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The Compulsory Microchipping & Scanning of Cats in Scotland

The fight for cats to be microchipped by law started in 2017. Future regulation set out by the UK Government would only apply to England due to animal welfare being a devolved matter, meaning the devolved nations would each have to bring in legislation themselves. We petitioned Scotland in 2019, before the England consultation went live, hoping they would introduce this themselves, but they chose to wait for the DEFRA findings so it resulted in us staying in touch with Scotland throughout, and we continued to keep them updated on proceedings.

Now the DEFRA research on microchipping has been completed, this will act as a benchmark for the devolved nations and, with the research being a great success with huge public support for it (99%), interest has peaked within the devolved nations in the last year or so. We created a new petition which aimed to show them there was support in Scotland for the mandatory microchipping of cats, and help put pressure on them to act.

The petition also raised a second issue, the scanning of microchips by councils. Scanning is an issue we have also been working with DEFRA on, and their intentions in this area will be published following the completion of the microchip legislation. We would like to work again with Scotland further on the scanning of cats by local councils, as we have in the past. We were invited to Parliament back in 2018 and began working with the Cross Party Group for Animal Welfare in the Scottish Parliament. Following a motion put forward, and the support of Christine Graham MSP, we successfully got the remaining 15 councils who did not scan cats found in Scotland, or notify owners, scanning. However, this was voluntary action and, although rare these days, we do hear that occasionally cats have slipped through the net so we believe some councils have let standards slide in recent years. We have asked in our petition that Scotland also look into this issue again and act.

Scotland debated our petition for the compulsory microchipping and scanning of cats on 29th June 2022. We thank Cats Protection Scotland for backing us up and writing to the commission with their support. They put forward some statistics from 2 surveys that they conducted as supporting evidence. Their surveys found that 92% of veterinary professionals agree that microchipping should be made compulsory for cats, and 93% of the general public surveyed agreed that microchipping of owned cats should be made mandatory. The Scottish Government have now, in partnership with Wales, commissioned their own research to investigate the benefits of including cats in the legislation currently in place for dogs. Along with their commitment to consider the welfare aspects of microchipping domestic cats, they will also be considering the compulsory neutering of cats and outdoor cat controls. They would like the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC) to potentially review policy and provide an opinion on this. Just to note, mandatory neutering and the control of outdoor cats is not part of, or as a result of, our campaign/petition. The committee debating our petition argued that microchipping should be 'solid' on the agenda and not an issue to 'potentially' look at. The committee will be writing to demand this and request a timetable!

Our petition received great support from the committee, and we thank Christine Graham MSP yet again for her support on this and for standing up for Scotland's cats and owners. During the debate Christine spoke of how she once found a cat that was very poorly in the her garden, just sat in the pouring rain. She and her son took the cat to the vet, who said he was very old and sadly dying with kidney failure. As well as having lost her own cats in the past, she told this story to highlight that microchipping is an animal welfare and owner responsibility issue. This was in direct response to the Governments initial response that dogs must be microchipped so the authorities can directly identify dog owners and hold them accountable for their behaviour, yet cats have a much lesser impact on their surrounding environment than dogs so the need to microchip is not the same.

In terms of scanning, we are absolutely thrilled at the committee's support and intended action on this issue. Christine also pointed out that mandatory scanning will not impact the public purse, which the costs and savings of were included in the evidence we submitted as supporting evidence. The committee agreed that the evidence we put forward supports Scotland introducing compulsory scanning. They note that Scotland will very likely follow what DEFRA do in terms in terms of microchipping and scanning, but feel mandatory scanning is something they could look into regardless. Although DEFRA are yet to publish their intentions on scanning, we understand from our extensive work with them on this issue that they are most likely going to follow a route of 'best practice', as opposed to mandatory scanning, so we are thrilled that Scotland will be looking into introducing it themselves. Our petition has remained open while we wait for the results of this.

We are confident that the introduction of compulsory microchipping in Scotland will save lives, aid many more reunifications, and help ease pressure on a rescue system that has sadly gone beyond breaking point. Mandatory scanning will ensure that cats are scanned when collected by local councils following a road accident, and owners get closure and that important option to say goodbye to their family member.


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