Update on the upcoming Microchipping of Cats legislation

For those of you who do not follow our newsletter, you might not be aware of the latest updates when it comes to the upcoming compulsory microchipping of cats legislation. If you would like to receive our newsletter to get the latest updates, you can subscribe here.

After years of campaigning, we started to finally see results in 2018/19 when the major political parties in the UK opted to include microchipping and reportable road accidents in their 2019 manifestos. We met with the then Shadow DEFRA secretary Sue Hayman who agreed our requests should be included in the Labour manifesto. A little later down the track, we began working with Rehman Chishti MP on the Cats Bill, which would later also be included in the Conservative manifesto. We worked with Rehman on the wording of the Bill, and also took part in the preparation research. We will forever be grateful for the dedication and promotion Rehman gave to this issue to help give cats a voice, and for ultimately propelling us to where we stand today with the upcoming legislation change. If you would like to read more about the detailed stages which has led to the microchipping legislation, you can read the full story here.

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 in to taking forward the issue of the mandatory microchipping of cats. The now the Chancellor Rishi Sunak recommended CatsMatter to DEFRA to speak in depth further about the issues of scanning and reportable road accidents.

Following our meetings with DEFRA officials, it was determined that, for reportable road accidents to work, there first needs to be a mechanism in place so cats are easily identifiable. This, alongside the many other benefits of chipping of course, is where the microchipping legislation comes in. We also raised the issue of scanning to accompany this new legislation, but the government were not quite as keen on introducing mandatory measures for scanning at that time. We raised the issue of scanning at every given opportunity stating that microchipping can only be successful if the chips are scanned. Although reluctant to introduce mandatory measures, DEFRA did agree with us other measures could be taken. We put forward a range of measures they could take, including a copy of our best practice guide based on the advice we give to councils when we are approached for help on certain issues. DEFRA and the Local Government Department took this under their wing to become official government guidance in the near future.

Unlike Highways England which is one authority throughout the country, each individual council is self governed which has always caused reluctance when it comes to the introduction of mandatory scanning measures. We have previously worked with the DEFRA head George Eustice to push the issue as much as possible to those with influence, such as the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers and the Department for Transport, who have each conducted seminars on the issue on our behalf. Our efforts over the years have resulted in over 50 councils introducing a scanning policy, but we will continue to fight to see it mandatory due to a minority who do not respect the importance of a pets final resting place being at home with family.

Fast forward to the 2020 pandemic, and you will remember the daily press conferences that took place earlier this year. One particular broadcast mentioned that that government would be accelerating its green energy technologies. This is fantastic of course, but it raised an old fear of ours which we had previously raised with DEFRA in meetings. Some of you may remember the tragic case of little Gemini who was sadly hit by a car and collected by the council. The council failed to scan her microchip, notify her owner, and store her for a period to give her family time to retrieve her. As if this was not bad enough, especially from a council we previously worked with to get them scanning in the first place, they sent her directly to a process known as rendering, which is the process used create biofuel. Biofuel and biodiesel is derived from biomass such as plant material, animal waste, vegetable oils and animal fats, and is considered to be a source of renewable energy, unlike fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas. A handful of local councils around the UK currently use this method of disposal and will use ''roadkill'' in the process to create biofuel, which is used in a range of different ways such as car or aeroplane fuel. While we are powerless to stop the biofuel industry generally, we do not consider ourselves powerless when it comes to our pets being used in such a process. After raising the issue in 2019 at a DEFRA meeting, we raised it again following the government announcing of an acceleration in the industry, placing even more urgency on the situation. We want it to be mandatory that local councils scan all domestic pets collected before their bodies are sent for rendering, or stored for a period to allow owners to come forward.

We are thrilled that this time DEFRA agree with us the issue needs to be investigated, and they have agreed to include the overall scanning of cats and dogs into the current research currently being undertaken for the microchipping of cats legislation. The researchers are currently looking in to the issue of DEFRAs behalf.

During lockdown we have caught up with the researchers currently working on the upcoming legislation and, although recent events have naturally slowed things down, they have confirmed they have been working on it throughout. The team we have been working with at DEFRA are wonderful and we are so pleased they finally recognise the need to include scanning into the internal investigations currently ongoing.

Watch this space.

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