The ins and outs of microchips…

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The Government has formulated plans for compulsory microchipping of cats. PHOTO: Mabel Amber/ Pixabay
The Government has formulated plans for compulsory microchipping of cats. PHOTO: Mabel Amber/ Pixabay

By Lynn Broom.
Longmead Veterinary Practice.

Microchips became available in 1989 in pets to provide a permanent form of identification. In 2016 it became a legal requirement in the UK for all dogs to be microchipped from eight weeks of age. Owners are given 21 days to comply and risk a £500 fine for non-compliance.
It also became a requirement that the first registered owner of puppies from a litter is the breeder so that the puppy can be traced back even if the new owner fails to get the chip registered to themselves.
The Control of Dogs Order 1992 still requires that any dog in a public place must wear a collar with the owner’s name – initial and surname – address and postcode engraved or written on it, or engraved on a dog identity tag. Dogs not wearing a tag can be seized by the dog warden and a fine be charged for their return if found wandering.
It is not yet a legal requirement for cats to be microchipped, although this requirement has been proposed and is likely to become law under plans already formulated by the Government. It would be required from 20 weeks of age and, like dogs, owners would be given 21 days to comply or risk a £500 fine.
It makes sense to get your cat chipped. If a cat is injured or dies outside it is very difficult to locate its owner without a chip. Cats without distinctive markings can be very difficult to accurately identify. Cats may travel long distances and may be taken to a vets away from their home making social media ineffective at locating their owners.
Collars with tags are less suitable for cats because of the risk of them getting caught up or lost. Only quick release collars should be used as significant injuries can be caused by cats getting caught by their collars. A paper one – so that it will tear if caught up – can be used if you need other people to know that your cat is owned if it is prone to wandering or visiting other homes.
If you look on any Facebook page there are daily reports of missing or found cats. Cats are unique in our pets in that they are allowed to roam freely. This allows them to go where they like, visit who they like and move home permanently if they choose. Microchipping provides a quick, simple way to identify a cat and contact their owner to establish if they are missing or lost or, as is often the way, choosing to visit new areas.
Unfortunately, many chips do not have their registered details updated when contact information changes. Many pets brought in to vets have chips but their owners cannot be contacted because of this. Please update details, provide multiple phone numbers and email addresses to minimise the risk of being uncontactable.
Many other species are also microchipped. It is a legal requirement in horses and CITES-restricted species of tortoises. It is also sensible to chip other species including rabbits, ferrets and birds, as well as other species of tortoise.
It is demoralising for veterinary staff when a sick, injured or deceased animal is brought in without a chip or with out-of-date details. We do our best to trace owners but sometimes welfare issues or time constraints mean decisions have to be made in the absence of the owner to ensure the animal’s best interests are considered.

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