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RFID Goes To The Dogs In Portugal

The country's agricultural ministry has awarded Digital Angel a contract to launch a dog-ID program using implantable RFID chips.
Digital Angel Corp. said Friday it has won a $600,000 contract from the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture to launch a mandatory dog-identification program using implantable radio-frequency identification microchips. Shipments have begun, with completion scheduled for the third quarter this year.

The Portuguese dog-identification program is being conducted simultaneously with the country's annual rabies vaccination drive. The deadline for Portuguese residents to tag the approximate 2 million dogs is 2007.

Portugal isn't alone in its quest to tag domestic animals. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union passed an initiative to mandate identification for dogs, cats, and ferrets traveling into and between EU member countries. According to Digital Angel, after an eight-year transitional period only an electronic ID system will be acceptable under these regulations. It's part of a new passport directive for domestic pets. As of Oct. 1, pets will require a passport bearing the animal's microchip or tattoo number as well as records of vaccinations, tick treatments, clinical examinations, and other data.

Digital Angel has managed to find its niche in implantable microchip even though earnings slid in the first quarter ended March 31. The company reported on May 3 that first-quarter earnings were $11.1 million, down slightly from $11.4 million in the year-ago quarter. Profits slid as well, to $4.5 million for the first quarter of 2004, from 5.3 million, respectively

Portugal's animal-tracking project is being implemented with assistance from Merial, a Merck and Aventis animal-health care company. Digital Angel, a majority-owned Applied Digital Solutions company, is focused on animal-tracking systems for domestic pets and livestock such as cattle and sheep.

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Jessica Davis, Senior Editor