The Compulsory Microchipping of Cats Legislation
It all began with Rehman Chishti MP and the Cats Bill.....
The Cats Bill aimed to require the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to a cat to stop and report the incident, as well as to require the keepers of cats to ensure they are microchipped for identification purposes. The aim of the Cats Bill was to bring as much awareness of the issue as possible, as well as prompting the Government to act. We worked extremely closely with Rehman on the proposed details of the Bill, and took part in research with him at the Blue Cross Animal Hospital In Victoria (1) We witnessed first hand the amazing work the team does on a daily basis as we watched them do surgery on a RTA victim, as well as the microchipping of a cat.
Our extensive work on the issue of reportable road accidents involving cats (RTAs) helped shape the way the RTA side of the Bill was considered. Our draft law proposals on how incidents would be reported and enforced would later be produced to impressed DEFRA officials, and members of the shadow cabinet, who would go as far as to include it in the Animal Welfare Manifesto. It would later also become a manifesto pledge by the government.
In December 2018, Rehman hosted the Cat Welfare Debate in Parliament. We worked with Rehman's team on putting forward a range of issues facing our cats, but of course the main issues centred around the Cats Bill itself - especially RTAs, scanning and microchipping. As a result of the debate, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for DEFRA David Rutely, announced he would look into taking forward the issue of the mandatory microchipping of cats.
This also paved the way to follow on our work on scanning and RTAs with ministers after the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, made recommendations of CatsMatter to DEFRA (2) during his time as a Local Government Minister. These talks resulted in our 'best practice guide' currently being worked on jointly by DEFRA and the Housing Dept to become official guidance for local councils to follow when handling deceased cats, as well as our reportable road accident proposals to be liaised on internally.
Fast forward to June 2019, and David Rutely confirmed DEFRA will launch a call for evidence on the issue of mandatory microchipping of cats. At the same time, representatives for CatsMatter met with DEFRA's policy advisers to speak further about microchipping, as well as the road accident side of the Cats Bill's and our work with local authorities on the issue of councils scanning deceased cats found by the roadside. To ask local councils to scan cats found, and ask drivers to report incidents where they have struck a cat with their vehicle, there needs to be the assurance there will be a microchip to scan. With this in mind, along with the countless other benefits of microchipping, we agreed microchipping should take priority initially for the reporting side to be as successful as it can be in the future. The Call for Evidence goes live.
Initially, we were asked to submit evidence to the policy researchers from a council angle, given DEFRA recognised the wealth of information we had previously collated when we surveyed all UK councils. However, we opted to work on all aspects of the new legislation. Throughout November/December 2019, we worked with numerous other charities, campaign groups, vets, local councils and some of the microchip companies themselves (3), to create an 11'000 word document detailing everything from how much non-chipped cats costs veterinary surgeries and local councils annually, as well as how the government could approach microchipping in feral cats. Most importantly, we put together details of exactly why this is so important for owners and how microchips could potentially save a cats life. To back up further our argument, we put together real life stories from our supporters to highlight exactly how vital microchips have been, especially for reunification and closure purposes. Since this, we have had the fantastic opportunity to take part in DEFRA held stakeholder meetings with the researchers to discuss our ideas and proposals further.
Our meetings with DEFRA officials have always been extremely positive, and it's been a
pleasure to work with them throughout on such important legislation for cats and
owners. We've seen first hand how much time, effort and dedication goes in to new
legislation, and it's been an honour to be such a big part of it all.
We will continue our discussions with DEFRA officials on how to take forward the issue
of reportable RTAs involving cats. Following internal discussions last year, this will now
take place again once microchipping legislation is finalised.
It's been a fantastic journey thus far for our campaign and goals, but one which is also just starting.
Microchipping is part of responsible pet ownership. Enquire with your local vet or find your local trained implanter here.