 1990s, the group that would fix this issue was made up of animal charities, veterinary groups and electronics suppliers that were at the time known as the Microchip Advisory Group, changing their name to the Microchip Trade Association in 2012.

They would help to develop and coordinate standardised databases, and implantation sites, as well as fix the issues that caused incompatibility with early chip readers, eventually forming what became known as the ISO 11784-11785 standard for the UK and Europe in 1997.

After these standards were established, it would take nearly two decades of lobbying before the Microchipping of Dogs Act 2015 made it a legal requirement.

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