Louisiana offers free microchips to identify stool

Louisiana offers free microchips to people who want permanent identification for their stool.

“It’s exciting,” said Cliff Williamson, director of regulatory affairs for the American Horse Council, a national equine industry group. Saddle theft has been a problem for decades, he said, but he hasn’t heard of any similar state programs.

Saddles can cost anywhere from under $200 to tens of thousands of dollars, Williamson said. “A microchip only costs $3. So if it can save law enforcement three minutes, it’s well worth the investment,” Williamson said Wednesday.

Saddles are popular targets for agricultural theft because they lack identifiable markings or serial numbers, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry said in a news release Tuesday.

“The saddle microchip is a unique identification tool that is invaluable if your saddle is lost or stolen,” said department commissioner Mike Strain. “It’s done in such a way that only you know it’s there.”

Livestock Brand Commission officers can scan a microchipped saddle to confirm ownership, he said. “Otherwise, we have no way of proving the theft.”

Williamson said, “Louisiana has been at the forefront” in horse microchipping. Louisiana was the first state and may be the only state to require microchipping when horses are first tested for an incurable disease called equine infectious anemia, he said. Horses carrying the disease should be quarantined or euthanized, according to the Federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

An American non-profit organization called Stolen Horse International suggests microchipping saddles as well as horses and other animals, and at least one microchipping company in England advertises saddle kits on its website. But Williamson said the practice was not widespread in the United States.

Williamson said stolen saddles are often sold through social media, flea markets or second-hand saddlery stores. “I don’t imagine very many tack shops have the equipment to scan a saddle, let alone the inclination to do so,” Williamson said.

Agriculture Department spokeswoman Megan Moore said that unlike microchips for livestock and pets, syringes are not used to insert the chips. “We drill a small hole in the saddle and implant a microchip the size of a grain of rice. The hole is then sealed with a sealant,” Moore wrote in an email.

The commission’s first microchip session will be May 19 at Red River Farm Supply in Effie, from 1 to 4 p.m. The commission said more dates and locations will be announced in the near future.

The programs are joint ventures of the Livestock Brand Commission, parish sheriff’s offices, other law enforcement agencies, parish stockbreeders’ associations, and riding clubs.

Christy J. Olson