UK’s Compulsory Cat Microchipping System is Flawed: BVA President
Wed, April 14, 2021

UK’s Compulsory Cat Microchipping System is Flawed: BVA President

In April 2016, dog microchipping became compulsory in the UK. All canines in Wales, Scotland, and England were required to be microchipped by their owners by the time they are eight weeks old. If they do not follow the pet microchipping system, dog owners can face a fine of up to £500, the BBC reported.

Unique Code for Every Dog

The government hoped that with the pet microchipping system, more lost dogs can be reunited with their owners. The process of microchipping is simple. A radio-frequency identification transponder (microchip), as small as a grain of rice, is inserted below the skin at the back of the neck between the shoulder blades. Often, such a microchip can be felt under the skin.

The sole function of the microchip is to store a unique code for every pet. Veterinarians can often see the pet parent’s contact information by passing a microchip scanner over the skin of the pet. Most veterinary hospitals and animal shelters in the US and UK can use global scanners that read animal microchips, which remain dormant until activated by the scanners.

Comment From the British Veterinary Association President

In theory, applying the system in cats is great. However, the system is still flawed. British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Daniella dos Santos said via media outlet The Conversation that “the microchip system as a whole is not fit for purpose.” Certainly, it has the potential to improve the reunification and identification of stolen and missing pets. However, there are still many gaps and holes in the system. Anybody may begin creating their database and there are not enough regulations on it as of the moment. This is why the compulsory cat microchipping is a “broken” and “very complicated” system. BVA is the national body for veterinary surgeons in the UK and is a nonprofit organization.

Daniel Allen, an animal geographer from Keele University, said the two major flaws of the current pet microchipping system in the UK are the lack of a single database and optional scanning. He said that although almost 92% of the dogs in the UK are already microchipped and this showing a 15% decrease of strays, scanning one's pet remains optional.

What Optional Scanning Means

By optional scanning, they mean that veterinary professionals, local authorities, and animal rescuers are not required by law to scan the pets they come in contact with. They are not required to check if the details in the microchips are the same on the database or the person who possesses the animals. This is why the opportunities to reunite stolen and missing pets with their pet parents are sometimes missed. Such was the case of a microchipped Siamese cat named Clooney. The cat was stolen in June 2013. The database where the cat was registered shows that the Siamese had been scanned twice in March 2018. Yet, the cat’s location remains unknown to the actual or registered owner in the database.

Clooney’s owner Toni Clarke said that they microchipped their cats in the hope that it will offer the animals a passport home in case they are lost, but they can't come to terms with the fact that somebody had looked up the cat’s details and yet they were not contacted. Clarke added that the only people he knows who can obtain the information in the database are the police. Does that not mean they are letting such a thing happen “without serious challenge?”

Some councils have also reported disposing of dead felines without scanning their microchips. Cat owner Heléna Abrahams shared that it happened to her microchipped cat named Gizmo, causing her to launch a campaign for compulsory cat microchip scanning. There was also another campaign called Fern’s Law, which hopes to make it compulsory for veterinarians to scan the pets that are new to their clinic and check the associated record during their yearly vet visit.

UK Pet Population

UK vet charity PDSA shared that every year, they collaborate with market research company YouGov to determine the wellbeing of pets in the UK and to know how many pets there are in their country.  Based on their latest PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report, 50% of UK adults now own a pet and 24% of UK adults own a cat. There are also an estimated 10.9 million pet cats that are living in the UK. On the other hand, there are 9.9 million pet dogs owned by 26% of the UK adult population.

The ct population by year in the UK are as follows: 2018 (11.1 million), 2017 (10.3 million), 2016 (11 million), 2015 (11.1 million), 2014 (10.5 million), 2013 (9.5 million), 2012 (11.9 million), and 2011 (11.9 million). The report also included the number of dogs and rabbits in the UK.

The Confusion of Having Several Microchip Databases

Currently, the UK has 13 microchip databases included in the government list. These include the following: Animal Microchips, Animal Tracker, Chipworks, Identibase, MicroChip Central, MicroDogID, National Veterinary Data Service, Petlog, Pet Identity UK, PetScanner, ProtectedPet, SmartTrace, and UK PETtrac databases.

Since all these are independent commercial enterprises, they maintain different processes and may not be considering a centralized database to register the microchipped pets. To further confuse the matter, several other microchipping databases do not meet the standards set by the UK government to continue to trade. However, these microchipping databases still rank highly on search engine results. So, if pet owners have registered their pets in an unlisted database, they may be fined up to £500 and their pet will remain unregistered in case it gets lost or stolen.

There are also other pet laws in the UK that others may not know about. For instance, all animals are required to be restrained if they are inside the car or a seatbelt should be placed around their cage. It is illegal to bury pets anywhere the owners want. Furthermore, dog owners should walk their pets with two poo bags on hand. They could be fined on the spot for not picking up after their dogs.

There have been calls for cat microchipping. It is a part of responsible pet ownership and can help solve pet theft and identify felines that are killed or injured on the road. However, this potential to improve the reunification and identification of stolen and missing cats may only be met if the country’s present microchipping system is fixed. It would be nice for the government to aim for a single pet microchip register.