HOUSTON — Houston City Council voted Wednesday to require microchipping for all owned animals and that all pet stores sell only dogs and cats sourced from a humane organization or a municipal/county animal shelter.
Existing stores have a one-year grace period to comply with the new ordinance. Officials with BARC will also give pet owners a year to comply with the ordinance.
Councilmember Sallie Alcorn said the city will seek federal funding to help cover the cost for people who can’t afford it.
“We have fought hard to not do grandfathering,” Alcorn said. “There are about six existing stores. We’re gonna give a year for them to come into compliance. We’re not trying to put anybody out of business. Pet stores are universally successful by not going down this path.”
The microchip requirement eliminates the need for a traditional rabies tag and replaces it with a microchip.
“It removes the step of bringing them to the shelter,” BARC Public Information Officer Cory Stottlemyer said. “It gets them back directly to their owner so that just puts less stress on us here at the shelter and reunites owners with their pets sooner.”
A city pet license will still be required, but instead of the physical metal tag for a pet’s collar, BARC will use the microchip number as proof of licensing. This eliminates the issue of the tag being lost or damaged.
This change will allow BARC Animal Enforcement Officers to scan and return a pet to its owner while the officers are in the field, eliminating the need to bring the animal back to the shelter for intake.
The ordinance also approved BARC reducing the stray hold from 72 hours to 48 hours for animals without a microchip allowing for quicker adoptions and transfers.
Under the ordinance, a humane organization is defined as a not-for-profit organization that does not breed animals or does not obtain a dog or cat from a person that breeds or sells animals.
Pet owners can get their dogs or cats microchips from their veterinarian or through BARC for $15. BARC officials plan to perform year-long community outreach to educate residents on the new rules.
The new rules are the first change to the city’s animal code since 2014. Officials said they’re updating it in light of recent technology, as well as to mirror the language in new statewide laws regarding adequate shelter and aggressive, dangerous animals.