HOUSTON (KIAH) — Around this time last year, the Houston City Council unanimously approved an ordinance requiring all pets to have microchips implanted inside of them to help animal control workers reunite them with their owners if they got lost.

The ordinance was passed with the understanding that there would be a one-year grace period in which fines wouldn’t be levied on offenders, rather the city would educate pet owners about the microchip requirement.

That grace period ended Wednesday, and now a pet owner can receive a fine of between one and five hundred dollars if their dog or cat isn’t microchipped.

BARC, the city’s animal control and shelter agency, says the goal isn’t to collect fines but to strongly encourage the use of microchips to reunite lost pets with their owners and keep the shelter population as low as possible.

“We gave the public a year to come into compliance,” BARC Director of Communications Cory Stottlemyer said. “We wanted to have an education period to let the public know what all it entails. Registration was already part of the city ordinance, and we just added microchipping as part of that process.”

When scanned, the microchip between a dog or cat’s front shoulder blades reveals a registration number that BARC can use to obtain information about the animal’s owner — like their address — and return the lost pet to them.

BARC will host two free microchipping events next week.

Pet owners are encouraged to bring their cats and dogs by the BARC facility at 3300 Carr Street from 8-10 a.m. Monday and Tuesday to have a chip implanted in them.

Stottlemyer has some reassurance for pet owners who are concerned that implanting a microchip will hurt their pets.

“I think some people who just don’t have an understanding of how simple the process is might have some hesitancy,” he said. “But it’s barely a pinch. The microchip is the size of a grain of rice.”