It was announced on television this evening, 6th February 2013, that all dogs in the UK must be microchipped by April 2016. Many dog owners already do it voluntarily and it has been obligatory in Northern Ireland for about year.
This is quite a dramatic change in pet ownership in the United Kingdom. The question in my mind is whether this will lead to a similar change in cat ownership.
Although we are told that 110,000 dogs are abandoned in the UK each year, I have never seen one wandering the streets. Neither have I ever seen a single feral or genuinely homeless cat in London or anywhere, come to think of it. I did read somewhere there were half a million feral cats in London. I have to disagree with that. If you go to Jerusalem in Israel you immediately see feral cats in the alleys. But London? No, nothing, never. The climate is probably a major influence.
However, we do have unwanted cats in the UK. And we do have lost cats as well. Peter Hepburn, the chief executive of Cats Protection, an important cat welfare charity, is very much in favour of microchipping all cats. A quarter of cats in the UK are microchipped. Two-thirds (66%) of cats brought to Cats Protection are not microchipped. As they microchip thee cats in their care, it costs them £190,000 a year. Apparently, abandoned dogs cost £57m per year to deal with, paid for by the taxpayer and charities.
Peter Hepburn makes the point that cats brought to them that are not microchipped are much more difficult to deal with. Sometimes, it can be impossible to reunite the cat with their owner. That is tough on the owner and cat. I’ll presume that some of these cats are euthanised.
I have a feeling that the UK, North America and Australia are very gradually heading towards compulsory microchipping of all dogs and cats. There may be enforcement problems. However, over time, people will settle in to the idea as a standard procedure in the same way that vaccinations are routine. That is the idea. An important aspect of microchipping is that it encourages responsible pet ownership as the person involved can be identified, provided the microchip information is correct. The information can be updated by phone, apparently.
Microchipping is not entirely without health risk. It is very cheap and easy to do at £20-30.