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Curtin technician saves quarantined dog

Media release

Ref C173/10

A US couple are ecstatic after a Curtin physics technician saved their dog Layla’s life by fixing a broken identification microchip that was necessary for her to enter Australia.

Elizabeth and Franck Tellier have just immigrated to Perth from Houston, Texas along with their two dogs, five-year-old Layla, a Brittany spaniel and Mason, a seven-year-old American Eskimo.

It is a requirement by Australian quarantine that any animal imported to the country has to stay in quarantine and be fitted with a microchip. If this cannot be read and verified with the import documentation, then the animal is deported or euthanised.

Upon arrival, when the animals were scanned by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS), the microchip – a RFID Transponder (Radio Frequency Identification Tag), inserted into Layla, could not be read. The couple were served with an official notice that Layla would have to go back to the United States, and she was booked on a flight next Thursday.

Distraught, Mr and Mrs Tellier, who have settled in South Perth and have no children, first had Layla x-rayed, which proved to AQIS that there was in fact a microchip present. Five different types of scanners were tried, but nothing worked.

After convincing AQIS to remove the chip, the couple, with the help of Byford/Armadale Vet Leanne Mathwine, frantically went in search of someone who could help them save their beloved pooch. They approached Curtin University and were sent to see prototype laboratory technician, Mark Winstanley.

Mark’s day-to-day job is supporting staff and students where necessary to solve problems generally with building all types of equipment.

“I am an instrumentation and control field service engineer by trade,” Mr Winstanley said.

“I get involved with fault finding on equipment throughout the Physics Department and the University. I basically solve problems or at least try to create a result.”

“Although I was hands on at the microscope with the chip, supplying assistance and encouragement were Senior Research Fellow Dr Rob Hart and my supervisor Glen Lawson,” Mr Winstanley said.

Mr Winstanley was able to view the microchip in front of the AQIS vet and identified that it had become disconnected from the micro antenna.

“I was able to detach the antenna on another ID chip and demonstrate under a microscope that it was possible to re-attach the antenna and successfully read the ID,” Mr Winstanley said.

“After this test was successful, I went ahead and repeated the procedure on the damaged microchip recovered from the dog.”

This then allowed it to be scanned and the identification number read, matching up with the importation papers.
“After I met Mark and witnessed the test I had a lot of confidence this was going to work,” Mrs Tellier said.

“The final scan today was nerve wrecking but once we heard the scanner picked up the ID we were beside ourselves.”

The couple have now received official notice from AQIS that Layla now meets all quarantine requirements and they will be at Byford Quarantine station on Sunday morning at 9am to pick up both Layla and Mason and start their life in Australia.

“Mark did an amazing job!” Mrs Tellier said.

“To know that there are people out there so willing to help out in a situation like this is really a nice feeling.”

“We are amazed at how fast we were set up with the correct people at Curtin University who could do this type of work.

“I felt a real passion to help Elizabeth and Frank with this problem,” Mr Winstanley said.

“I gained inspiration and motivation from my loving wife, new baby boy Charles and my late dog Boston.”

Contacts:

Elizabeth Tellier Tel: 0450 177 894

Mark Winstanley Tel: 0439 932 288

Teresa Belcher, Public Relations, Curtin Tel: 08 9266 9085, Mobile: 0401 103 755