A couple in California, required by law to have their dog implanted with a microchip in order to take him camping, swallowed their objections … and watched their Chihuahua named Charlie Brown bleed to death from the procedure.
“I wasn’t in favor of getting Charlie chipped, but it was the law,” said Lori Ginsberg, the Chihuahua’s owner, citing an ordinance that requires all dogs over the age of four months in unincorporated Los Angeles County be microchipped. Dog owners who refuse to comply face a $250 fine for the first offense and up to six months in jail and $1,000 fine for continued non-compliance.
“This technology is supposedly so great until it’s your animal that dies,” she said. “I can’t believe Charlie is gone.”
Charlie was implanted with a Radio Frequency Identification capsule, or RFID, which consists of a microchip and electronic components tucked inside a capsule of glass about the size of a grain of rice. Ideally, when people or pets implanted with an RFID under their skin are lost and then found, a device made for reading the chips can identify them and enable them to be returned home.
Charlie’s case, however, was far from ideal.
“I just don’t know what happened to him,” said Dr. Reid Loken, the board-certified veterinarian who performed the implant. Dr. Loken also confirmed that Charlie began bleeding from the implant site, and despite efforts to stop the flow, died from extreme blood loss.
“We put the chip in the back in the shoulder blades, the standard place where we put them, and there really aren’t any major blood vessels in that area,” Loken said. “I don’t think it went in too deep; it was a pretty routine chipping.”
Lori and Ed Ginsberg are grieved, but they don’t blame Dr. Loken.
“He’s a great vet and this was not his fault,” say Charlie Brown’s owners. “The real blame is with the people who forced us to implant our dog against our better judgment.”
Dr. Katherine Albrecht
News of Charlie Brown’s death broke when the Ginsbergs heard consumer privacy advocate and Harvard-trained researcher Dr. Katherine Albrecht on the radio and decided to contact her for help.
“You always hear of people being reunited with their dog because of the microchip implant,” Albrecht told WND, “but you don’t hear of someone who lost their dog or whose cat was paralyzed because of the microchip implant. So I think it’s important that we get both sides of the story on these chips.”
“We’re looking to caution people that these microchips are not as safe as they’ve been reported to be,” said Albrecht, relating stories of paralyzed cats, chips migrating through pets’ bodies, and dogs stricken with cancerous tumors after receiving the implants.
An Associated Press story two years ago also reported a 1996 study on lab mice and rats, where toxicologic pathologist Keith Johnson, who led the study at Dow Chemical Co., blamed the implants for inducing malignant tumors on the rodents.
VeriChip, a major manufacturer of the RFID chip, however, claims the mice tests don’t translate into similar results in people or pets.
“Over the last 15 years,” states the VeriChip website, “millions of dogs and cats have safely received an implantable microchip with limited or no reports of adverse health reactions from this life-saving product, which was recently endorsed by the USDA. These chips are a well-accepted and well-respected means of global identification for pets in the veterinary community.”
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association, while admitting a pair of cases in England in which dogs developed tumors from the implants, nonetheless endorses the microchips.
“While it is not possible to claim that the reaction to an implanted transponder in a companion animal will NEVER induce tumor formation,” reads a WSAVA policy statement, “the Committee is unanimously of the opinion that the benefits available to implanted animals far outweigh any possible risk to the health of the animal concerned.”
Albrecht told WND, however, that even more important than arguing the danger of the implants is fighting against government mandate of the controversial microchips.
“We think it is totally inappropriate to require people to do this,” Albrecht said. “If people want to microchip their pets and understand the risks, that should be their right to make that decision themselves.”
She continued, “Given that this is a very controversial technology – not just because of the medical risks associated with it, but for many people who have a moral, philosophical and even religious objection to these technologies – to mandate that someone has to do this really is an example of the government as an evil nanny state.”
Further, said Albrecht, stories like Charlie Brown’s need to be publicized so that the public hears more than just the positive propaganda about the chips and has the opportunity for an open, public dialogue.
“Anytime you tell someone that if they care about their pet or their aging parent developing Alzheimer’s or their newborn infant, they need to microchip their loved ones – anytime you equate caring with implanting – you’re running dangerously close to the line of permitting a mandate of microchip implants in human beings.”
“You’ve got to figure out where your line in the sand is,” Albrecht told WND, “and I think mandating microchips into pets is creating a very dangerous precedent for equating microchip implantation with safety. It’s clearly not safe. It should not be equated with safety. Ultimately it should be a personal decision, whether human or animal.”
Albrecht and the Ginsbergs are now calling for a repeal of all mandatory animal chipping laws nationwide and for the creation of a national registry to document adverse reactions from the chipping procedure.
“It’s horrible to live in a country where your choices are being take away and you don’t get to make decisions about your family and your life anymore,” said Lori Ginsberg. “Politicians should not take away my right to do what I thought was best for my pet.”
The Ginsbergs appeared on Dr. Albrecht’s live, syndicated radio program earlier today and will be archived as a downloadable MP3 file on Dr. Albrecht’s website.