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We did it! Cat microchipping to become law!

As of 10th June 2024, all cats must be implanted with a microchip before they reach the age of 20 weeks, and their contact details stored and kept up to date in a pet microchipping database. Owners found not to have microchipped their cat after that date will be given a 21 day warning to have one implanted or face a fine of up to £500.

It all started 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. 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 where 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.

Mandy & Rehman undertaking researching for the Bill, standing in surgery watching a road accident victim receive treatment, and cats being microchipped, at Blue Cross Animal Hospital Victoria.

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 now Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made recommendations of CatsMatter to DEFRA during his time as a Local Government Minister. These talks resulted in our 'best practice guide' 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. The Government are to release further details on the scanning side, and best practice proposals, in the near future.

Rehman at Blue Cross Victoria watching a cat be microchipped during his neutering operation, and receiving commitment from Michael Gove MP that the Government would take forward mandatory microchipping following the cat welfare debate.

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.

Rehman and Mandy with some of the Blue Cross Victoria staff (and residents).

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, to create an 11'000 word document detailing everything from how much non-chipped cats costs vets and local councils annually, to 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 for reunification and closure purposes. Since this, we had the fantastic opportunity to take part in DEFRA held stakeholder meetings with the researchers to discuss our ideas and proposals further.

Mandy & Carlie with the teams from PETtrac and Pet Scanner.

In December 2021 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. DEFRA intended to bring the law in in 2022, but home and world events contributed to the delay. However, a date has now been given and we are extremely happy it is, at last, about to happen. This is a major step in cats becoming protected like their canine counterparts enjoy in some areas, and at last the ball has started rolling to getting them the rights they deserve as the beloved family members they are.

Microchipping in the devolved nations...

The compulsory microchipping of cats legislation will apply to England only due to animal welfare being a devolved issue. Our goal has always been to get legal rights and justice for cats all across the UK, and we are thrilled to be able to say that we have already managed to get the ball rolling in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. To see exactly where we are at in our campaigns with the devolved nations, see our detailed blog here.

Advice for owners.

Sadly, thousands of cats are lost every year and many are never reunited with their owners. Microchipping your cat gives them the very best chance of being returned to you if they get lost or stolen. While collars and tags can get removed or caught, and in case be dangerous, microchipping is designed to be safe, effective and permanent.

Microchipping is part of responsible pet ownership. A microchip is a small radio chip, around the size of a grain of rice. Every microchip contains a unique number which can be detected by a hand-held scanner. This will be your cats only voice once they are outside your home, and it could be the difference between life and death in some cases. Microchips are designed to last over 20 years and is therefore guaranteed for your cats life. Once injected, the microchip is anchored in place as a thin layer of connective tissue that grows around it. Once it is in you don't need to worry about it and your cat will not feel it there. On rare occasion microchips can grow out or migrate around the body. This is why we continuously encourage local authorities to scan all around the body, rather than just the implant site which is around the shoulder area. On very rare occasion they can malfunction. We have known this only once in all our years, to highlight how it can happen and to be mindful of this, but it is extremely rare. Ask your vet to give their chip a scan when they visit to check all is OK, or you can keep track year round by using things such as microchip cat flaps or feeders.

If your cat is not yet microchipped, do enquire with your local vet or find your local trained implanter here. The cost of having your pet microchipped varies depending on where you live and the veterinary practice you use. On average, you can expect to spend around £15 to £30 having your cat microchipped - worth it's weight in gold should you and your cat ever need to rely on it. Many charities offer free or low cost microchipping for those on a low income too, so do check with your local charity to see if they offer this service. Do keep your eyes peeled for pop up events on the run up to the law coming into force also, as some of the larger cat/animal charities may be offering incentives and help for people to comply with the new law.

Microchips can only be effective if they are registered and the details stored on them are up to date. Rescues usually microchip and fill in the microchip details for you, and some vets have started doing this too, although it's never certain and you must always check it has been registered properly. You should be given paperwork once you have adopted your cat, or taken your cat into a vets to be microchipped, and it should be complete with your cat’s unique microchip number. If you have had your cat microchipped by a vet or organisation, they’ll let you know how to register your details online. You’ll usually be sent registration documents following the procedure, within a couple of weeks. If you don’t receive anything, check with the person or organisation that microchipped your cat. If you do not register your details with the microchip company, there will be no record when the cat is later scanned, and the microchip will be as useful as no microchip at all. Very few rescues and vets keep records, and those few who do will likely only hold them for a limited period. Even if you are extremely lucky and there is a record somewhere, this again will only be useful should the person scanning the cat opt to investigate further. Many won't go to these lengths, and the cat will enter the rehoming process, be disposed of if deceased without you ever knowing, or even potentially euthanized should they be involved in an accident and you can't be located. Sometimes social media helps owners get lucky in finding their cat, but do you really want to leave it to pure chance and sheer luck?

Remember to always keep your registration documents and cat’s microchip number safe. However, over the years it's understandable paperwork may get misplaced and lost. What you need to do is find out your cats microchip number. A vet can scan for a microchip, or you can buy your own microchip scanner from places like Ebay even. Once you have the microchip number, you can use a chip checker online to find out who they're registered with. Once you know who they are registered with, you then need to check with that microchip company what details they have for you and update them if necessary.


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