Microchip Implantation

The VMB hopes that the following historical overview will help to clarify the current status of the microchip issue:

The microchip procedure was deregulated in 1997. Currently, the microchip procedure is not considered the practice of veterinary medicine, it can be done by unlicensed persons and it does not require any supervision of a licensed veterinarian. The following is a historical overview of micro chipping procedure in California.

In 1987, microchip implantation was a new technology for identifying ownership of animals, similar to tattooing and ear tagging. Because the implants were new, there were concerns regarding consumer protection and the potential for animal harm due to the size of the needle, infection, rejection, and possible migration. Legal counsel determined that the VMB would have jurisdiction over the process only if it was a "surgical operation." Based on the fact that a 12-gauge needle was required for implanting microchips, the VMB concluded that the procedure was surgical and could be performed only by licensed veterinarians.

In 1993, the Marin County Humane Society, several other humane groups, and representatives from the profession and the microchip industry asked the VMB to allow veterinarians to delegate microchip implants to persons working under their supervision. Strong evidence was presented to the VMB that since 1987, the use of the microchip implantation system had become widespread at animal shelters and humane societies and that concerns regarding the needle size, infection, and migration had proved unfounded. Legal counsel cautioned the proponents of the change that if the procedure were not considered a "surgical operation," the VMB might not have jurisdiction to regulate the process at all. Despite the caution, the consensus was that it was a safe procedure and it would be more cost-effective for consumers if veterinarians could delegate the task. Based on testimony and evidence submitted, the VMB revised its policy removing the surgical designation on microchip implants, and allowing it to be delegated to persons working under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

In June 1997, the VMB's authority to regulate microchip implants was challenged. The policy revision in 1993 to remove the "surgery" classification for microchip implants was the basis for this challenge.

At the VMB's public meeting in San Diego on October 24, 1997, the VMB's legal counsel submitted an opinion that concluded that the microchip procedure was not a veterinary treatment over which the VMB had jurisdiction. The VMB accepted the opinion by a 4/2 majority; therefore concluding that the microchip procedure was not the practice of veterinary medicine.

Any questions regarding this policy should be directed to the Board's Legislation and Regulations Unit at (916) 263-2610.