Knoxville, TN — New technology will make it easier for officers to return stray or lost animals to their owners.

Knox County and City of Knoxville Animal Control trucks are now equipped with microchip scanners. The scanners were donated by Young-Williams Animal Center at a presentation on July 12.

When the officer picks up an animal, they can use the device to scan the pet to see if it has a microchip. If it does, the officer will be able to see the owner's address and take the pet home right away. With the scanner, reuniting the pet with their owner could take minutes or hours as opposed to days if they come to the shelter. The device is about the size of a cell phone.

Janet Testerman, the CEO of Young-Williams Animal Center, said the overall goal is to reunite pets with their owners as quickly as possible.

"This also allows us to more acutely dedicate our resources, including lost-and-found staff, intake procedures and shelter space, to animals who don't have a microchip and need additional services and attention," Testerman said.

She said Young-Williams Animal Shelter took in more than 10,000 animals last year.

"We're the designated space for lost-and-found animals," she said. "It really saves a lot of emotional distress both for the animal and the human to be reunited with their animal that much sooner."

Young-Williams Animal Shelter purchased 11 of the scanners with grant money from the Petco Foundation and received four more from Mission Reunite, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping missing pets.

The scanners only work if the pet has a microchip. Officer Keith Hogue, supervisor of the Knoxville Animal Control Unit, said he encourages all owners to microchip their pets.

"It's the identification tag that never falls off, and it can help us bring your beloved pet home to you more quickly," Hogue said. "We've already experienced success in doing so thanks to these scanners."

A microchip is a tiny chip that goes under the animals skin and stores a unique ID number.

This number corresponds to the owner's contact information in a database.

When the scanner picks up the chip, the database is called, and the registry company where the information is stored retrieves the contact. Young-Williams Animal Shelter and veterinarians can microchip pets in a quick, painless procedure.