News Vets Urge Caution Over Cat Microchipping

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Vets urge caution over cat microchipping
23rd December 2020

By Karen Pickwick

Compulsory microchipping for cats could be introduced as early as next year, helping to reunite thousands of cat owners with lost or stolen pets.
 
An eight-week public consultation on the proposal to make it mandatory for pet owners to microchip their cats will launch today (December 23) and will seek views from vets, owners and members of the public as part of a renewed effort to further raise the UK’s world-leading animal welfare standards. An earlier call for evidence showed 99% support for microchipping.
 
It is estimated that more than a quarter of the UK’s pet cats are not microchipped, meaning that up to 2.6 million cats will benefit from the new measures.

Since compulsory dog microchipping was introduced in 2016, around nine million dogs are now chipped, meaning that thousands of displaced dogs have been reunited with their owners more quickly, reducing the time they spend in rehoming kennels and reducing owner and animal distress.
 
HUGELY IMPORTANT

 Animal Welfare Minister Lord Goldsmith said: “It is hugely important that cats and kittens are microchipped as this is often the only hope owners have of seeing their lost cat returned safely to their home.
 
“These plans to make cat microchipping compulsory build on our actions to improve our already world leading animal welfare standards, including taking steps to end live animal exports and ban the practice of keeping primates as pets.”

Cats Protection’s chief executive, James Yeates, said: “Cats Protection, as the leading cat charity, has campaigned for many years for microchipping to be made compulsory for owned cats, giving them the same protection as dogs if they get lost. Cats are a much loved part of the family in millions of homes, and it is heart-breaking if they go missing without a trace.

The government is also taking this opportunity to consult on three separate mandatory scanning campaigns:
 
1    Tuk’s Law – which would make it mandatory for vets to scan cats and dogs for microchips before putting them down
2    Fern’s Law – which would require vets to microchip cats and dogs when brought into a vet practice for the first time
3    Gizmo’s Legacy to make it mandatory to scan for microchips when a cat or dog is found dead by the roadside.
 
This announcement continues the renewed efforts from the government to raise standards on animal welfare even further now we are outside the EU, including taking steps to end live animal exports, ban the practice of keeping primates as pets, and crack down on the illegal smuggling of dogs and puppies, with further proposals to improve standards expected to be set out in the coming months.

But the British Veterinary Association is urging the Government to carefully consider the pragmatic implementation of any proposals and the unintended consequences for animal health and welfare if vets have to police new legislation.

It says that any legislation around compulsory microchipping of cats must be clear in its aims and that enforcement must be properly resourced.

SAFE AND EFFECTIVE
 
“Microchipping is a safe and effective form of permanent identification that encourages responsible ownership and enables the quick reunification of strays with their owners,” said BVA senior vice-president Daniella Dos Santos.
 
“Although we strongly encourage all cat owners to microchip their pet, the delivery and enforcement around compulsory microchipping of cats is complex and would need adequate resource. Before making it compulsory, the government needs to address the difficulties caused by multiple national databases and consider how feral cat populations would be managed.
 
“Campaigns to introduce compulsory microchip scanning deliver attractive headlines but fail to recognise that the implementation is complex. Vets’ primary role must be in providing veterinary care for animals and they should not be put in the position of policing the law or untangling ownership disputes, which could result in people not seeking veterinary treatment.

“We know that the headline policies will be popular, but we urge the government to work through the detail before committing to something that is at best unworkable and at worst detrimental to animal welfare.”