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Best Practice Guide for the Handling of Deceased Cats.

CatsMatter are proud to be leading the way in changing the way our cats are handled by local authorities. Our primary goal has always been to ensure drivers stop if they hit a cat, help wherever possible and report the incident, with the intention of making sure cats stand the very best chance of survival if the worst does sadly happen.

When drivers fail to do the right thing, cats are left to be collected by local councils. Although we strongly fight for cats never to be left long enough for councils to collect them in the first place, it is sadly sometimes the case that they are. Given our own personal experience of never having closure due to a council having no scanning or storing procedure in place, we have continuously fought over the last 4 years to help fix the broken system and make sure others don't have to endure the same pain.

Campaigning at the local level has resulted in 59 councils successfully adopt a scanning procedure. Now, thousands of cats over the coming years can be reunited with the owner who can receive some closure and lay their cats to rest at home where they belong. Nationally we have seen victories in London, where our motion passed with a unanimous vote resulting in all new Transport for London (TFL) contracts to include the scanning of ALL domestic pets found on their network, from rivers, tube stations to roads. We also worked with the Department for Transport (DFT) who conducted a speech at the 2018 National Association of Waste Disposal Officers seminar on our behalf, as well as creating a private group discussion between us and county councils to help promote better practices. With the help of DFT, we also secured a tightening of Highways England's current procedure. Appearances at the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament resulted in both nations becoming all scanning, as well as Northern Ireland where we managed to bring the number of local councils not scanning down to zero. We also worked with the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure who agreed to implement scanning throughout their depots nationally. We continue to work with all 4 nations on this issue.

However, simply getting councils to scan is only part of the battle in getting cats and dogs home when collected by councils. Yes, dogs are treated exactly the same as cats when collected by local councils. We surveyed all councils around the UK to get a clear understanding of what was happening out there, beyond general scanning. Although councils now have procedures in place, there are many other factors which need to be working well to make sure pets go home. When we say a procedure, this comes in many different forms. Some councils scan/store on site, others use local vets or pet crematoriums. Some have external contractors or even have arrangements with local rescues who will go on site to scan/return bodies.

There are also issues in the areas of collection, storage, equipment usage, recording, notifying and staff awareness.

We continuously work with councils to encourage the very best policy possible, from continuous advice, making arrangements for external scanners to go in to the depots to scan, to the donation of the scanning and storage facilities themselves.

It is not uncommon for councils to approach us and ask questions around the scanning and storage procedure. We have never gone public with names or details due to wanting to keep that trust they have with us, so this work goes on in the shadows. This trust was especially beneficial when it was repaid during DEFRAs research into the upcoming microchip legislation when some councils entrusted us with sensitive data to use in the research to help boost the case for microchipping and scanning. Believe it or not, some councils stand firmly behind us and want a law change too.

Many councils do want to have an effective system in place, but they simply don't know where to go for advice for this as there is currently no official guidance. Having spoke to DEFRA about this, it was agreed that our best practice guide would be worked on to become official government guidance for councils. While this is being worked on alongside the upcoming microchip legislation, we have decided to take action in the mean time and send our best practice guide to ALL local authorities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This process is currently underway with already some promising results back.

We wanted to share with our supporters some of the issues we are raising with councils and the areas we are advising on and working with them to improve. This guide aims to show some of the complex issues and highlight how an effective system goes way beyond just the scanning of cats and dogs. Here we highlight some of the obstacles to people having their cat returned by local councils, and the advice we are giving to councils to help combat this. We do this because every single cat matters and deserves dignity in death, as well as knowing all too well that cats are family and owners need that chance to say goodbye properly and have some closure.

What is a microchip?

A microchip is a small, grain of rice sized chip, implanted on the back of a domestic animal’s neck. Dog owners must microchip their dogs by law, as soon will cats. PDSA Animal Welfare (PAW) report figures show that 68% of UK cats are now microchipped. Following a national survey, we found that councils report between 1/4 – 1/7 cats collected were found to have a microchip. The reason(s) councils’ figures do not match other national databases, are for varying reasons and often mirrored on occasion by some rescue centres. Some of those reasons are listed in this guide, and simple ways to combat them are accompanied.

Owners microchip their cats so they can be informed of instances where their beloved pet may need veterinary assistance, they become lost, or so they are at least afforded closure should the worst sadly happen. For microchips to be used to their full potential, authorities must aim to locate a microchip on domestic pets collected from the roadside.

Reporting incidents

The reporting of deceased cats found tends to be one of the major complaints from residents and pet owners searching for a lost pet. Generally, residents will call the councils main customer service number, and callers sometimes become confused if they meet an automated service, leading to being directed wrongly or being informed wrongly. Call handlers in each department should be briefed on the council’s correct protocol and either record incidents, cross reference information on a central log, or transfer people to the correct department. Often customer service agents will not be aware of the deceased animal collection protocol and advise callers completely wrong.

In terms of online reporting, many council websites request accounts to be set up. Persons simply phoning to notify the council of a deceased animal, usually on scene via a mobile phone, want a swift service and deny requests to set up an account. It is advised to review the online reporting section, so it is easily accessible to residents and contact numbers are easily obtainable. Otherwise persons may abort reporting the animal.

Creating a log, which is accessible to all departments, allows customer service agents to swiftly take details of a deceased cat found, along with allowing them to swiftly cross reference a pet owners information with cats collected so as a swift identification can take place. It has also been known that call handlers tell pet owners their cat could be at one of several depots, leaving the owners to drive around the depots themselves, to be met with confused workers who tend to allow owners to look through freezers with all collected animals in. This is unacceptable and unnecessarily distressing for an already grieving owner. The cats details on system should include details of which depot the cat is currently at, followed by a direct phone number or details of the process the owner now has to follow to swiftly collect their cat.