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Sorry to you pet owners for including pets in this property marking section!
Amazingly about a thousand pets (of all types) go missing every day in the UK. Most of these will be animals that simply go wandering, but some of them will be stolen. In some ways it doesn’t really matter how the pet went missing; the more important thing in my view is to do all you can to get it back. We will have all seen photos of missing pets stapled to trees and on display in the newsagent’s window, but sadly only a few of these missing pets get returned. One sure way of improving the chances of having your pet returned is to have it microchipped.
The microchip, (electronic transponder) used to tag animals is the size of a grain of rice and each one carries a unique number that can be read by a scanner and then checked on a database to identify the owner. The chip is implanted into the animal and where the chip actually goes will depend on the type of animal. Cats, dogs and rabbits usually have them put under the skin between the shoulders; tortoises have them put into the fleshy part of one of the rear legs. The procedure, conducted by a qualified microchip implanter, who could be your local vet, takes a second and can be done during a routine visit to the vet for vaccinations for example. Most cats and dogs (now compulsory for dogs) can have the microchip implanted at around 6 to 8 weeks old* and as the chip will outlive the life of the animal it’s a one off procedure, although you will have to update the database should you move house and there may be a charge for this. I know people worry about the pain it might cause their pet, but when my cat was done she didn’t even know it was happening! Frankly it’s just like any other injection – it sort of stings a bit!
The scanners used to read the microchips are held by the police, council dog wardens, vets, dog pounds, animal welfare centres, the RSPCA (who microchipped nearly 73,000 animals in 2009!) and animal charities and so if your pet comes into the possession of one of these groups or individuals there’s a very good chance that your pet will be returned.
There are lots of companies that manufacture these microchips and the cost of having one fitted at the vet will vary between £10 and £30. Some charities are even fitting them for free. The important thing for you to consider is the database on which your contact details will be kept; you don’t want to use one that is here today and gone tomorrow. The Kennel Club own a database called ‘Petlog’, which is the biggest database for pets in the UK. I don’t know what security standards Petlog has acquired for its database, but I note that it is referenced on the RSPCA website.
To date around 60% of pets have been microchipped and so there must be lots of you who haven’t had it done so far. As it’s such a cheap procedure I do hope you get Tiddles, Fido and Floppy done just as soon as you can! And don’t forget, many other pets are routinely microchipped, including Koi carp, snakes, ponies and horses. Just speak to the vet and they’ll let you know if your pet can be chipped.
Microchipping of dogs now compulsory across the United Kingdom
If you are a dog owner living in England or Scotland and have not had your dog fitted with a microchip please be aware that this will become a requirement under the Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015 and Microchipping of Dogs (Scotland) Regulations 2016 on 6th April 2016.
It is already a legal requirement in Northern Ireland (April 2012) and Wales (March 2015).
*This applies to all dogs that are over eight weeks old and it is estimated that there are over two million dogs that are yet to be chipped.
The new regulations were introduced to reduce the number of vicious or illegal dog breeds in ownership and to help reunite the many hundreds of dogs that go missing each day with their owners.
Dogs will need to be microchipped and registered with their keepers’ contact details. All keepers, which include breeders, must keep these details up-to-date. This means that dog breeders will be responsible for microchipping their puppies before they pass them onto the new keepers.
It is hoped that microchipping will reduce the burden on animal charities and local authorities and promote responsible dog ownership.
If an un-chipped dog comes to the attention of the local authority or the police anywhere in the UK after 6th April, its keeper will be served with a notice requiring the dog to be chipped and may face prosecution and a fine if they fail to comply.
More information (and free microchipping) is available via the website of the Dogs Trust
Please note that it is still a requirement that most dogs in public places are required to wear collars that carry the name and address of the animal and a means of contacting the owner.
Updated March 2016