Compulsory Microchipping of Cats in the Devolved Nations
Our goal has always been to get legal rights and justice for cats all across the UK. Apart from our Co Founder living in Scotland, we also have wonderful supporters, friends and family in all 4 corners of the United Kingdom, and our fight continues until all cats have the rights they deserve enshrined in law UK wide.
Our work on the 'Cats Bill' began in 2018. 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.
When we began working with DEFRA on this in 2019 it was agreed that, for mandatory reporting of road accidents to ever stand a chance of working, there first needs to be the assurance that there will be a microchip to scan. This led to compulsory microchipping being the focus, yet DEFRA internally reviewed our RTA proposals with intent to return to this if/once microchipping had become law. It soon became apparent that the legislation, if ever to go ahead, would apply to England only as it would fall under Animal Welfare which is a devolved issue. We continued to work with DEFRA before the public consultation went live, as well as entered talks with each of the devolved nations, with the aim of replicating the Bill in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland and Scotland agreed to watch the progress England made with interest, a promise Wales would also later make. Throughout the course of the pandemic, we have aimed to stay in touch with the devolved nations and continued to update them on progress, as well as sending any supporting evidence we had.
Fast forward to December 2021 and the Government published their response to the compulsory microchipping of cats call for evidence and consultation, which had over 33,000 responses and a 99% approval rate! After 3 long years, we did it! The law will be changing in 2022!
All cats over the age of 20 weeks, unless there is an animal health or welfare reason certified by a vet, will have to be microchipped by law. Failure to act on a enforcement notice requiring the person served with the notice to microchip their cat within 21 days, will be a criminal offence and persons subject to a fine of £500. You can read the full Government response here.
DEFRA have also publically committed to continue to work with us on the issue of councils scanning/handling our cats and we also look forward to meeting with Ministers to discus the second part of the Cats Bill, reportable road accidents involving cats, in 2022.
We have already been contacted by numerous supporters of ours expressing disappointment that the upcoming legislation will not extend to the devolved nations, but those who follow our newsletter (subscribe here) will know we have been continuously pushing each nation for the last 2 years. Although each of the devolved nations have agreed to watch this legislation closely with the potential intent to implement it in their nations too, there is no guarantee they will follow England's lead. We have been continuously pushing each nation since 2019, and now it is in their hands. However, there is one last thing we can do, and that is to show the devolved Governments how much public support there is for this and put the pressure on.....
We petitioned Scotland in 2019, before the England consultation went live. The results of this resulted in the promise to keep a close eye on the proceedings in England.
The Scottish Government have confirmed to us that it is aware of the Defra consultation results, the published replies to the consultation and the UK Governments response to the outcomes of the consultation, and they are giving full consideration to the outcome. We again petitioned Scotland in May 2022 to keep the pressure on, and this certainly did as intended. Scotland debated our petition for the compulsory microchipping and scanning of cats on 29th June 2022.
They have now commissioned research into how effective the previous compulsory microchipping of dogs legislation has been in Scotland, as well as the inclusion of potential benefits of extending this to cats too. The committee is now pushing for a solid timetable, plus will be looking into introducing mandatory scanning at councils. To find out more details, see our blog here or you can watch the first debate minutes below.
The slowest of the nations to respond on this issue, yet the first to go public with their intentions. Wales have since published their Animal Welfare Plan for 2021-2026 , and the office of the Minister for Rural Affairs have confirmed to us their plan, which includes a commitment to consider the introduction of new microchipping regulations for cats and dogs in Wales. We created a new petition to help keep the pressure on. Thanks to our amazing supporters in Wales, the petition smashed the needed target to go through more than four times over!
Wales debated our petition for the compulsory microchipping of cats on 27th June 2022, and we are very pleased with the support from the public, committee members, the Minister for Rural Affairs, and the agreed action that will now be taken. Now, in partnership with Scotland, they are currently investigating the benefits to extending microchip legislation to include cats.
In terms of scanning, we are very pleased they raised our concerns in the debate. Although we managed to get all of Wales scanning in 2017 with our previous petition, standards have since slipped in the odd area. Our petition noted the recent failures in scanning, and named the council we are concerned about, and the committee have agreed to act once again. The Minister for Rural Affairs will now be contacting all local councils in Wales about this so we await any decision as a result those responses. You can find out more on our blog here and watch the debate minutes below.
Northern Ireland has always been more difficult for us campaign wise, especially in our earlier days when the Government collapsed and we had to campaign locally - which did see the remaining 4 councils introduce a scanning approach, as well as the Department for Infrastructure introducing scanning throughout their depots. We continued to speak to many MLA's throughout, each of whom worked with us but were unable to do much. Now the situation has much improved, although they unfortunately have not yet set up a petitions site so we are unable to petition direct. We have been in touch with them and the relevant department has previously agreed to keep a close eye on England's legislation and follow how it works in the real world, and they have agreed to keep the issue under review. However, they see no need to immediately rush anything through as they are unsure if there is an appetite for it in Northern Ireland. This comes as a result of, they say, no one ever having contacted the department before regarding the issues of microchipping and scanning. To help clarify things a little, we held chats with numerous animal organisations and have now written to the department showing them there is an appetite. You can read our letter here.